Let’s Make Some Changes

Hey Guys,

Heads Up Action!

I wrestled a bit with how to present some of these thoughts.  I think that this covers some important topics, and I really hope that I can spark some discussion and potentially improve online poker for all of us.  I first thought that I’d write this like a proper article, collecting opinions from all of the players I respected, and carefully offering some well thought out solutions to many of our problems.

I changed my mind, though.  This is my blog, and I should share my own thoughts and opinions.  I shouldn’t create an artificial discussion, where it’s only between me and my poker friends.  I should present problems, weigh in, and let the discussion grow organically from there.  I sincerely hope that this post will lead to the entire online community discussing some potential improvements and solutions for the way the games are played these days.  I hope (and expect) that this will be something that the poker sites will listen to.

Because of this, I’d ask that you please spread the word, share this, and form discussions wherever you feel would be best.  You have my permission to re-post the full contents of this page.  (Though you’ll probably want to just use clips)

These are simply my observations and opinions, and I encourage everyone to chime in with theirs, even (and especially) if you fully disagree with me.  I will write a follow-up post some time in the future, after taking into account any discussion I can find.  Thanks.


The online poker landscape has changed over the last few years.  Unfortunately, for the most part, things have changed for the worse.

As edges (and the regulars’ bankrolls, it seems) have decreased, extra edge-seeking has grown and grown.  In my opinion, it’s now past a reasonable level.   It’s gotten to the point where I think the overall quality of the games is suffering.

Game selection and seat selection are part of the soft skills that make a professional, along with tilt control, bankroll management, and all other kinds of work ethic.  I thoroughly respect and endorse playing within your means and your comfort zone.  I have no problem whatsoever with people who choose only to play in great games.   It’s starting to go much further than that, however.

As soon as a “spot” leaves a game, zero to one hands are played.  It literally instantly breaks.  It’s worse when the player hasn’t even left the table, but has simply busted his stack, or clicked sit out.  Everyone sits out with him, and when he reloads, everyone sits back in.  How would you feel if you were playing poker for fun, just lost a $10k stack, and the 5 people at your table instantly sit out?  Takes a little bit of the fun out of poker, I would think.  I know that I personally would go from being annoyed that I lost a big pot to being completely embarrassed that this whole table and waitlist full of people think that I’m so bad that they are all only there because of me, and wouldn’t even play a single hand of poker with each other had I not been there.

Some of this issue stems from people having an unreasonably sized fear of playing in a –EV game.  Ignore for a second that playing with tough players will make you a better player yourself, or that poker is a sport-like game that you were attracted to because of your love for competition.   How many BBs will you lose in EV playing 30 hands with a few regulars?  Are you really that much worse than all of them that it will cost you greatly?

-2bb/100 is a pretty high loss-rate for any regular in a game of regulars.  So if you stayed another 30 hands, you’d lose two-thirds of a BB EV at most, if you’re the worst Reg at the table.  If you can’t afford that risk, you’re playing above your bankroll.

The next problem that seems to have caused this is a trend that made its way over from the limit games:  Button wars.  I believe that there are plenty of games that would normally continue running after a weak player leaves, but everyone INSTANTLY sits out due to their fear of getting buttoned.  I don’t honestly know how much EV I’m losing by trying to keep the games going, or how much people are making by rushing for the button.  I just know that it’s causing the games to run less often, and the casual players to be more forcefully humiliated.

The poker community as a whole usually decides what’s acceptable, ethically, and what’s not – and it’s ever changing.  Nowadays – sitting at a HU table and playing only your button = bad, Multi-accounting = bad, datamining = questionable, HUDs = cool, PTR = ???? etc.

Things like instantly sitting out when a game breaks, or 3 people sitting at a table but sitting out (waiting for someone specific usually)… they haven’t been fully condemned or approved yet, it seems.

Yes, I was annoyed enough to take a screenshot.

In addition to the sit-down-sit-out problem, we’ve had the Heads-Up lobby problem for a long time: 50 people waiting alone at HU tables, 95% of whom won’t play a hand with anyone but an absolute fish.

As much as the poker community can frown upon something, there’s only so much they can do to stop individuals from doing it.  I believe that it ultimately, for changes to occur, it will have to come from the poker sites themselves taking action.

I’ve heard plenty of ideas about how to deal with certain problems, and I’ve come up with some on my own.  I wanna take a minute and share my thoughts on how I think we can improve the games.

Before I dive into some, we should start with what this even means: “Improve the games”

Improving the games will look different for some players than for others.  For instance, it would benefit me if they created a rule that when you sit down to play at a table, you’re locked in for 30 minutes, regardless of who comes or goes, unless you get stacked.  I would get more action from the bumhunting regulars if a spot left games.  This, of course, isn’t good for everyone, and isn’t something we should all accept as good for the games.   Another example that would benefit me is making all tables anonymous… no screen names when everyone sits down.  Again, this is something that many would disagree with (and something I’ll revisit later).

