Team PokerStars Headline Pro Daniel Negreanu recently addressed online poker seat scripting and “bumhunting” issues on the Full Contact Poker Podcast.
Author’s Editorial Note: I would like to express a sincere “Thank You” to both Daniel Negreanu and Joey Ingram for taking the time to address key issues that currently affect the entire online poker community. The following contains direct quotes from Negreanu’s January 2018 FCP Podcast (Episode #17) as they relate to the topics of seat scripting, “bumhunting” practices, and high stakes online poker cash games.
The views expressed below within quotations belong solely to Daniel Negreanu. They are provided here in written form in recognition of the Team PokerStars member’s unique perspective both as a Hall of Fame player and high profile poker site representative. Our readers who would like to continue this discussion are encouraged to do so via forums or social media outlets (see links and timestamps at the end of this article).
FCP Podcast Episode #17 Direct Quotes (Seat Scripting Issues)
IMAGE AND VIDEO CREDIT: Full Contact Poker
Week 1 YouTube Ratings: 11,334 Views – 337 Likes, 7 Dislikes
(18:50) “One of the other things I did while I was over in the Bahamas was I played a little bit of online poker. I sat down and played… I really wanted to sort of practice a little bit of the concepts that I’ve been learning at 100 Big Blinds deep. So I decided to sit down at a $50/$100 [No Limit Hold’em] game on PokerStars, which was empty. The game wasn’t running and I thought, ‘Well, you know, maybe if I maybe… MAYBE if I sit down. Who knows? Maybe a couple of the regs might sit with me and give me some action?’
Yeah, I didn’t have to worry about that! So of course as soon as I sat down, the table filled immediately. Like within three-quarters of a second I would say. And a lot of you might wonder like, ‘How in the world does that happen?’ Okay. So those of you that have never heard of it, there is software called seat scripting which essentially allows people who have the best software to instantly sit in a new game when somebody sits down. Right? Then they can decide whether or not they want to continue playing or not. So obviously with me, you know these guys have a big advantage — or at least a perceived big advantage in that this is their regular game and I’m not strong at those because I don’t play. So it’s totally understandable why they would want to play with me. I do have a problem with seat scripting as a general rule, but we can get more into that in just a second.
The session went really well for me. As I said, I’d been learning some things from my coaches that I was doing differently than my opponents. So either they’re all wrong, or we’re wrong, right? And it didn’t feel like we were wrong, but again — who knows, right? It was only two sessions. It was about 500 hands total. The first session, I won about $30,000. And I came back the next session, and I won about $10,000. Now in both sessions, as soon as I hit the SIT OUT button or like the LEAVE TABLE button… oddly enough, everyone else seemed to have to quit at the exact same time. What are the odds, right? So clearly they were playing because of me and they quit instantly once I leave because I’m the sucker in that game, if you will.”
Honestly not many things more pleasurable then beating a full $50-$100 game for $30,000 and then seeing this the minute you quit the game.
— Daniel Negreanu (@RealKidPoker) January 11, 2018
(20:45) “So I Tweeted about it sort of in a joking manner because I know this has been a practice for a very, very long time. I know it’s very frustrating to a lot of people. And it’s something that PokerStars has taken seriously for a very long time in terms of how to address it. Like, How do we fix this bumhunting problem?, essentially. And one of the ways that they’re doing that is a new system for seating tables. So right now, you can go in the Lobby and you can see what game is going and you can be just like, ‘Oh, $5/$10… I wanna play in that game with that guy,’ right? That won’t be the case anymore. Now that’s not the case if you go to a casino. If you go to Bellagio — and you say you want to play $40/$80 Limit Hold’em — you sign up, right? When a seat opens up, you get that seat. You can’t table-select. You just sign up and you go on a Waiting List. So moving to that format will essentially make seat scripting no longer a viable tool, because you will no longer be able to just automatically sit with a fun player, as we call it. So that’s one of the ways I think that will do a really good job of curbing [that behavior].
