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  • The Anonymous Userid for Online Poker

    By Lee Jones

    Important note: I used to work for PokerStars; I don’t any more. What I’m writing here is my opinion, and not necessarily PokerStars’ opinion. Please don’t confuse the two.

    An interesting thread has started up on 2+2 – the original poster suggests that online poker players be identified as simply "Player1", "Player2", or other relatively random names. His argument, of course, is that this will render useless much of the player tracking software that the serious online players use.

    I’ve been in favor of something like this for a while now. In fact, about a year ago, I wrote a proposal to do just this and passed it around to a few colleagues.

    My basic proposal was that a player be given the option to have a one-time disposable userid for a single session. For simplicity, let’s define a session as the time from when you log into your poker client to the time you log out. If you don’t care to be anonymous – if you want everybody to know that you’re "Sheets", "Curtains", or any other home decorating item – fine. But players who wish to be anonymous can be.

    Here is my argument:

    Any healthy ecosystem relies on some kind of balance between the predators and the prey. I won’t bore you with real world examples – it’s easy enough (and fascinating) to look ’em up. Unfortunately, due to various human tendencies, there are also plenty of real world examples of what happens when that balance is messed up (the ecosystem goes all out of whack).

    Online poker is, in some important senses, an ecosystem. There are sharks and fish – we even call them that. With the slight modification that a fish who is eaten (busted) may be reborn (by bringing in outside money). [1]

    As we know, evolution happens. [2] However, in this case, the two groups are moving in opposite directions:

    A. The sharks are evolving – tools to improve their hunting ability are coming out weekly, and the existing ones are improving. Heads-up display tools, database websites, training websites, equity calculation software, the list goes on.

    B. The fish are devolving. Specifically, it continues to be confusing and/or difficult to get money onto many poker sites. That means that when a fish is eaten, it’s harder for him to be reborn. Furthermore, my sense is that the deposit issues (at least for U.S. players) are not going away any time soon, and may well get worse before they get better. This also, of course, creates a high barrier to new fish birth – another bad sign for the prey population.

    I am concerned that if these two trends continue unabated, the overall health of the ecosystem could be in jeopardy. Furthermore, it’s not in a shark’s nature (either the members of the Class Chondrichthyes or the human variety) to worry about the meta-problem of ecosystem health. They simply eat whenever and however much they can.

    To put this a bit more bluntly, I don’t think that most of the poker sharks give sufficient thought to the implications of ever-improving fish detection and consumption technology. Their attitude seems to be, "Hey – this is online poker, the tools are here, we use them. If the sites say it’s legal, we do it."

    But it is in the sites’ best interest (and, of course, ultimately all the players’ best interests) to maintain a reasonable balance between the sharks and the fish. And I believe a session-long userid would restore that balance. You could still use PokerTracker, et al to track your opponents during a specific session, which would clearly provide some benefit. But the massive databases (both locally maintained and served over the web) would suddenly lose most of their value.

    Look, the good players will still beat the bad players. It’s been like that since the beginning of the game, and even if suddenly becomes useless, the cream will still rise to the top.

    There’s another factor that I want to mention: in a natural ecosystem, the fish are there pretty much by definition. They continue to reproduce because, well, that’s what fish do. And so (other factors aside) there’s always a population of prey for the sharks. This is not true of the poker ecosystem. The amateur players, the occasional dabblers, the nervous newbies don’t have to play. If they discover that their $25 deposit on PokerStars is lasting half the time that it used to, well, they may decide to do something else where they get better value for their entertainment dollar.

    As if that weren’t enough, there are a bunch of boorish fools who routinely use the published rankings to berate other players (either at the tables or in online poker forums). So this information is being used as ammunition by clueless idiots whose egos make them put down other players, at the cost of civility, the quality of the game, etc. Yet another reason to make the information go away.

