MPN to Further Tighten Data-Collection Activities

Beginning about a week ago and continuing through April, the Microgaming Poker Network (MPN) plans to implement the next part of its continuing series of changes to its online-poker platform.  MPN’s ongoing goal, stated several times over the past couple of years, is to level the playing field between newer, recreational, “net-depositing” players, and veteran online sharks.

This latest series of changes were announced earlier this month by MPN’s Head of Product (Network Games), Alex Scott, in an update on the MPN corporate blog.  Scott summarized the changes as follows.  Per Scott:

  • Fees will be charged on rebuy tournaments – March 14
  • We’ll no longer store hand histories at Anonymous Tables, or if you didn’t contribute to the pot – early April
  • We’re stopping grimming and table blocking in cash games, and requiring all cash game players to auto post blinds – early April
  • Fish Party (a popular Microgaming slot title), SNGs and MTTs are coming to mobile by April 21

All of the changes are designed to reduce, if not eliminate altogether, some of the software-based advantages popular used by many of online poker’s highest-volume players.  MPN is far from the only network that’s cracking down of rampant use of software aids by experienced online players, which in macro terms has caused damaged to the online economy by making the learning curve too steep and cost-excessive for casual players.  That cost-execessiveness has to measured in entertainment value, too, which can be inferred by how quickly and frequently losing player choose to (or don’t choose to) redeposit.

Taking the above items one at a time, beginning with the rake on re-buys in tourneys.  Scott and MPN announced this back on November, when the rake was implemented on a trial basis.  The results seemingly showed that the bottom-line numbers were better for MPN and its member rooms with the rake on re-buys in place, which likely outweighed any loss in player participation.

Despite the desire for increased profits being something of a truism, MPN’s Scott claimed mixed feelings on the topic.  As he wrote, “As a poker player, I hoped that this experiment would fail, that players would vote with their feet and that the trial would show we’d make less money from charging these fees in the long term. However, that has not been the case. In fact, the data and analysis we have to date shows that there would be a sustainable increase in revenue from charging these fees.

“As a software and services provider, our objective is to make as much money for our customers (poker rooms) – in the long term – as possible,” he stated.  And a bit later, “In this case, we’re increasing fees. I know that many players will not like this and will find it difficult to accept, so all I can do is be transparent about what we are doing and why.”

The ongoing controversy in online poker over hand histories and datamining finds MPN trying to walk a very fine line.  The change next month in which hand histories won’t be saved for a given player unless that player actively contributes to any given hand’s pot.  (We believe that posting the blinds counts as “contributing”, though it was not clarified by MPN with that level of precision.

As Scott summarized:

  • In cash games, we will only save a full hand history to your computer if you contributed to the pot. If you don’t contribute to the pot, we will save a reduced version of the hand history with only basic information such as your balance, hole cards, and the fact that you folded. This reduced hand history will not include your opponents’ hands or actions. The implication of this is that you will not be able to track hands in which you did not actively participate, nor will you be able to gather data on your opponents by passive observation.
  • We will not save hand histories for Anonymous Tables at all. These tables are intended to be a tracking software free zone, and we will take active measures to stop the use of HUDs and tracking software at Anonymous Tables, should any software provider attempt to bypass the restriction.

The Anonymous Tables were previously introduced at MPN as another form of playfield balancing, but it appears that those tables were still being exploited by advanced software users to some extent.

From there, Scott’s post went on to detail some upcoming cash-game changes:

Grimming, Table Blocking, and Blind Posting

We are also closing some loopholes with regards to cash games.

  • We’ll no longer deal cards to determine the blind positions. The animation will be removed and we’ll simply randomly assign the button and blinds to the seated players. It will not be possible to sit out after the button and blinds have been assigned – hence, it will no longer be possible to ‘grim’ your opponents.
  • We’re requiring all players to automatically post blinds in cash games. This means that when you are sitting waiting for an opponent, and an opponent sits down, your blinds will automatically be posted.
  • Players will not be allowed to sit out from a table unless they have contributed to a pot first. If you try to sit out before you’ve contributed to the pot, you’ll simply be removed from the table, freeing up the seat for somebody else.

As is normal with changes of this nature, player reaction was missed.  Software-dependent players decried the chnages, with a handful vowing to move to other and networks (as they have repeatedly vowed with similar changes and rake hikes at other sites and networks).

MPN’s changes are perhaps best from a distance, and over time.  If the network continues to grow and prosper, then the changes are good, loud complaints from specific players notwithstanding.  There’s little doubt that Scott and MPN continue trying to grow their network in a way that’s best for the majority of their paying customers, whoever that majority turns out to be.


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