Anonymous online poker tables Good For Recreational Players

Dodging seating scripts and the use of HUDs discussed in latest MPN blog.
The latest MPN blog discusses the use of third party tools at online poker tables, focusing particularly on the use of seating scripts and HUDs.
Microgaming's head of poker, Alex Scott, says that the MPN has a transparent approach to the use of trackers and HUDs, but whilst permitting them it also gives players the option of anonymous tables, where their use is discouraged and difficult.
"For those that want to use them, or don’t mind playing against players who might be using them, we have plenty of tables at which they are allowed to be used," he writes, adding:
"For those people who prefer not to use such tools, or who don’t want to play against people using HUDs or trackers, we have Anonymous Tables, where their opponents’ names are obscured. At these tables, there is little point in trying to track opponents because the game doesn’t specify who they are.
"We also don’t support HUDs and tracking software in Blaze Poker. This attitude has undoubtedly made Blaze Poker less profitable for us, but we feel that players should have a genuine choice between tracking and no tracking."
Using mobile devices is another element that has to be considered when it comes to the fairness of using third party tools, Scott says.
Six MPN poker rooms offer Microgaming's mobile software, with more on the way. Players using the mobile software can’t use tracking programs, HUDs, or seating scripts, and therefore can’t equalise the advantage given by third-party tools.
"Since the industry is irreversibly heading into the mobile age, that means that more and more players every day will not be playing on a level playing field," Scott observes.
Seating scripts are becoming increasingly noticeable, and Scott is concerned about one in particular that monitors the tables for weak players, and then instantly seats the user with a weak player when one is found.
Casual players simply aren’t aware of these scripts, he comments, and would be horrified to find out about them.
Scott views this usage as predatory play, and asks whether it is fair and if the network should allow this type of activity to take place.
Explaining how seating scripts work, Scott reveals that the script needs to know who is weak and who is not at a table, and to do that the script interacts with a tracking program. Here again, choosing to play at the anonymous tables defeats the script threat because tracking programs can’t gather data on who is a winner and who is a loser at anonymous tables.
Admitting that the MPN does not presently have a reliable way to detect when a script is being used, Scott explains that such a capability could be designed into the overall software from scratch, but retro-fitting it is a somewhat more difficult task.
"Certainly, if you designed your software from scratch, bearing in mind that you would want to detect scripts, then it would be fairly trivial to detect them. The problem is that it is absolutely not easy to build this into software that already exists. Not impossible, but very difficult and very time consuming," he writes.
Commenting on the feasibility of an outright ban, Scott opines: "The problem with seating scripts is that the cases are often grey areas, and it’s extremely difficult to apply a ban fairly and consistently across the whole player base. Arguably, such a ban could result in a more uneven playing field than before the ban."
Microgaming's head of poker concludes with sentiments with which many poker fans will identify, lamenting the evolution of poker which is taking it away from being a game of personal skill and honest competition among peers.
"I don’t want poker to become a game where the person who has the best software, or who is able to best take advantage of their software, is the ultimate benefactor. In my opinion, poker should be a test of wits – you versus your opponents," he writes, adding that experience has shown that where game organisers allow some players to gain an excessively large advantage, the games die.
Scott argues that online poker is due for rebalancing when it comes to seating scripts, and hints that permitting their use may not last forever.
"The weapon that is the seating script has become too powerful, and there is a lot more at stake than just points – the entire future of the online poker industry hinges on whether the game remains fun or not," he observes.
"On the MPN, seating scripts are currently allowed, but that will not be the case forever. When we have determined a way to reliably detect such tools and fairly enforce a ban, then we will rid the game of them without a hint of regret.
"In the meantime, we will be making lots of changes in 2015 aimed to make third-party programs less powerful. Winners will still win, and losers will still lose. But the game will be more fun for those that play."