    Some people will argue that my proposal is inconsistent with live poker – that you can’t be a different person every time you walk into the Bellagio or Commerce (modulo sophisticated disguises). So what? I tell anybody that will listen that online poker is not live poker – they are similar in many ways, but extremely different in others. But more to the point, they are separate ecosystems, and each must be managed differently. Unlike online poker, money can move freely in and out of the live poker economy. And unlike online poker, the technology available to the live poker sharks isn’t improving, except the fairly asymptotic improvement in the available literature.

    I think that the first major poker site to institute the "one-time disposable userid" option will benefit significantly, particularly over the long-term. I also expect that within 3-5 years at most, such options will be standard within the industry and people will take them for granted.

    You read it here first.

    [1] And the intriguing twist that it’s not always clear who is a shark and who is a fish. Back

    [2] Those of us, anyway, who are not Biblical literalists. Back


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    Comment from Michael Moulton
    Time: June 26, 2007, 2:14 pm

    I don’t see this making a difference. The fish won’t know or understand why they might want to use the feature, so they’ll probably ignore it.

    The only people who would use it are sharks who want to appear to be fish– which will just help them take money from other sharks, the fish will still get eaten in the process.

    Pingback from The Anonymous Userid for Online Poker – UK Poker Hub
    Time: June 26, 2007, 3:25 pm

    […] Original post by Lee Jones […]

    Comment from Spencer J
    Time: June 26, 2007, 4:30 pm

    I think there is a lot to be said for your idea. If you want people to know who you are then you can still keep logging in with the same details. However most genuine fish will keep logging in with the same ID time after time because they have no clue what technology is available to the sophisticated player.

    As a player I am far more worried about the banking issues and the inability of sites to recruit players within the US market because of the effective advertising bans. And also the fact that poker is riding a massive trendy phase and that after a while people will get bored of it. As soon as it stops being televised (on the scale it is being now) then the dream of a sponsored career goes out of the window and half the appeal is lost for the average balla college kid.

    Comment from Damien
    Time: June 26, 2007, 5:59 pm

    This is the same issue that killed no-limit Omaha and keeps pot-limit Omaha in the fringes.

    The fish have to have a chance to win. Nobody wants to play a game that they almost never win, or that they lose too much in.

    In order to keep fish in the game the variance must remain high, and the expected value near zero. High variance means a lot of entertainment. Near zero expected value means low cost. The combination allows for a lot of winning games and sessions no mater how big a fish you are; makes it difficult to tell the fish from the sharks; and sets up large barriers (bankroll and emotional fortitude) for the development of sharks.

    Casinos games are a good example; the worst of them has a -5% expected value.

    Comment from Charley
    Time: June 26, 2007, 8:13 pm

    Brilliant idea from my piscine point of view. However, I am told that software generally considers me a shark – tell that to my bankroll, please. Perhaps that causes people to avoid me? I wonder.

    Comment from Lee Jones
    Time: June 27, 2007, 5:57 am

    Reply to Michael Moulton: In fact, when I worked at PokerStars, we routinely got emails from people worried/complaining about the tools that the sharks were using. Frequently, they found out about those tools when some idiot started berating them at the table because of their poor results on one online database or another. I would have loved to have said to them “No sweat – select “Requests -> Use Anonymous Session ID”.

    Reply to Damien: I think you are absolutely spot on that a high-variance low +EV (for the winning players) is good for the games. I actually argued in the third edition of Winning Low Limit Hold’em that no-limit hold’em is (and, during the 70’s-80’s, was proven to be) bad for the game because it’s so much harder on the fish than limit games. But at least at the moment, that’s the game the fish want. Let us hope the games survive the “no-limit hold’em is the only game on the planet” phase.

    As an aside, casinos seem completely ready to butcher, rather than shear the sheep. Your statement that casino games max out at -5% EV is wrong, though you’d think that they’d be plenty happy with such a money printing press. American roulette (with a double zero) has a 5.26% house edge, three-card poker has a 5.32% house edge (with correct strategy). And many moderately low house edge games require that you (1) play correct strategy (e.g. blackjack basic strategy) and/or (2) avoid sucker bets (e.g. the hard way bets on the craps layout, with house edges of 9-11%).