Now, there are still loopholes to that, right?. So what if these guys sit down as soon as they see someone sit? They see who it is — they don’t like it — and then they SIT OUT? And they just leave the table? Well, part of the way the system is going to work is it’ll incur penalties for that. So if you do that, you know, the first time maybe you have a 15-minute wait. You do it again… it’s 30, an hour, or what not. I don’t know exactly what the numbers look like in terms of penalties, but I’m all for them being as drastic as need be. This is something that, well this is part of a secondary story…”
Will PokerStars SEAT ME Feature Halt Seat Scripting Practices?
(24:10) “Back to the whole SEAT ME thing. So I was on Twitter talking to Joey Ingram a little bit, and he kind of like… he’s a very passionate young guy, right? He certainly wears his emotions on his sleeves? And sometimes he sees something wrong. He’s like, ‘Come on, Man! We gotta fix it, Bro!'”
“So I’m listening to this stuff and watching it, trying to make out what the hell he’s saying, right? Because for all the passion that he has, he can become sometimes a little bit, you know, his points kind of get lost in the chaos a little bit? So I tried to hear him out in terms of like, his ideas and things like that. And I feel like we got to a place of, well I guess a misunderstanding of where I was standing from. Like, ’cause one of the Tweets I said was to the effect of, ‘You’ll never stop people, you’ll never be able to force people to play games that are negative [expected value].’ Now that’s just a logical, obvious statement. Now having said that, there’s a lot things you can do to entice people to believe — or to actually give them — situations where they do have +EV. But if somebody ultimately deems that like, ‘You know what? I can’t beat this game.’ You can’t really create scenarios where you force them to just continue to play.
So, for example… you’ve got a six-handed game. And there’s two bad players in the game and you feel like you’re worse than the other three, but you’re better than the other two. You’re like, ‘Okay, I can still play.’ Well now those two people quit, right? I mean, you can’t… that player has every right to say, ‘Listen, I’m not going to lose my money to these three sharks over here. I’m going to quit as well.’ That’s just part of poker. Game selection… especially cash games, the ability to like sit down whenever you choose.
Now, it’s a totally separate issue from bumhunting itself. With seat scripting software and just kind of the culture that’s created online. Like when you play live — if you did that in a live scenario it’s a little more in-your-face. So for example, let’s say there was a fun player. He gets up, and it’s a nine-handed game and all eight people go, ‘Okay, we’re done!’ You’re basically telling the guy like, ‘You, sir — are the sucker!’ It happens a little less often in live [cash games], but online there is no emotional connection. There’s no social skills required. It’s just, ‘Whatever, I’m doing what’s maximum EV. Like I’m not even playing another hand, let alone another round to make this guy feel good or whatever.’ And I remember the emotion or feeling of like, if I had low self-esteem or not thick skin, I would be like, ‘Man! They’re just hounding me like I’m the sucker! And I soon as I quit, they quit me!’ If I was a fun player, that type of environment wouldn’t be something that I would want to come back to.”
(26:38) “Now, there’s a lot of different things you can do to eliminate seat scripting, and I think the SEAT ME option is one. I personally, if it was up to me, I would just put a ban on it. And I agree with Joey wholeheartedly on this. That I would just say, ‘Ban them entirely, and if you find people are using them you can temporarily ban their accounts/fully ban their accounts.’ And the issue from the other side is, how do we catch them effectively? And, it doesn’t take long. Just the threat of it will alleviate the situation. So for example, I sat down… I know all those guys had a seat script. I know all their names. I can send that directly to PokerStars Support and be like, ‘These guys are using seat scripts.’ They could look into it and they could address it that way.