In determining if a rule or feature is “good for the game,” I believe the goals are as follows:

1.       Make playing poker an easy and fun experience for both pros and recreational players

-Should be self-explanatory.  Let’s not scare anyone away

2.     Close loopholes that allow unethical players to gain an advantage over those who choose to be more honest.

-Don’t punish the good guys

3.       Promote the play of more hands

-In addition to more regular games being good for players, it’s obviously something that poker sites have major financial incentive to do.  We need their goals to be met as well as ours.

Okay, now that we have something to work with, let’s dive into the ideas/problems (These are not necessarily my ideas, just ideas I’ve heard and my opinions about them):


Databases/HUDs/Tracking Sites

I’ve heard differing views on these, whether they are good or bad for the game.

It’s my opinion that result tracking sites are bad for everyone.  For the recreational player, it could be embarrassing for their losses to be publicly displayed.  For pros, it’s led to an increased level of bumhunting… much less action, which is bad for the poker sites as well.

Personal DBs and HUDs are a bit different.  No one’s results are public, which takes care of a lot of my issues with tracking sites.  That said, databases and HUDs put the recreational player at a greater disadvantage than they already are.  Sure, they’re allowed to use a HUD as well, but that’s a dumb argument.  I am not saying DBs and HUDs are UNFAIR… only that they hurt the recreational players further.

What’s more important, by far, is that they are scary.  If a recreational player saw what your screen looked like while you played against them, how much less would they be excited to play?  And some may not understand what a HUD is… some will talk about how the internet pros use programs that play for them or cheat, and use that as a reason not to play online.  Obviously, that’s not what we’re doing, but we can’t prevent people from thinking that.

I personally don’t think the sites should ban HUDs.  (I do think they should shut down tracking sites however possible)

The main reason I’m against banning HUDs is that it’s unenforceable.  Players will still be able to “illegally” use HUDs and gain a large advantage over those who abide by the rules.  If they could actually stop them, I’d be all for it, but that’s just not a reality.

The best way to slightly level the playing field, and to derail tracking sites, is with screen names.

1. Screen Name Changes

Some sites already allow you to change your screen name every so often.  Some sites don’t, and they punish multiaccounting as best they can.  Some are very lax with opening new accounts on different skins.
The main problem with the sites that don’t allow screen name changes is that some people will multiaccount and not get caught.  This will give them an unfair advantage over those who choose not to multiaccount.  In a perfect world, multiaccounting (or name changes) is either completely allowed, or it’s strictly enforced.  Unfortunately, it’s very difficult for a site to catch everyone.  For this reason, I tend to lean towards allowing screen name changes as a solution to this problem.

Downsides of allowing SN changes:

1. More difficult for the public to uncover collusion or other cheating

2. Railbirds don’t get the enjoyment of following their favorite players


1. No one gains an unfair advantage

2. Tracking sites and DBs become less accurate/usable (much better for pros and recreational players)

With any decision, there will be pros and cons.  None of these issues I cover will be a slam dunk.  I’m sure many people will disagree with my views for the above reasons or for some that I haven’t considered.  With all of this, my goal is to start discussion.  I’m not assuming that I have all the answers.

My suggestion for the screen name issue is as follows:  Sites allow players to change their screen name every 2 months.  Players will still have a main account name (where you send transfers to, that they login with).  At stakes 50/100nl/plo and higher (and equivalent limit games), players account names will show at the table.  At stakes 25/50 and lower, only their screen name will.  (I firmly believe player notes should NOT be carried over when one changes SN, as it defeats the purpose and encourages real multi-accounting)

This system is mostly the normal screen name change system, but it has a loophole so that people can still rail the high stakes games.  Under this system, sites should be very vigilant in going after those who multi-account at high stakes.  We also should have faith in the site’s security, as we’ll be more dependant on them to stop collusion rings and other potential cheaters.

2. Anonymous HU tables (or 6m tables)

This idea has been thrown around a bunch, and used sometimes.  The benefits and risks are very similar to the above section (changing screen names).  I personally believe that SN changes accomplishes the same thing, but better.

Players won’t all of a sudden start playing more games because they’re anonymous.  If anything, all of the game selectors will be overly frightened that they’ll be playing an elite pro.

I’m not opposed to offering some Anonymous HU tables as an option, in case people want it, but I don’t think it solves much, and certainly not anything that SN changes wouldn’t already solve.

3.  HU Tables/Lobby

This is a tough one.  I’ve heard many players debate the two most common systems for HU tables:

1)  Infinite HU tables – Whoever wants to create and sit at a HU table is allowed to.  Lobby displays all of the tables.

2) King of the Hill – A specific number of (non-full) HU tables are allowed at any point.  This means that those willing to play anyone will end up “holding” the tables, as the only way to take it from them is to play against one of them until they leave.

I probably will tiptoe a bit on this one, as I am clearly biased.  A King of the Hill situation would be very profitable for me.  I’ll do my best to be objective, and hope that this can spark some good discussion.