    Regards, Lee

    Comment from Cadmunkey
    Time: June 27, 2007, 10:35 am

    Don’t quote me on it, but I think WPEX poker has this system in place already. A friend told me about it recently and the first thing I thought was “what a cool idea”. Brings everyone back to a level playing field at the beginning of a session.

    I would use the option if it were present on some of the main stream sites out there. Nice article Lee.

    Comment from Tim
    Time: June 27, 2007, 4:39 pm

    Another benefit is fish will be more willing to move up in limits, where tracking is more prevalent.

    Comment from tuff_fish
    Time: June 27, 2007, 8:32 pm

    So what do you think of multitabling. I can think of nothing that has decimated the fish population more than the ability of tight TAGs to grind away on multiple tables. It isn’t poker, it is seining. Banning multitabling would do more for fish longivity than anything I can think of.


    Comment from Haley
    Time: June 28, 2007, 6:04 pm

    Wonderful post, Lee. Malthusian prospects, indeed.

    Comment from Lee Jones
    Time: June 29, 2007, 11:53 pm

    Reply to tuff_fish…

    Hi Tuff – multi-tabling is a fact of online poker life, and we can no more eliminate it than we could (e.g.) the chat box. Note that even if a site offered “no-multitabling” tables, a player could still play at such a table on that site, and as many other sites as he wished. So a “no multi-tabling site/table” is an impossibility.

    Furthermore, multi-tabling is actually *better* for individual fish. Let’s say that player Shark456 is capable of 2.5 BB/100 (“big bets per hundred hands” – a common metric among serious online players). Wanting to increase his hourly income, he plays two tables instead. It’s a virtual certainty that he will *not* make 2.5 BB/100 at both tables. Instead, he’ll make perhaps 2.0 or 1.8 BB/100. Well, he’s happy because he’s making much more money per hour. But the fish at his tables will be happier because he is taking less money off each individual table. The more he multi-tables, the lower his per-table income, but until he hits some threashold, the greater his hourly income. As long as his per-table income drops, the fish get happier (and healthier).

    Ultimately, yes, Shark456 is taking more money away from the poker site, but by spreading the pain over many fish rather than just a single table’s worth, he probably leaves the fish population healthier.

    At least, that’s my perspective.

    Regards, Lee

    Comment from Gnug315
    Time: June 30, 2007, 1:02 am

    Excellent article.

    I proposed to some friends a few years ago, that at some point there should be, and eventually will be, true anonymous poker: every player is anonymous on every hand!

    It works this way: Every time a hand is dealt, you are facing new players. The server moves players between tables corresponding to their position in the hand, and their identities are even kept anonymous too. This would truly lead to a sort of nash equilibrium of how pure poker is played, sans reads. Moreover, ppl would have a lot of fun experimenting, like for example shoving versus any turn bet or reraising any preflop raise with position, without the fear of “later repercussion”: the taking advantage of their image. Surely it’s possible, in this modern day, to build such a server/system. Note that it’s really not much different than what would happen if ppl chose to play one hand or one round of poker before switching to another table, allowing them to use any strange strategy that they please – it’d just make it a ton easier, and, of course, forced. I think it’d teach us a lot about how to play poker WITH reads, to be forced to play without.

    On a side note, I think your last piece of logic re fish preferring that the sharks multitable, is flawed:

    If a shark makes more money by multitabling, it follows that the fish, collectively, lose more money. And from the point of view of the single fish (as opposed to the collective), he would prefer if the shark wasn’t multitabling because then the shark likely wouldn’t be at his table in the first place.

    As a shark myself, I’m on the fence re your proposition. I agree it’d be a good thing to even the playing field a little for the fish by taking away some of the sharks’ advantages. I just don’t like it 😉

    Comment from Haley
    Time: July 2, 2007, 8:36 pm

    Hi, Lee,

    Noticed your argument in the response to Tuff; pardon me for saying this, but that’s where your logic breaks down. Your argument about the per-table rate by sharks leaving the fish comparatively healthier would only work in the case of a single shark (or a small, finite number of sharks) in the pool.