The good news is that there is going to be a system in place (the SEAT ME system) that should work. And again, we’re trying it in the shared liquidity market in Europe with France and Spain — and it’s been tested in other markets as well. As I said, I personally wish it was just as easy as banning them all. For some reason, we’ve had road blocks there in terms of how we can make that happen, which is unfortunate. But this is not an issue that PokerStars just shrugs and goes, ‘Meh… don’t care.’ It’s something that’s been talked about for 5-6 years. Like, how do we solve this issue? And I think we have a solution that should suffice. And if not, then we’ll have to push for something even more drastic in the future.”
High Stakes Online Poker Issues, Lack of Activity
(28:02) “We had some rake changes of course (as you know), and one of the things that I don’t think was right — and I still don’t — is that now in the high stakes cash games, you don’t take part in the bonus rewards system at all. And I feel like, ‘You know what? They’re generating rake. Smaller limit players are generating rake. Why shouldn’t they take part in the rewards system?‘ It didn’t make sense to me. They decided to cut that along with many other things and — the funny thing was — is I would have expected to see a major dip in the amount of play? But that’s not what we’ve seen actually happen. It hasn’t had an effect because frankly, reg-on-reg battles even before that, just weren’t really happening. Like at the highest stakes we’re not seeing (or we just haven’t for a long time), regs battling regs. It’s always been based off of a fun player. People who get seat scripts to sit with them and take advantage of their weak play.
But that was to be expected and I’m actually surprised frankly that high stakes online poker has lasted as long as it has. It was destined — no matter what… okay, this is maybe a controversial thingy — but I believe it wholeheartedly and I just don’t see sensible arguments against. You take something like high stakes gambling online, right? You take all these geniuses who have software from solvers (which are not legal) to HUDs (which Olivier Busquet makes a good point — that they shouldn’t be legal). That’s another tricky one. How do you ban HUDs? How do you ban something that people can write [using] a pen and paper? And then aren’t you… if you’re doing that, aren’t you just rewarding the cheaters who will just do it anyway?”
(29:40) “High stakes online poker was not — or never would be something that I would think has an opportunity for expanded growth, right? Because in order for these games to run, you need players willing to just go in there and get crushed, and there are less of those people. There are less of those people. [Joey Ingram] did mention Poker After Dark is one of the ways that people bring… they’re having trouble filling seats after just a year in terms of bringing fun players into those. It’s not quite as easy to convince recreational players. Like, ‘Hey! I got this for you. You’re gonna get your ass kicked! You’re gonna lose really bad, but GO HAVE FUN!’ It’s not as fun to lose all the time.
So part of what a lot of those players were drawn to, or have become drawn to, are different formats. One being, and I don’t like this format personally. I don’t know it’s kind of goofy, but they’re so popular. KO Poker, right? So KO Poker is like a ‘bounty.’ You bust a player, you get some cash. These are super popular. People love them. Spin & Gos… something that people find very, very popular. I think part of the reason for that is that they have winning moments, right? You’re only three-handed in a Spin & Go. You’re going to win those a lot, you know, a decent amount of the time. Even if you’re bad, you’re still going to win one like 1-out-of 5, or six.
Now, Bounty Tournaments. You’re going to get back money. You’re going to win something. You’re knocking a guy out and you’re going to get something back. My fear — or just like the reality of cash — is that these same players walk into that sort of trap, and they’re lamb to the slaughter. I don’t think if they play like a 3-4 hour session they’re going to have any winning sessions. Especially at the high stakes. It’s far too tough. The differences between what’s available now to the average recreational player who just puts $500 onto the site, to what was available in 2004, are drastically different. In 2004, this Average Joe, he can sit down with his five-hundred bucks. He might not win. He’s probably not going to win, but he’ll last a while. You know, play a month on it maybe. Maybe two. Today, he takes that same $500, sits down at $1/2 [NLHE], plays three or four sessions… there is nothing left. Like he’s not, there’s no…. he’s not winning.
