The Microgaming Poker Network (MPN) announced that it will begin allowing players to change their screen names on September 22. An account will be allowed to change its name once every 30 days, or anytime after playing one-thousand real money hands. There is no limit to the number of times an account’s screen name can change.
MPN is just the latest online poker site to implement proactive measures in what has become an industry-wide mission to protect recreational players from being targeted by professionals using poker tracking software.
The hope with this policy change is that “data-mining” programs that provide insight into a player’s tendencies will be rendered useless if databases cannot be confidently attached to a single account.
Changes Follow the Success of Anonymous Tables Elsewhere
Speaking with the online site Pokerfuse, MPN Head of Poker Alex Scott explained that the recent success of a similar policy at other online poker rooms is a major factor behind the decision:
“MPN already offers an anonymous tables option, as do many other sites. In 2011, Bodog became the first to go completely anonymous, and has thrived ever since. Last month, Full Tilt made the dramatic decision to remove game-selection facilities and heads-up play in all its ring games. The hope was that it would help attract and improve retention of recreational players.”
Is PokerStars Next?
As more and more competitors turn to the “anonymous” format to protect recreational players, all eyes are now on PokerStars to see what changes, if any, the site will make.
The promise of anonymity does seem to be popular with players, and industry insiders are beginning to wonder out-loud if it’s only a matter of time before the world’s largest poker room has to jump on the bandwagon or risk losing market share.
And there is precedent for action. PokerStars already made changes to its software policy earlier this year – outright banning a program used by some Head’s Up Sit n’Go players that the site considered a step too far towards automating play.
Additionally, PokerStars has already made its intention to make further restrictions to what “in-game” software is allowed known to players. Speculation is rampant that Head’s Up Displays (HUD) could be eliminated entirely.
In any event, the question appears not “if” change is coming, but rather “how much,” “what type,” and “when.”
Cracking the problem of how to protect recreational players is at the forefront of everyone’s mind as the online poker industry seeks to reinvent itself. But reversing the downward trend of online poker’s numbers will require varied and multiple innovations.
No one can deny that the online version of the game is definitely in need of a fundamental change in image. For that reason, any attempt to alter the status quo should be welcomed.
So, although the anonymous format shouldn’t be confused with a panacea for all that ails the virtual felt, the fact that it’s being generally well received can only be a good thing for poker.