    Unfortunately, your original post quite dramatically indicates the opposite, that the shark-to-fish ratio is increasing, and because of this, the fish aren’t likely to keep voluntarily diving in. If all of a sudden there are eight multi-tabling sharks at each and every table, then the fish are going to get pounded… no matter what.

    I mentioned the Malthus thing for a reason, agreeing that the issue here is indeed one of diminishing resources, otherwise known as new fish. Perhaps a more relevant reference would have been the example of the effects of hunting on populations of rabbits and coyotes (or wolves, in some instances) in controlled-population studies. In those, it’s been repeatedly shown that left on their own, rabbit and coyote populations will repeatedly cycle from high to low, as long as a base source of food for the rabbits is available. The rabbits keep on breeding — as rabbits are wont to do — and after a couple of seasons lag the the coyote population also takes off, because there are so many juicy bunnies to eat.

    The coyotes have happy times, so they keep on breeding, too, and build up so fast that they also overpopulate, eating too many rabbits. Both populations collapse — the rabbits first, then the coyotes (or wolves) who experience starvation — and the whole process starts anew.

    The cycle can be influenced from outside, too. Usually the studies introduce a hunting season, showing that by allowing the culling of the predator base (the coyote or wolf), both populations can be maintained at artificially high levels.

    What’s happened in poker is an influence from the opposite side, translating the bunnies to fish and the coyotes to sharks. The difficulties encountered by new fish in funding accounts or in reaching a point of competitiveness with the ever-evolving sharks is like a drought for the rabbits in the above: it removes the base food source and is likely to make the population crash occur earlier — it chops off the high point of the cycle.

    Your argument re: multi-tabling also leaves room for debate. Yes, players could multi-table by playing one table each at a multitude of sites, but that would be a bit more difficult to manage in the massive quantities that some multi-tablers perform. I’m not sure that there are 24 distinct poker networks out there, but there sure are 24-table players. And trying to get the software of 24 different sites to work in harmony would be… interesting, wouldn’t it?

    What you haven’t touched on at all is the fact that opening up multi-table play in the first place was a case of the poker sites wanting to (a) increase rake and (b) grab a -relatively- bigger slice of the online pie. Unfortunately, business pressures are a part of that, but I can’t imagine a world where “grow the business” pressures don’t exist. No one -forced- poker sites to allow multi-tabling; they did it to make money.

    The biggest flaw in your theory that I can see is that it implies a voluntary cooperation on the part of all sites to allow anonymous-ID poker. The only reason some sites would have to go to anonymous-ID poker would be to short-circuit the third-party products that exacerbate the shark-to-fish problem, but a lot of those sites add money into the poker cycle as well. Given that there are sites out there that actively allow the promotion of ads for these products, it seems unlikely that the entire poker world is going to turn altruistic all at once. Poker’s always been an “I got mine” type of existence, but the players aren’t the only ones doing it. The sites do it as well.

    Would I play on a site that featured anonymous ID’s? In a heartbeat. But there’s a whole class of players out there that would consider it an affront to their existence — and they do generate lots of rake.

    At least for the time being….

    Comment from StarTracker
    Time: July 8, 2007, 3:25 pm

    Nice blog Lee! It is great to see someone thinking about this stuff, but I don’t think this is the solution to this problem.

    I’m not really for this, as I run a website which tracks players. So, keep that in mind as you read my reasons:

    1) The tools don’t help out players enough to make that big of a difference in the ecosystem you speaks of. Players have just gotten better at playing with or without tools. That has a bigger impact on declining fish counts than these tools.

    2) The tools only make sense in the higher buyins. It is just not worth the effort in the small buyins, where the new fish live.

    3) A lot of people use the databases to track themselves. If sites provided more detail on play for their clients, these databases would not be as popular.

    4) Though this has declined recently by my own observation, players berating other players for bad plays (or poor results) shows the self proclaimed good players are not smart enough to use information correctly from these sites. Clients berating other clients is something the site should control by dealing with the offensive player. Don’t blame the messenger.