The players have gotten so much better, right? Which has also had an effect on the return rate of weaker players who no longer feel like they can win. So they’re drawn to other formats, and that’s just the way poker has always evolved to? In the old days, 5 Card Stud was the game. That died out, 7 Card Stud came along. Then Hold’em came along and all the Stud players were annoyed because there was no more Stud games and their Stud games [dried up]. So then Limit Hold’em was the game, and Limit Hold’em morphed into No Limit Hold’em and you know, things are always changing. The masses ultimately dictate what they want to play. So we offer at [PokerStars] all kinds of things. We don’t force people into one or the other. They’re all available to you to play whatever you want. People are going to gravitate towards things they enjoy playing. So as a company, it just makes sense to offer people more of what they want, right?
‘Cause I get it from a selfish perspective — or a personal perspective — you think, ‘Okay, what’s in it for me?’ Like if I’m a live cash game player, ‘How is recreational players playing Spin & Gos good for me,’ right? The company as a whole is trying to bring in as many new people to the game, and keep them there. Hopefully some of them play in your games, and if not, that’s not exactly the goal of the business, right? To make sure that your games are juicy enough so that you can live and like [get] paid, and have a good bankroll, or just like you can make a lot of money from it necessarily.”
How Rake and Winning Players Affect a Poker Ecosystem
(33:15) “There are three parts to an ecosystem, right? You have the rake — which takes money out, right? That’s not good for the ecosystem. You have the winning players — they take money out. That’s not good for the ecosystem, either. You have the losing players who are the most important and integral part of the ecosystem. So these two aspects — the rake and the pro players — are what actually ultimately destroy an ecosystem. Because the new money gets eaten up so much faster when the rake gets increased — absolutely that’s the case. And also when the winrate of the winning players increases as much as it has in the last 5-6 years with just the evolution of the game and the skill level at the highest stakes.
So I guess that’s the end of my rant on all that. As much as I’d love to believe that there is these like ‘Solves’ and ‘Saves’ for the high stakes poker online generation, I don’t see five years from now a viability for nosebleeds to be a case. Unless everyone in poker is so Bitcoin-Crypto frickin’ rich that they’re like, ‘WEEEE! I don’t care who I’m playing with! Gamble!’ But the reality of the situation is now — in order for those games to run — you need to have fun players willing to play them and they’re few and far between. And there’s less of them now than there was in 2004.” (34:33)
Full Contact Poker Podcast TIMESTAMPS (Episode #17 – Seat Scripting)
(0:00) Intro, 2018 PCA Wrap Up
(7:35) PCA extra prizes – Ike Haxton dual selfie sticks, swag bags, raffle degens
(10:12) PokerStars Platinum Passes into 2019 NLHE Players Championship
(11:06) Steven Jost (Steve-O) wins $30k Platinum Pass into 2019 PSPC
(12:26) Daniel gives shout-out to poker author Maria Konnikova
(14:59) 2018 PCA live coverage impresses, awesome set, top-notch talent, better vibe
(16:13) 2019 No Limit Hold’em Players Championship sizzle reel
(18:50) Daniel’s initial thoughts on Seat Scripting, Bumhunting, SEAT ME
(22:11) Regulated online poker update, achievements and challenges
(24:10) Daniel’s in-depth thoughts on seat scripting issues & Joey Ingram video
(34:35) Steffen Sontheimer’s Tweet addressing stalling/tanking near MTT final table
(37:53) 2019 PokerStars NLHE Players Championship to be designed by players
(38:35) Short-stack ante/blinds Twitter debate with former Stars SEO guru Steve Badger
(45:49) Daniel’s soccer woes, MRI results + plans to address injury
(48:30) Daniel’s passion for hockey, Las Vegas Golden Knights + hockey rant
(53:36) Crypto Fever’s surge in the poker world
(57:00) Upcoming schedule, study process, strategy insight + various poker hands
(1:05:06) Eric Wasserson to co-host Full Contact Poker Podcast?
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