PartyPoker Players Protest ‘Protected Table’ Policy, Plan Sitout Protest
Players at non-US facing site PartyPoker have announced a sitout protest on November 1st to express their opposition to perceived failures by Party and its parent, bwin.party, to properly manage its “protected table” policy. The sitout, in which an unknown quantity of players plan to occupy as many seats as possible at Party cash-game tables, and then “sit out,” to negatively impact the network’s game-play flow, is scheduled for Friday, November 1st, at 3pm EST (Eastern Standard Time), or 7pm GMT (Greenwich Mean Time).
The planned sitout addresses a controversial policy put into place by PartyPoker in March, which prevents Party’s more-skilled players — as determined by overall win rate — from participating on cash-game tables against players of lesser skill. The move was met with widespread derision from the poker-playing community, even if it was an attempt to correct one of the massive imbalances in the online world, largely created through the increasingly widespread use of HUDs (Heads-Up Displays for online poker), which offer real-time statistical evaluations of opposing players.
HUDs have no “brick-and-mortar poker” counterpart, and represents one of the major ways in which online poker differs from live play.
However, while Party’s move to segregate its players may have been an attempt to correct one issue, it simply replaced it with another: The move willingly disrupted the long-held truism of poker play that stronger players can survive only by preying on weaker opponents. By forcing strong players to play only against similar foes — and protecting the weaker players — Party created a system wherein a higher percentage of all table stakes was recycled and deposited in Party’s own corporate pockets, via table rake.
An additional concern was how effective Party would be in preventing abuses of its system and stopping players from finding ways to manipulate the system, particularly after evidence surfaced in recent weeks that certain players, largely concentrated in eastern Europe, were doing exactly that, by creating strings of new, throwaway accounts, playing with these accounts on the new-and-less-skilled Party “protected” tables, and then moving on to other new accounts when the account was declared ineligible due to win rate.
Party, with one of the industry’s poorer track records of customer service and responses to complaints, offered little public comment when evidence of manipulation of its protected-table system emerged in recent days, with specific Hungarian and Romanian players identified among the likeliest culprits. Instead, new PartyPoker exec Jeffrey Haas issued a brief statement on 2+2:
I understand your collective frustration about our silence on many of the major topics players have questions about. While I think we have made substantial improvements in our communications around releases, and generally being present here to address some software issues, it’s just not good enough yet because we have been publicly focussing on the small issues rather than the big ones. It’s a start. And it IS going to continue to get better.
Party Rep will post by EOD Thursday about the ‘Protected Tables’ on partypoker (also known as ‘Segregated Tables’ on 2p2), with information about how it currently works, when it was implemented and why. He will also include details about what actions we’re going to take given recent developments.
You may think that we aren’t doing anything, or taking action, because we aren’t posting in this forum everyday. I assure you that is not the case. Changing how we communicate about these things to players just requires a lot of work from the inside-out.
I ask for your continued patience, but offer a firm deadline about addressing one of the biggest issues in our poker rooms this year. I hope that will help assuage the frustration, and that other positive developments in the near future make you happy to play on our sites again.
Haas, who moved over to bwin.party as its Group Director of Poker after a successful stint with PokerStars as the head of the APPT and LAPT, among other roles, has among his immediate challenges the history of Party’s generally poor treatment of its players, which is at times reminiscent of the celebrated non-support offered by Full Tilt Poker in its heyday.
Such protests as this Friday’s planned sitout have been attempted by players in the past with mixed results, including one attempt by French players of PokerStars’ France-only site (pokerstars.fr) to attempt to force that site to lower its rake in the face of French tax levies on the games. It should also be noted that the move by PartyPoker to segregate its tables by win rate isn’t the only such attempt; the troubled Revolution Network, amid the problems caused by major skin Lock Poker, has also instituted a similar approach, called Fair Play Technology.
If anything, the protests may force bwin.party to be more proactive in cracking down on habitual cheaters who are manipulating the site’s policies via short-term, throwaway accounts. As much as it’s a truism that no matter the edge, illegal or not, there will always be someone who tries to exploit it, it’s also true that such holes need to be plugged as soon as possible, for the better of the game.