    5) A shark at one table is a fish at another. It isn’t a matter of fish vs. shark. It is a multi level food chain and the skill set changes from game to game/buyin to buyin. A fish armed with a tool to “make him play better” is just a bigger fish, or a fish who thinks he is a shark.

    6) The recent U.S. legislation has had the biggest impact on declining fish counts. Shame on the online poker industry for not doing what they should have done to “know the threats” to their business.

    7) Believe in the game. Poker is a game which can maintain the balance in the ecosystem. It has the element of chance in it. Where in the ocean can a small fish eat a shark? In poker it happens all the time. There are huge fish out there, fattened from devouring sharks due the the beauty of this awesome game where any two cards can win!

    Believe in the game!

    Comment from rod
    Time: July 13, 2007, 3:43 pm


    I’m a fish.

    I’m actually improving since the beginning of 2007. I’ve won a low limit tournament with 1730 entrants, I’ve won a 180 man, made some final tables…I’m having my best year. But, I have vast room for improvement.

    One thing I know is this…I will not move beyond the lower limits with people tracking my every move. As it stands now, I’m doing okay in low limit, less than 5.00 MTTs. But, I stand absolutely no chance against people who know, for example, what my VPIP from the cutoff when I have an M of 17, and my PFR in that same situation….they actually know my range! It’s not a guess anymore!

    In live play, even the best player would not know this information…yet, stat programs have become sophisticated enough to give out this information! And, under the TOC of the sites, it’s allowed! These programs are not telling you what to do…it’s just their data collection, and reporting tools have evolved SO MUCH that you are virtually being told what to do if you can do any homework at all (which the higher levels that I want to go to will have just that).

    We have to have annon User IDs soon. The amount of data that a person has on you anymore has went BEYOND anything you would obtain in a live setting. Fish are just going to lose quicker, and not be able to deposit anymore, and in the long run, sharks will kill each other off, and sites would lose traffic.

    One last thing…if you don’t think there is data collection at the lowest levels, think again. On 2+2, I was reading in the MTT strategy section, and a guy was giving a detailed account of his opponent, and it looked like this:
    Just moved to the table. One to my right had a VPIP of 18.14, and PFR of 6.5.
    I raised with AQ, and he min-reraised me. I had 8bbs left, he had 14. Should I have just pushed?

    It was a 1.00 tournament. The guy actually gave more detail, and more stats, but you get the point. People are collecting stats at all levels.

    Comment from screenwrither
    Time: July 13, 2007, 5:42 pm

    Great article and great idea that is a must to be implemented. I totally agree that most players and sites are being short-sighted in protecting the ecosystem. I myself cringe every time a supposed “good” player berates a casual “bad” player at the tables and flogs him with his sharkscope or pokerdb stats.

    Hand in hand with anonymous session ids, I’d like to see groups of cash game tables that use a waiting list that randomly assigns players to tables the way that MTTs do. For instance a player could sign up on a waiting list for 2/4 NL 6-max, and when the list hits 36 players, 6 tables are opened and the players are randomly assigned. As seats become available at these tables, those seats are also filled randomly from a waiting list. Coupled with anonymous sessions, this would cut down on the possibilities of collusion and the usefulness of pre-session data mining, because predatory players wouldn’t be able to easily watch a specific table and then know that they can sit down at it in an advantageous position.

    Few people in the industry understand the future of the game as well as Lee does, that what is good for ALL the players in harmony is also what’s good for the sites as well in the long run.

    I am a skilled and successful tournament player but rarely will I sit down at an online cash game table because I am aware of the software and data arsenal being wielded by serious cash game mercenaries. I’m a game purist and I personally don’t want to use those tools, but I’m also a realist and not willing to go into combat unarmed either. So I stick to tournaments online. The industry needs to make sure to provide options where a player’s skill and skill alone is enough to be successful. If they can do this, the ecosystem will flourish (even if the sharks have to work a little bit more for their supper.)

