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SpinWiz: Another Seat-Scripting Program in Need of Banning

(Author’s note: The opinions expressed herein are those of the author only, and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Flushdraw or its owners.)

Another seat-scripting program, another bad idea in the way of third-party software that unfairly skews the competitive balance between novice players and a specific collective of more-experienced, tech-savvy grinders who can use said software to benefit their own specific, collective good.  This time the new program gaining popularity is something called SpinWiz, which allows its users to privately “tick” (identify) targeted players and engage in a form of bumhunting, while also increasing the odds of avoiding each other at the Spin & Go tables as specifically offered by PokerStars, the world’s largest online poker site.

pokerstars-spade-logoSpinWiz 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.

The program is modeled after a noxious and controversial program called SharkyStrator, which is used by “cartels” of knowledgeable players in Stars’s heads-up sit-n-go (HUSNG).  The popular Spin & Gos aren’t quite the same format as HUSNG offerings, but are close enough so that a similar pooled seating collective might work.  It seems clear that Spinwiz’s owners are hoping that the program becomes popular enough to be dominant in its market niche in much the same way that SharkyStrator has achieved a virtual stranglehold over the HUSNG lobbies.  This imitation comes despite at least a couple of people affiliated with SpinWiz coming out and speaking against certain aspects of SharkyStrator, including that software’s sole owner’s willingness to exclude certain would-be purchasers on whims, making it more semi-private than public.

About what SharkyStrator does, and about what SpinWiz itself is attempting to do, there’s not much effective difference.  Both programs create private “bumhunting” player collectives that allow its purchasers to hog all the weaker players in their respective games, making these players bust their own bankrolls faster by preventing the targeted weaker players from even the rare opportunity to play against each other.

What’s even more surprising, in this writer’s opinion, is that PokerStars parent Amaya Gaming has allowed these programs to proliferate despite the admitted damage that such team-play bumhunting does to the overall health of the games.  After all, it was less than two weeks that Amaya simply dropped all HUSNG from PokerStars’ smaller sister site, Full Tilt, rather than allow the HUSNG format to continue damaging newer players, and in turn, the greater overall health of the site.

Yes, it’s true that some players like to play HUSNG, and the Spin & Go, with its implied “lottery,” a randomized payout format, has been very popular with its players.  It seems, though, a monumental risk for PokerStars to allow its Spin & Go lobbies and player base to be abused in the same manner by the possible increased use of SpnWiz, in the manner that SharkyStrator now dominates the site’s HUSNG tables.

Let me reiterate: 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.

It’s also quite clear that PokerStars is monitoring the growing impact of such software programs, even if tries to walk the fine line between risking losing a good chunk of income from rake generated in the bumhunters’ chosen hunting grounds.

I reached out to Michael Josem, PokerStars’ Head of Public Relations, for a comment about the use of and dangers presented by programs such as SpinWiz and SharkyStrator.

Ever the diplomat, Josem replied, “We have recently conducted a quite thorough review of the usage of 3rd party software on our site. It is our clear and stated intention to reduce the impact of 3rd party software on the PokerStars and Full Tilt playing experience going forward. We are already discussing near term changes with 3rd party software developers and have plans for further changes in the future. When considering changes, we need to consider not only the ideal playing environment *but* also enforceability of rules. As we develop even better detection measures going forward we will have the option to become more restrictive with our policies.”

It’s true that a lot of third-party software, particularly scripts, produced its own enforcement and detectability problems for PokerStars.  Many programs and software aids can be run independently from a given poker client, be it from Stars or another company.  However, the nature in which SpinWiz and SharkyStrator both work requires them to be actively linked to the Stars client itself, as well as to the central queue operated by the programs’ owners, which rotates the ongoing registration among active players.

Thus, the use of both SpinWiz and SharkyStrator can be detected — and blocked, should Stars decide to go that route.  For the good of the overall game, such “collective” seating programs not only should be banned; they should have been banned in principle manner months ago.  Here’s hoping that PokerStars comes to the inevitable conclusion sooner rather than later: No long-term good for a poker site comes from allowing the use of such software, and its use needs to be stamped out as quickly as possible.


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