Poker software programs and apps have come a long way since the Moneymaker Boom era of online poker. Handy, non-invasive “click & forget” platforms such as the Sit & Go grinder’s TableNinja have given way to a plethora of data grabbers and even an underground market for mass hand histories over the years.
Yet to understand why the topic of Poker Software is such taboo in our industry, we have to delve deeper into the psyche of online poker players and service providers. Having been a contributor for one of the Internet’s most highly recognized poker software sites, PokerSoftware.com, I would like to outline the often emotional debate between proponents and naysayers of software applications for online poker.
Poker Software & Data Mining
Back when I was in the game full time, the best poker software by far was TableNinja. The handy app could (and still can) be programmed to open up a set number of tables of a certain game, and will even close tournaments out once they have concluded. For a gazillion-tabling online poker grinder, such a program can prove invaluable for someone who wants to eliminate as many “clicks” as possible when playing the game seriously — and TableNinja does not provide any hand history information from opponents.
However, the controversy surrounding poker software is based on online poker players who are able to obtain (usually at a price) hand history information that they were not personally involved in. It’s one thing to run your own database of hand history info via Holdem Manager or PokerTracker, but purchasing millions of hands at a time (that you were not involved in) is directly tied to hotly debated ethics issues within online poker.
As professional online poker players have become more sophisticated in their means of exploiting edges, the advantage that these players possess over their non-software using counterparts is formidable. Many players who are new to the game are discouraged when they find out that their virtual opponents could have access to nearly every single decision that’s been made by an online poker player.
Such data has been used in a number of high profile, high stakes matches between well known players. Seating scripts have been at the forefront of the poker software argument for years thanks to their use by heads-up “bumhunters.” Those who vehemently argue against the use of any type of hand history amalgamation software point to such cases as clear-cut examples of how information processed by poker software programs can give players what they call an unethical edge.
There are even some well established online poker pros who post in the TwoPlusTwo forum that support the banishment of all third party software in online poker games. So why hasn’t poker software been outlawed completely?
The Arguments For Online Poker Software
For starters, the core concept of most poker software programs is to help analyze and organize information that the player has already witnessed. Thanks to online poker hand history information that is readily available on the world’s largest sites, a player such as myself can obtain over 1 million hand histories (that I was personally involved in), and then enter that information into a database for evaluation purposes.
Without a doubt, that data can be more useful when sorted out by PokerTracker or a similar program. Many in the industry would argue that all poker players have access to such applications, so the advantage that astute players earn is ethical since they are the ones who spend extra study time figuring out how to best utilize their past hand histories.
There is also the argument that effective policing of outlawed third party software on major poker sites is impossible. It doesn’t take most edge exploiters long to figure out that information can be stored on a second device and used simultaneously without the risk of being discovered. Some proponents of poker software believe that because of this, all programs should be allowed to counteract unfair advantages obtained through sidetracking a site’s Terms of Service.
Yet the number one reason why poker software is defended by so many online poker players is its usefulness in rooting out major scandals in the industry. Once upon a time, the general (naive) assumption of most poker representatives was that there was too much money being made for anyone to even consider rigging Internet games.
When the Absolute Poker scandal revolving around the POTRIPPER account broke in 2007, it took quite a bit of convincing from respected player and victim Marco “CrazyMarco” Johnson to bring the online poker community on board.
As 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft correctly points out in the five minute segment below, it was the players themselves who forced the issue to light via forums, and it was poker software that played the pivotal role of providing concrete proof of cheating.
Because of this, poker software is touted as a necessary tool within the industry. Without the ability to track all hand histories, cheating can be impossible to uncover.
What are your thoughts on poker software and its role in the online poker community? Let us know below!