    Comment from RandomPlayer
    Time: July 13, 2007, 8:06 pm

    As someone who use to work for a poker site, I suggest you should focus on the area where the most improvement could be done to preserve the fish (along with the midlimit grinders).


    The site takes far more money than is required to operate the backend and marketing efforts. It seems pretty lame for a use to be site manager to be looking for ways to cut into those who chose to try and earn a living playing as a methodology of preserving the influx of new untalented money.

    Most players do not take the time to recognize how much money is extracted daily from the player pool by a company who is providing the place to play.

    Comment from JTRAIN
    Time: July 13, 2007, 10:18 pm

    I think its a dumb idea for total anonymous play. A lot of the losing donks keep redepositing to play with the likes of “TheWacoKid”, “Sheets”, “JohnnyB”. Regardless of how hard it becomes to deposit, donks will find a way because its a sickness. Your idea would also kill as it would be impossible to track tourneys. Their whole web site is based upon their rankings. Hurting one of the best poker communities online is -EV.

    If you want to narrow the gap between the fish and the sharks, the only way to do it is by either reducing rake or eliminating it somehow.

    When it comes to rake, Pokerstars kills the MICRO players aka the fish. For example, a $1 sit n go on stars has a rake of 20% or $0.20. This is at least double what the higher limit players pay. The problem is stars is greedy and the low limit fish don’t realize how the rake affects their bankroll. They look at like “oh well, its only 20 cents.” However, multiply that by 1,000 sit n gos and what do you get?

    I mean seriously, why does stars take $3 out of a big cash game pot? I don’t think a computer program dealing a hand over a 30 second period is worthy of $3, yet i still play because you guys are the only game in town.

    Lastly Lee, I think if you want to write articles about online poker, I think you should focus on “how to legalize and regulate online poker.” The U.S. government doesn’t have a clue and need people like you to explain to them HOW MUCH money can be taxed. There’s obviously more to it than just saying “ok, let’s legalize it.” Explain what needs to be done, how it can be done, how long it will take, etc.

    One last question: Should companies like Stars allowed to operate in the U.S. if online gambling is legalize? It is a fact that Stars is ignoring US law right now, so how can we ever trust them to operate within any of our laws? I think companies like Party Poker and Paradise should be allowed to re-enter because they are obeying the law right now. This strategy might pay off big in the future if, and only if, online gambling is legalized in the USA.

    Comment from Andrew Thiele
    Time: July 14, 2007, 10:22 am

    Please don’t tell me you care that people are getting punished for gambling…

    Comment from Andrew Thiele
    Time: July 14, 2007, 10:31 am

    Does your book tell people to raise pre-flop with a good starting hand? Does your book tell people to make continuation bets? Does your book tell people to play stronger hands in early position? Does your book tell people to have courage to bluff? Does your book tell people how to be come a shark?

    These things will destroy the fish population more than any “heads up” display.

    Also, I really don’t understand why you care about the online poker rooms’ profits?


    Andrew Thiele

    Pingback from Stars cracks down on data collection – Part Time Poker Forums
    Time: August 2, 2007, 6:59 pm

    […] Re: Stars cracks down on data collection I ran across this very interesting article on this subject… written by Lee Jones. Might be of some interest: Bigger Deal The Anonymous Userid for Online Poker […]

    Comment from hdgs754
    Time: August 3, 2007, 9:53 pm

    This is seriously great post and i hope it doesnt end here and you guys can make something so this become real possibility.

    Basically what i like about this is that it may bring real poker back to tables again and not just some database looking and also it will eliminate all those MT idiots with big egos like you mention. Plus if it brings back entertainment to fish too thats fine cos thats whats pokers about as much as making money.
    As i said, to me this sounds like should change online poker in some way a great deal and make it more fun for everyone too.

