As online poker continues to evolve, the general skill level of players improves and more robust tools become available to players, online poker rooms are increasingly looking at ways to improve their games.

Traditionally, this has come in the form of minimizing the number of tables a player can play, banning the use of real-time tools, increasing minimum buy-ins and the lowering of rewards for the highest volume players, to name a few.

Online poker rooms adapt

PokerStars has been on the front lines of some of these changes and now they are tackling the issue of waiting lists.

The main problem? A fish or two join a table and suddenly, players flock to that table, waiting lists are filled as players hope to join the table and play against some softer competition. Seems reasonable, but in the online game, this has had led to players seeking out only these tables, making the games tougher overall and making recreational players lose their stacks more quickly. Recreational players who are frustrated about losing their money more quickly to skilled players are discouraged, perhaps leaving to play a house-backed game like blackjack, or worse for the online casino, stop playing altogether.

In online poker’s recent history, some tackled the waiting list problem by banning “seat scripts,” which help a player automatically find favorable tables more easily. Some online poker rooms have even taken the drastic step of removing player names from the table, making the games “anonymous” while at the same time creating other problems, such as issues with security or making the games less friendly.

PokerStars introduces Active Waiting Lists

Recognizing some of the well-documented problems with waiting lists, PokerStars has decided to approach the issue with its new feature called the “Active Waiting List,” a reimagined waiting list that randomizes the waiting list process and incentivizes players while they wait. With the new feature, PokerStars’ primary goal is a poker ecology one — “making the game fairer and the experience better for most players.”

Of course, by “most players” they are excluded players who benefit the most from the status quo on waiting lists — those whose play centers around directly seeking out less-skilled players. Although these players generate rake, most poker rooms feel they do more harm than good by unfairly winning more quickly against certain opponents. PokerStars says that “people who use waiting lists to hunt weaker players will not be happy with this change, but our intention is to make the online poker lobby a fairer place and to ensure the game’s ongoing health.”

Active Waiting Lists makes it more difficult for these players to seek and find these players. PokerStars also believes that a secondary effect is that Active Waiting Lists will reduce the amount of time players has to wait while increasing the number of tables that players can join.

How do active waiting lists work?

Due to the nature of tournaments, PokerStars Active Waiting lists are exclusively available for cash games..

Much like in a live game, PokerStars will have “main” games divided by game type with excess players joining secondary games or “waiting tables.” In order to join a full game, a player will be required to actively play on another table of the game/stake level they wish to join.

There is a twist on the concept, however. Instead of players getting a choice of a full game on a first-come, first-serve basis — as is the case for most online poker rooms — players on a waiting list will be drawn at random with the drawings weighted (but not guaranteed) to players who have been sitting down the longest.

How about players that join a waiting list and then sit out?

PokerStars is also awarding players for staying active at the tables. If you are on a waiting list while sitting out and your name is drawn to play the full table, you will be skipped over unless you are the only player on the list.

This rule prevents players from only joining a table if the game quality is seen as favorable to them and will negatively impact players who pick and choose. Note that as a player, that you are able to wait for different tables through the Active Waiting List. If you leave a waiting table you will be removed from the waiting lists they wish to join.

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