PokerStars Proposes Major Change to 3rd Party Tool Policy

Craig Klinski : June 14th, 2015


As technology evolves and new third party online poker software is developed, keeping up with changes is increasingly becoming a problem for today’s online poker site operators to manage.

Everyone recognizes there is problem, but nobody seems to know just what to do about it. Through a proposed major change to its 3rd party software policy, PokerStars is hoping to change that.

Recent OutCry Leads to Possible Changes

The world’s largest online poker room has posted the changes and have asked the poker community for their thoughts on the proposed changes. If enacted, some of the most popular online poker software that is used to aid the gameplay of online poker players in real time would be affected. PokerStars notes that they will not make their decision based on popular opinion, but want to hear “sound reasoning” from both sides.

The changes stem from increasing complaints about the state of online poker due to 3rd Party software, including recently released decision making software as well as recent claims of bot rings. The changes, if enacted, would apply to tool or services that meet certain criteria.

Some tools will never be allowed while others can be used as long as the PokerStars client is not running.

Details of PokerStars’ New Policy

Tools and services that meet the follow criteria would be prohibited at all times:

1. Any tool or service that shares hole card data with other players or services is colluding, and is prohibited. (Hosting live streams on Twitch and other similar services is not considered as sharing hole card data)
2. Any tool or service that works off of a central database of player profiles, hands played or private results is prohibited.
3. Any tool or service that plays without human intervention (a ‘bot’) or reduces the requirement of a human playing. For instance, an ‘auto-folder’ is prohibited.
4. The practice of datamining (observing games without playing in order to build up a database of hand histories for future reference) is prohibited.
5. Any tool or service that offers real-time commentary or advice on the current game state that goes beyond reporting data and statistics.

And these tools would be prohibited while the PokerStars client is open:

1. Any tool or reference material that offers commentary or advice that goes beyond a basic level, such as stack-size-based starting hand tables, decision trees or heads-up displays that dynamically change based on player action or card values.
2. Any tool or service that computes advanced equity calculations, such as range vs range simulators, ICM or Nash Equilibrium-based programs.

3rd Party Programs Affected By the Changes

A sampling of the programs and tools that could be impacted with the rule changes — without changes to the software function by developers — include those listed below. This is not an exclusive list, but is a representation of the types of programs or tools that PokerStars plans to put under increased scrutiny.

• SessionLord’s Preflop Chart
• Holy Grail of Poker
• Poker Academy
• HEM2’s LeakBuster
• FlopZilla
• Odds Oracle
• PokerStove
• NoteCaddy
• PT4’s Leak Tracker

Reaction from the Community

Reaction to the 2+2 community was generally been positive with many saying the prohibitions don’t go far enough. Some critics, however, question the ease of enforcing such policies, arguing that it prevents the less serious players from using the tools while still not fully preventing more savvy players who can find a way around the measures.

These changes as enacted would by and large bring technology and capabilities of 3rd party software back to the 2006-2007 time period. Tracking software (such as PokerTracker and Holdem Manager), static reference material, HUDs, Macros, Hotkeys would all still be accepted under the new guidelines. Many have argued that the high caliber of some modern software significantly and negatively affects the quality and purity of the modern online poker game. This has been cited as a major contributing factor to recreational players being turned off by the game, leading to games drying up and becoming more difficult to beat.

Want to Be Heard? – Here’s What You Can Do

Should any changes be made by PokerStars, they will provide a grace period for existing programs to be modified to meet the new rules. The proposed rule changes can be found on the 2+2 thread. Current PokerStars’ Third Party Tools and Services Policy is available here.

Be sure to share your opinion if you have strong feelings on this topic. With PokerStars’ dominate position in the industry and the power to influence other online poker sites, now could prove to be a real opportunity for change in the way online poker operators see 3rd-party software.

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