    So, great idea and hopefuly u can help to bring this to reality Lee.

    hdgs754 🙂

    Comment from Paul Coynes
    Time: August 3, 2007, 10:18 pm

    I make all of these points moot by playing small stakes online and reserving my higher stakes play to B and M’s/

    Pingback from The Anonymous Userid for Online Poker « Jack’s Experiences
    Time: August 4, 2007, 4:50 pm

    […] August 4th, 2007 · No Comments Story found here. […]

    Comment from Tak
    Time: August 5, 2007, 9:56 am

    I wouldn’t implement this for MTTs; just Sit & Go and Ring games.

    Comment from Frank
    Time: August 6, 2007, 7:04 pm

    Lee your post is both hypocritical and funny. You lay the blame on “tracking programs” for killing the fish. Stars takes millions of dollars from these same fish. Why didn’t you propose not to take rake from fish if you were that worried about it. No, it’s easier to blame “tracking programs” instead of your excessively high profit margins.

    Comment from seeno
    Time: August 6, 2007, 7:17 pm

    with new software under development some players will resemble humanoids more than humans. software suggesting human to make move as its illegal software makes move itself.

    ps could make it say “player in seat no x” instead in HH

    and when toggling with mousepointer over the seat, seat no is shown if need be

    Comment from darvon
    Time: August 8, 2007, 3:15 am

    The MUCH more serious issue is multitabling. Mr. Jones’ comment for multitabling are summarized as:

    1) If a site (or a subsection of a site) bans “multitabling (on that site), sharks will simply spread their multitabling accross multiple sites, effectively negating the benefit.

    2) When the shark multitables, his win rate on each “table Image” goes down, which slows down the loss rate on the fish at his table.

    3) When the shark multitables, he spreads his “eating” (wins) over more fish, thus leaving each fish a little healthier.

    I believe each of these arguments is wrong. Let’s take a look at the impact of multitabling.
    Multitabling is probably a HUGE contributor to killing off the fish. However it is also a huge contributor to site profits.

    Imagine a simplified scenario. We all have heard the “10% of all poker players make money” phrase. Let’s assume that is true, for simplicity. Let us also assume that fish single table and Sharks 8 table. This is not exactly true, but there is a strong trend that winning players play much more tables simultaneously than fish.

    So that our population of 90 fish and 10 sharks out of every 100, is now 90 fish and 80 shark “images” out of every 170 seats. So instead of having 1 shark and 9 fish at each table, you have (approx) 5 fish and 5 shark images.
    This RADICALLY increases the loss rate / hour of each fish. But it almost DOUBLES the traffic (and profit) of the site. Thus multi-tabling will NOT get outlawed.

    Let’s now take a look at Mr Jones’ arguments:

    [b]1) If a site (or a subsection of a site) bans “multitabling (on that site), sharks will simply spread their multitabling accross multiple sites, effectively negating the benefit.[/b]

    In 1) Lee is correct if there were a large number of sites, EACH having a large traffic of fish. But they don’t. There aren’t even 8 sites which are still open to US sharks. And even before, there weren’t 8 sites with a LOT of traffic. In the main sites, a no-multitabling rule would allow fish to congregate at a lower shark density.

    Let’s build a scenario (pre UIGEA) where there are 8 sites, which theoretically would allow Lee’s argument to be valid. Our scenario is populated with our 100 players, 90 fish and 10 sharks. We will call those 8 sites Party, Stars, Pacific, Royal, Panther, William Hill, Bugsy, Doyle. 82 fish only have accounts at 1 site and 8 have 2, none have more. All 10 sharks have accounts at all 8 sites. Party and Stars do extensive advertising and have 50 fish accounts and 30 fish accounts, respectively. Party has 5 dual account fish, Stars 3. each other site has 3 fish each.

    What happens?

    Tables at Party have 10/60 Shark density with a “no-multi-tabling” policy, 16% rather than 47%. Pacific will have a 10/13 shark density (75%) Pacific (and the others) will have to do SOMETHING or their fish will die and so will Pacific.

    With a “NoMT” policy a large site will make things MORE ATTRACTIVE to fish. Of course this is at the COST of not spreading more tables.

    A non-MultiTabling policy will DECREASE shark density on the larger sites, because fish population is not equal among the sites.

