The proposed changes, as well as a partial list of programs that would be affected under the new rules, are detailed in a 2 + 2 forum thread posted last week.
While the majority of PokerStars’ third-party software policies would remain unchanged, the addition of one particular amendment will have a serious impact on the types of tools players will be able to harness while the PokerStars client is open.
Q. In general, what kind of tools and services are prohibited only whilst the client is open?
1. Any tool of reference material that offers commentary or advice that goes beyond a basic level, such as stack-size-based starting hand tables, decision trees or heads-up displays that dynamically change based on player action or card value.
PokerStars’ suggested reform appears to target a new program by London-based HUSNG player ‘skier_5.’
The controversial program, which was first exposed by the 2+2 community last month, consists of a database of strategy charts which is then utilized to assist players in making optimal pre-flop decisions based on a number of variables, including stack size.
At least three players, ‘skier_5’ included, were able to rapidly move up the HUSNG ranks, profiting at stakes they presumably would be unable to beat if it weren’t for the software.
It’s also been suggested that the players harnessing the tool employ nearly identical pre-flop strategies, leading some in the community to conclude that the software blurs the line between non-assisting aids and automated bots.
The program seems to violate an existing third-party software restriction which forbids:
Any tool or service that offers dynamic, real-time commentary or advice on the current game state that goes beyond reporting data and statistics.
However, it appears that the tool was able to circumvent this limitation by explicitly relying on static strategy charts (which are allowed) to assist players in their decisions.
PokerStars clearly states that should the rules be amended, the ‘skier_5’ program would be disallowed:
If these changes are implemented, the recently reviewed software in question would no longer be allowed to be used while the client is open
Other programs that would be banned while the client is open include:
PokerStars’ actions over the past year suggest a desire to do away with the HUSNG format altogether:
On the flip side, if PokerStars wanted to do away with heads-up sit & gos so badly, why reverse its stance on both the rake hike and potentially the ‘skier_5’ program?
Two reasons come to mind:
As to the latter point, the online poker industry is clearly in need of serious reform.
And while a portion of that can be attributed to the introduction of lottery SNGs and seasonal trends, the majority represents an inability for recreational players to survive amid a growing segment of the community (we’ll call them multi-tabling rakeback grinders) that gain an edge through the purchase of expensive assistance tools.
In my opinion, to eliminate the use of such programs would be a decisive first step toward restoring balance to an industry that used to reward the best poker players, not the players with the most innovative software.
It appears that PokerStars may agree.
Reactions to the proposed policy changed have been overwhelmingly positive, although the general consensus is that PokerStars should take even more aggressive action, namely in the way of banning:
Multiple posters have iterated concerns regarding how Stars will enforce the new policies, indicating that players will always find workarounds to maintain their edge. They also cited unease regarding the high prevalence of poker bots.
‘Skier_5’ himself chimed in with some thoughts regarding the changes. For more, click here.
PokerStars encourages anyone with strong feelings on the topic to chime in with their opinion by next Sunday, after which a final decision will be made.