Online Poker Community Up In Arms Over Heads-Up Controversy at PokerStars

Dustin Gouker : May 19th, 2015


PokerStars is immersed in a controversy over reportedly allowing software that allegedly automates decisions for heads-up poker players.

A story over at the website — a heads-up poker training and strategy site — brought the controversy to light.

According to the HUSNG report, the controversy centers around a system created by the user “Skier_5,” who has quickly increased his win-rate in heads-up games:

Skier_5 has built a player aid that contains, but is not limited to, propogated preflop charts that assist in decision making in many situations. According to at least one player that uses this software, skier_5 has rented this software out in exchange for a % of the player’s profits, depending on the specific buyin level that they play in.

Many players are in rage about the use of the player aid, and have observed previously lower stakes or struggling players move up several buyin levels in only a few months after using this player aid with practically identical preflop stats.

While software is often used to improve one’s poker game at PokerStars and other online sites, many in the online poker community believe this new system crosses a line — even though the exact details of what it entails are not known. Players who have come up against the players in question claim the player aid basically automates every decision, amounting to turning a live person into a “bot.”

The HUSNG report said that “PokerStars eventually ruled that the player methods were OK to use and did not violate the terms and conditions of the site” after being made aware of the issue in April.

PokerStars, as it usually does, weighed in via the a 2+2 thread on the issue, as one of its official representatives posted:

Hello all,

Just wanted to let you know that we are aware of this thread and that we are reading it.

It is also true that we did a review of the tools in question and that they were not deemed to violate our rules as they currently stand.

We are currently having an internal discussion on whether or not our rules need to be updated.

There has been no further comment from the site on the subject, so far.

The user in question, Skier_5, weighed in to defend himself (or herself) in the thread:

1) There is no automated decision software.

2) Poker is a competitive game so I’m sure all of you understand my unwillingness to go into further details or address specific points of the accusations.

You can read his whole post here.

While sentiment against the system is not unanimous, it is not popular with users at 2+2. Here are some of the comments from the thread decrying PokerStars’ decision:

Been playing these guys at $200 hypers, it feels like Black Friday all over again. Competing versus players using this software is incredibly difficult. Stars needs to draw the line somewhere on how much computer assistance is allowed, and this clearly has crossed it.

So Sad. Absolutely agree that this goes far beyond what should be acceptable on any online poker platform. You’re basically competing versus a machine, albeit that a human is clicking the buttons and could potentially deviate from the machine’s strategy, there’s close to 0 chance of them doing so. Really hope to see stars change their stance on this and do the right thing. If they truly believe that what’s going on doesn’t breach their terms of service, then they need to be fully transparent with the community as to what the **** is going on.

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