PokerStars Taking Aim at Seating Script Users
PokerStars has had a tough run lately. The world’s largest online poker room totally brought it on itself, making all sorts of changes that appeared designed to turn away loyal players, but nevertheless, this has not been the “Autumn of Stars.” Not at all. Fortunately, not all is bad, as the company has finally done something that hearkens back to its roots of putting the player first (though its top line should certainly be helped, as well). In recent weeks, PokerStars has implemented a new policy in an effort to thwart those who use seating scripts and over the Thanksgiving holiday, invited players to personally take part in helping with the battle’s next steps.
Seating scripts have been around for years and have been banned by many poker rooms. For whatever reason, PokerStars has not done anything to automatically detect them and block their use or their users, but is now finally at least trying to do something to make their use less attractive. Seating scripts are automated programs run on a player’s machine that scan tables for weak opponents and automatically seat a player at a table when those targeted opponents sit down. Usually, they are used at mid-to-high stakes games (low stakes are generally not profitable enough and nosebleed stakes don’t provide enough fish and offer too much visibility) at short-handed tables, but of course can be set to scan anywhere. Typically, a script will watch tables where two players are seated, waiting for a third to join before starting. When that third player sits, the script will quickly, almost instantly, seat its user at the table, as well, ideally to the left of the new player whenever possible.
After a player clicks on a seat, he has 45 seconds during which to select the dollar amount for which he wants to buy-in. During this period of time, an “R,” meaning “Reserved,” is displayed on his waiting seat. While the new player is buying in, the script is also waiting with an “R” in his seat. As soon as the new player sits with his stack of chips, the script evaluates whether or not that player is a desirable opponent by checking with whatever hand tracking software the user has running. If the new player is a “fish,” the script buys the script user in and sits down. If not, the script cancels the seat reservation.
This sort of activity creates a couple of problems. First, it can serve to upset players that the script is targeting. Imagine if you were a fairly weak poker player – maybe you don’t really care about doing well and just want to have a little fun or maybe you are just learning the game – and every time you sit down at a table, you see someone instantly sit down next to you. Every single time. It wouldn’t take long to figure out you were being stalked, and it wouldn’t take much longer to realize why. Poker would quickly lose its appeal, knowing you were being targeted. Odds are, you would stop playing at that site. Second, these seating scripts clog up the tables, preventing legitimate players from sitting down. There isn’t just one player using the scripts. Many players do. So what happens when a new, non-scripter reserves a seat? The rest of the seats suddenly have an “R” on them. Even if the script users all leave, the process can happen over and over again, not leaving any chance for a “real” player to take a seat.
It all adds up to frustration for the rest of the players, who might just take their business elsewhere. It hurts the poker room and hurts the players.
A couple weeks ago, PokerStars implemented a policy in which players are limited to the number of times they can reserve a seat and then not actually play a hand in any given six-hour period. Should they go over the limit, they are blocked from that table until the first failed attempt is more than six hours old and has thus disappeared from their record. “PokerStars Chris” explained how it works (cash games only) on Two Plus Two:
Based on input received here and elsewhere, we have set the number of ‘failed reservations’ at any given table at two every six hours. To avoid being considered a ‘failed reservation’, you must post at least one blind at the table.
The following exceptions apply:
– Reservations made by Easy Seat or Find Seat (Seat Manager) will not count towards the ‘failed reservation’ total
– Reservations that result from reaching the top of a waiting list will not count towards the ‘failed reservation’ total
– If no other player is in sit-in state at the table (all players are sitting out or there are no other players at the table) when you leave the table, it will not count towards the ‘failed reservation’ total
As we are implementing this change between software updates it will only be live on newly spawned tables. Old tables, until they die out, will not have this restriction. It is possible some tables may be unaffected until the next server restart.
He stressed that this is not the end of the steps PokerStars will take to thwart seating scripts and that the system will continue to be evaluated. On Friday, he posted an invitation to players to join the PokerStars team in two meetings in Toronto to discuss possible further action. It won’t be a free-for-all – there isn’t room for hundreds of players – so players will need to send a private message to PokerStars Chris on Two Plus Two or e-mail vipclub@pokerstars to express their interest. He said they would like to include at least two players in the meetings, implying that they could accommodate a few more. The meetings will be on January 16th and January 19th.