PokerStars Tightening the Screws on Third-Party Software

This summer, PokerStars Poker Room Manager Steve Day took to Two Plus Two to say that the world’s largest poker room was considering making changes to its third-party software policies and to solicit feedback. This week, PokerStars Sit & Go and Tournament Manager Baard Dahl announced that certain decisions have, in fact, been made and that starting today, PokerStars has new third-party software policies.

The first policy change is nothing particularly new, as it was previewed over the summer:

“Reference material, such as starting hand charts, now have to be “basic in nature. Anything considered to be sophisticated in nature can no longer be used whilst the client is open.”

This change stems from the controversy surrounding a software package developed by a player named “skier_5.” As it is not publicly distributed, its machinations are a bit of a secret, but it is reported that the software helps players evaluate pre-flop situations for Heads-Up Sit-and-Go’s and make the proper decisions. It is believed that the decision making process is at least partially automated. Though PokerStars did approve the software, management became uncomfortable with the level of assistance the program provided.

Baard bulleted out the rest of the changes:

•    HUDs are no longer permitted to display non-numerical data, categorize players or dynamically display statistics specific to a certain situation.
•    Hand or Situation Analysers, such as programs that compute equities of various ranges of hands against one another, can no longer be used whilst the client is open.
•    Game State Reporters can no longer automatically or semi-automatically retrieve information from an otherwise permitted reference material. For example, tools can no longer notify an end-user that their starting hand lies in Group 1 of a statically defined grouping of hands.
•    Table Selection and Seating Scripts can no longer time a player’s registration into a global waiting list. They must register players into specific tables or tournaments.

Baard elaborated on that final bullet point, also referencing the updated Third Party Tools and Services Policy Reference Guide, which reads, “However, tools that are based on a prohibited data source or are targeted towards either playing against or avoiding specific players in game offerings whereby they are unable to select or register to a specific table are prohibited.”

What this adds up to is that the notorious software SpinWiz is now banned on PokerStars. As FlushDraw’s own esteemed writer Haley Hintze described it in August:

SpinWiz operates by having all its users join a private queue operated by the software’s owners. The active queue and its controlling software then searches Stars’ Spin & Go lobbies continuously to look for players waiting at tables who have been tagged as likely “fish” by the software’s users.  Since a fish (likely a weak, inexperienced player) is quickly identified by several more experienced players, the software then works by rotating turns among its subscribers to take turns grabbing available seats at any tables where the targeted fish might sit.

PokerStars Spin & GoShe added, “This is very bad software, because of the way it skews the competitive balance and creates an ever-increasing partition between the haves and the have-nots.  The true haves are SpinWiz’s owners, who are set to profit from the competitive balance of Stars’ Spin & Go games.”

Baard explained the reasoning behind the banning of SpinWiz and the like:

The main reason for this decision is that one of the most significant features of Spin & Gos is that there is no game selection and that it should be random who you play against. Software of the type we are now banning systematically bypasses this feature to the detriment of those who are not using the software. Some might also see this as disingenuous towards the thousands of players who go into these games thinking that it is entirely random who they are drawn to play against.

PokerStars has not, however, banned ALL seating scripts yet. Scripts that allow players to hunt fish and automatically sit at their tables in cash games are still permitted. It sounds, though, like PokerStars does plan on banning them, as well, just not “at this time.” It appears that the poker room wants to let the current changes take effect, let the dust settle, and then evaluate the best course of action going forward. Based on what Baard said, though, it seems that the writing is on the wall for all seating scripts.

PokerStars is also working on eliminating datamining, one practice, in addition to seating scripts, that I highlighted as toxic to the internet poker ecosystem in a recent op-ed. The poker room put into place a feature a month ago to stop datamining in Zoom Poker games, a feature which Baard said has worked very well. PokerStars is currently working on ways to prevent datamining in other games.


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