Online poker security analyst Michael Josem informs Part Time Poker that “stopping hand histories only harms honest players,” as regulated online peer-to-peer gambling site partypoker confirms it will soon block the ability for players to access their own hand history data. “More colluders, more bots, and more cheaters will go undetected on partypoker,” Josem warns.
partypoker Hand History Restrictions (Preface)
On June 3rd, 2019, partypoker partner Rob Yong joined the Jeff Gross Podcast, and explained upcoming changes to partypoker’s policies that will include the removal of players’ ability to download their own hand history data (watch the full video interview here).
According to live cast commentary provided by the Dusk Till Dawn Nottingham casino and poker room owner and current partypoker shot-caller, partypoker hand history restrictions could be implemented as soon as June 18th, 2019.
The topic of whether poker sites should facilitate (or block) players’ ability to access their full and complete hand histories has resulted in heated debates between player and poker site interests for over a decade. This is due to multiple, high profile online poker game integrity scandals that have been uncovered due to “player-policing” of unauthorized activities such as collusion, prohibited software usage, and outright cheating.
For this reason, and because the anticipated partypoker restrictions on hand history data access are scheduled to take place as soon June 18th, 2019, Part Time Poker has reached out to former PokerStars security expert Michael Josem to get his thoughts on how new partypoker policies concerning hand history removal will negatively impact the real money online poker site’s player base.
Michael Josem Interview: partypoker Hand History Restrictions
Part Time Poker: In a June 10th, 2019, reactionary thread posted within the TwoPlusTwo ‘News, Views, and Gossip’ forum, PokerTracker and Hold’em Manager parent company Max Value Software LLC informed readers that “eliminating hand histories has no impact on the data mining and eventual sale of hand histories because data mining and cheating software do not rely on hand histories provided by a poker site.” Is that true?
DISCUSS NOW: Does Removing Hand Histories Truly Protect Players? (2+2 NVG – Jun 10, 2019)
Michael Josem: Generally speaking, yes. That is true. Professional data-miners are not collecting hands from their own play. By definition, they’re not dealt into the hand. We already know today that data-miners are getting their hand histories and creating others’ hand histories in breach of the rules, and that data-miners are able to circumvent those rules despite the limitations that partypoker plans to impose. We already know that this change will not reduce data-mining, but rather, it will leave partypoker players much more vulnerable to security risks.
PTP: Will partypoker’s incoming hand history restrictions actually ‘halt’ the ability for players to access their hand history data in the end?
Michael Josem: Fundamentally, when the partypoker server communicates with your computer, it needs to tell your computer what cards are being dealt and what actions are being taken. Someone who is deliberately data-mining is always going to be able to extract that data from that communication stream. Without getting into too much boring, technical detail — there are a number of different avenues that a data-miner can use to hook into that data stream. So stopping hand histories only harms honest players. It won’t harm people who will break the rules.
PTP: Will partypoker’s incoming hand history removal policies serve to “protect” its player base, and provide a more secure environment for casual, less-informed players?
Michael Josem: Blocking downloadable hand histories only harms the innocent and the law-abiding players. Hand histories are fundamental to the trust that players place in online poker sites. Time and time again, players’ access to their own hand histories has been essential in protecting players against cheating, and it’s very unsafe to be playing online poker at a site that does not allow people to keep their own hand histories.
PTP: Could partypoker’s incoming hand history removal policies at the very least ‘temporarily’ burden and/or restrict unauthorized third-party data-miners from carrying out said tasks?
Michael Josem: How data-miners might be at least temporarily burdened by partypoker’s announced policy changes will depend on the individual data-miners. I can’t speak to that specific time frame for each ‘bad actor,’ but they’re already breaking the rules. So of course, they will continue to break these rules as well.
PTP: In a June 3rd, 2019, interview with poker personality Jeff Gross, partypoker partner Rob Yong stated that partypoker possesses “perfect” information when it comes to protecting its games, and the notion that sites need to rely on player-initiated feedback concerning game integrity is “bullsh**.” Is this true, in your opinion?
Michael Josem: There is literally no security system in the world that is perfect. If we know that the Pentagon has been hacked over the years. We know that the U.S. government’s technology has been hacked over the years. We know from what [partypoker partner] Rob Yong has said himself, that player reports of cheating have played an important role — and do play an important role — in protecting the site’s real money online poker games. So partypoker’s efforts here will harm their own security measures. As a result of these changes, partypoker will be a less-safe place to play than it is before the changes regarding removal of hand histories are implemented.
PTP: How effective will ‘blocking observers’ be in preventing data-mining?
Michael Josem: That’s a good question. Fundamentally for a data-miner to record a hand history, they have to be able to ‘see’ the game. If they can’t see the game, then they cannot data-mine, obviously. I believe that data-mining is a very trivial issue in something like [rival site] PokerStars Spin & Go tournaments where you can’t observe games. The same thing goes for PokerStars Zoom tables. In those games where you can’t observe the tables, data-mining is a much smaller problem I believe. Blocking ‘observers’ from online poker games will very much curb the activity of data-mining — because how else will a data-miner get access to those hand histories? However, removing the ability for players to access their full hand history data will not curb the activity of data-mining.
Michael Josem: I don’t know if I would refer to this as an ‘OMG’ scenario… it just means more colluders, more bots, and more cheaters will go undetected on partypoker. That is a shame, but you know… it’s not the end of the world. There are other online poker sites that allow players to access their full and complete hand histories.
* This article is directly funded by Part Time Poker.
Read More Part Time Poker News Coverage Related to partypoker
Rob Yong partypoker Podcast Q&A (Jun 9, 2019)
Players Report Rampant Abuse in partypoker Tournaments (Oct 15, 2018)
Collusion Ring Broken Up at partypoker (Nov 2, 2017)
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