MPN Reverses Course, Re-Activates Downloadable Hand Histories
As the debate over the use of HUDs (heads-up displays) and many other artificial means of gaining an edge at the online poker tables roars on, it’s interesting to note that one online platform that had previously taken steps to curtail some of these software-related excesses has now reversed course. In something of a surprise, the Microgaming Poker Network, or MPN, has announced that it will resume allowing its players to request and download hand histories for the games they’ve previously played on the network, dating all the way back to 2013.
Last year, MPN was one of the first online-poker platforms to take serious steps to limit the impact of HUDs on its poker environment by reducing the number and types of hands that could be downloaded by players. Those changes allowed player to download full hand histories only for hands in which they’d actively participants, in an attempt to cripple the scraping of hand histories by players who occupied a seat but didn’t wager in the hand.
Those changes were part of a sweeping, rec-friendly overhaul made as MPN began plans to introduce its new Prima user platform, which also included the plan to offer no hand histories at all for the network’s special Anonymous Player Tables.
Without going very much of the “why” the need for the reversal, MPN Managing Director Alex Scott posted yesterday on the topic while saying last year’s solution hasn’t turned out as optimal as hoped. “There has been a great deal of debate about hand histories, HUDs and tracking software in recent weeks,” Scott wrote. “It’s something we have discussed extensively at MPN HQ, both among our management team and with our customers.
“Currently at MPN, players can use either our ‘Classic’ poker client, which is available for Windows only and is being gradually phased out, or the new ‘Prima’ software, available for all devices. The Classic software has hand histories which are compromised – full data is only stored for hands that you contributed to. In Prima, hand history files are not available at all.”
But, apparently, MPN has received too much heat from the dedicated online-grinder community. “After reviewing all of the feedback we have received since the launch of our new software, and considering the ongoing debate, we have come to the conclusion that our current policy on hand histories is not right. With the best of intentions, we made a mistake, and so now we’re going to make changes,” said Scott.
The MPN boss offered some truisms about the benefits that hand histories bring to players. These are all very true, but they do only represent the positive side of the HH / HUD debate. As Scott wrote:
“The general principles behind these changes are that:
- Players should be able to track their own game, learn, and improve.
- We want to be more transparent, and allow players to verify that we are doing a good job of keeping the games free of cheating. (We are, but you shouldn’t have to trust us).
- We want to comply with the law around data portability.
- We wish to discourage players from using hand history data in a way that gives them an unfair advantage over other players. This includes the use of HUDs, seat or table selection software, and real-time advisory tools which use hand history data.”
That third point about data portability is an interesting one, and one has to wonder if a consortium of third-party software developers and online grinders haven’t threatened a lawsuit against MPN for daring to disrupt their preferred methods for harvesting the fish. We may never know the answer. It is noted however, that as MPN resumes allowing players to request hand histories, it will provide them in a format compatible with prominent analyzing program PokerTracker and market-leading HUD Hold’em Manager. It’s also worth noting that both programs are offered by Max Value Software, which posted a lengthy screed targeting partypoker just a week ago for making similar HUD-crippling changes.
If there’s a silver lining to this development, it’s that MPN will still seek to limit the largest negative impact of HUDs, that of shared hand-history compilations that offer significant, unfair advantages. To do that, MPN will further promote that all players can conduct frequent changes of their aliases (screen names):
Easier Alias Changes
Currently, players on the MPN can change their poker alias every 30 days, or 1,000 hands (whichever comes soonest). At some point in the future, we will make these changes easier and more prominent.
Per an attached FAQ to Scott’s latest MPN blog posting, HUDs still won’t be banned at MPN for now, again, perhaps of undisclosed legal threat. Here’s that brief FAQ:
Q. Are you banning HUDs?
A. At this point, no. We feel that the combination of freely-available alias changes and hand histories not being available in real time will greatly reduce the advantage of using a HUD. However, we reserve the right to change our minds and ban HUDs in the future.
Q. Will the hand history files contain all hole cards of all players?
A. No, only the hands revealed by the player (by choice, or because they reached showdown) will be visible in the hand history file.
The HUD battle continues.