    [b]2) When the shark multitables, his win rate on each “table Image” goes down, which slows down the loss rate on the fish at his table.[/b]

    Again, that is true, however although Shark 1, table image 1 (shark 1.1) win rate may dip from 2.5 to 1.8, it is MORE than made up for by the fact that 5 sharks sit at each table rather than 1, and the sharks are feeding from only 5 fish, rather than 9. An 8 table shark’s win rate, per image, does NOT decrease by 8X, thus each sharks BITE is more with multi-tabling. ANd it all come out of the same fish pool

    [b]3) When the shark multitables, he spreads his “eating” (wins) over more fish, thus leaving each fish a little healthier. [/b]

    Prior to multitabling a shark eats from 9 fish per table. With multitabling, each table image eats from 5 fish, as do 4 other shark images.


    Bottom line, although we as poker players are effected by an ecological drought, it is up to the Farmers like Poker Stars to alter their farming techniques to not kill the Cash Cow.

    Eliminating data mining is, at best, a tertiary effect. PS can put “Player 1” features (or the easier squishing of small operations) all it wants. Until bigger ideas to dampen the sharks, which will cost shark traffic and site rake, are implemented nothing else will Save The Fish.

    Anti-Shark Measures

    What about a simple “No Sharks” table? Currently all sites effort to disallow multiple account by a single user. Those efforts aren’t perfect, but they ARE in place and are improving. Why not ride those techniques AND the datamining and determine a definition of SHARK and mark those players with a shark icon and ban them from certain NO SHARK tables???

    Again, this will cost shark traffic and the rakes thereof. But bottom line, ALL anti-shark measures cost shark traffic. Sites must decide how much they want to give up shark traffic revenues to maintain fish traffic.

    Comment from Dr Zen
    Time: August 14, 2007, 6:27 am

    Nice post, Lee. It would be a great idea.

    You’re wrong about multitabling though, because you have it the wrong way round. People are saying ban multitabling to stop players on each site from taking too much from fish (and the semifish, like myself 😉 — it’s a nightmare for players like me that our nibbling at fish is severely damaged by sharks chomping at them), not to stop multitabling. If some guy wants to get a ton of RAM in his machine so he can open up eight poker sites and play on each, that’s okay; he is not able to play all eight on Stars, and that’s good for the fish.

    And it’s perfectly true about the rake. Low-limit rake is shocking. Sites seem to take a “fish don’t care” view on that.

    Comment from Michael
    Time: August 15, 2007, 11:43 pm

    Darvon – How about your “NO SHARK” tables simply allowing only players that are logged on at the site, but not allowed to play at the “NO SHARK” table if they are playing at other tables at the site? Only single tablers can play at these tables.

    Comment from tuff_fish
    Time: August 28, 2007, 11:53 pm

    Just revisited this article while clearing out my bookmarks.

    Some very good arguments for disallowing multitabling. Of course it won’t happen until the sites are forced to do so. They are too greedy and short sighted.

    What will force them? If poker should become legal in the US or at least easily accessible again with legal advertising, then one site some where is going to implement and advertise this policy. This site will become a haven for fish. The numbers will go up, the sharks will come, whatever the disadvantage, and the site will prosper.

    Other sites will be forced to modify their policies. The poker world will be better off and everyone will do ok. Even the greedy ones will do well, just not as well as if they were allowed to run amuck.

    Right now, most everybody is hurtin’ except a handful of sites. And their position is teneous regarding US players.

    The only patrons of Stars and Full Tilt are sharks, little sharks, and wannabe sharks.

    Besides, multitabling is not poker. It is playing numbers.


    Comment from Giedrius
    Time: January 24, 2008, 10:25 am

    Mr Jones stated that it is healthier for the fish if shark multi-tables. It might not be completely correct as: “let us say there are two tables and two sharks with 2,5BB/hour on them – if they both multitable those two tables than their 2,5BB rate add up to 1,8+1,8 equal 3,6BB/hour on one table instead of 2,5BB an one table.

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