I believe that something HAS to be done to the current system.  A lobby of 25 players sitting alone at HU tables is ridiculous, and bad for the game, in my opinion.  As much as no player deserves priority over another, it’s clear that someone who gives action is better for the game and better for a poker site than someone who doesn’t.  That said, someone who chooses to exclusively bumhunt is well within their rights, and should be allowed to do so.

The problem with Infinite tables is that it discourages action, both amongst regulars, and between regulars and recreational players.  I truly believe (though I have no data) that many recreational players have been turned off enough to stop playing by the way that games form around them, and ONLY around them.  All of the players sitting alone looks awful.

King of the Hill (from now on: KotH) encourages action between regulars and makes online poker less intimidating and embarrassing for recreational players.  It gives priority to stronger players, and those who give action.  (This could be considered a good or bad thing, but certainly is good from a sites perspective, as it encourages players to give action)

A major downside of KotH is that it could prevent some games from occurring.  If average reg A and average reg B would be willing to play each other, they no longer have a chance to, since neither will claim a HU table, and neither wants to play Tough pro A, B, or C in order to get that table.  This was a very good argument against KotH structure four years ago.  It doesn’t totally hold water today.  It’s very rare that these HU matches are taking place.  That said, it still would be bad to prevent them from happening, should things ever change and people start playing poker again.

My proposal is:  Maximum of 5 HU tables that aren’t running.  Infinite running tables, of course.  At a 6max or full table, you can right click on anyone, and choose ‘play HU’ in a drop down menu.  They are NOT notified of this.  If each of you click it for each other, a button pops up that says “Create HU Table with xxxxx?”.  Assuming you both click yes, you get a HU table created for you (and you can always add more HU tables).

The reason I think people shouldn’t be notified is that everyone will challenge the weak players, and it will get embarrassing and annoying for them.  They may feel pressured to play HU to ‘not back down’ even when they’re uncomfortable with it.  Sure, you can both decide in chat that you want to, but I think that system won’t be any worse than the current system… people still try to steal weaker players from a game in chat.

What I like about this solution, is that the lobby won’t be full of HU tables, but anyone has the opportunity to play HU.  You can have a HU table when you are ACTUALLY going to play someone HU.

It gives a small advantage to the players willing to play anyone, who will get to hold the static tables, however I don’t think that’s unfair.  Hopefully it will encourage some action to fight over those spots.  The down side of this, mainly, is that it’s a little bit complicated.  I just thought of this, so I haven’t worked out the kinks, and I hope people will discuss it and perhaps come up with some cleaner solutions.

I’ve also heard it suggested that anyone at a HU table should be forced to play 10 hands if someone sits with them.  While I understand the value in this, I like my proposed solution much more.

4.  Round Robin Tables/Games  (Similar to Rush Poker)

The idea here, basically, is that rather than joining a table of 5 other players, you join a group/lobby of, say, 30 players.  You’re randomly seated at a table of 6, and that table changes.  Rush Poker had it change every hand.  Maybe it could change every 10 hands, or 30 hands.

The point is, many more games will run off of fewer ‘spots’.

I like some of the merits of this idea, but I’m not 100% sold.  I do feel strongly that it shouldn’t replace the normal poker table system, as table dynamics and history are a very important and interesting part of the game.  One major downside here is that we split the player pool at each limit.  Half may choose to play at Round Robin tables, and half at traditional tables.  This could potentially lead to fewer games running.

5.  Must Move Tables

This is the idea that I feel most strongly about.  It’s worked in cardrooms around the world for years.  Why do we not have it online??

Must move tables are pretty self explanatory.  If over 4 people are on a list for a game, a must move game is started with them.  I believe that no one should be forced to play HU in a most move game.  I think 4 players is a good minimum, though perhaps 3 could work.

Clearly, this would lead to at least twice as many games running at higher stakes.  (especially with must moves into the must moves)

Do I really need to expand upon this?  Guys, Pokerstars?  Can we please do this?!?!

6.  Rewards/Promotions for Game Starters and Hands Played

This is really a couple of random ideas.  The first is simply that sites could hold promotions every week, day, whenever.  “During the hours of 6pm and 10pm EST today, whoever wins the most BBs and whoever plays the most hands wins $5000 each”  (and other prizes, you can be creative)  Obviously, this needs to only count at 6max or full ring tables, to avoid friends chip dumping.  This doesn’t solve any huge problems, but seems like an easy promo to get people to play more (and more tables) which is something the sites want.  I assume the extra rake generated will pay for the prizes easily.  This seems to me like a more exciting and more tangible replacement for ‘Happy Hour’.

The 2nd has to do with VPPs, rakeback, whatever else sites can offer players.  I believe that players who start games are more valuable to a poker site.  If you played 300k hands this year, but only when a massive fish is at a table, sure you raked $ for the site, but you didn’t really make them anything.  Had you not been there, someone else would’ve sat in your seat and played.  The poker site would have made the same amount of rake.  They shouldn’t value you, to put it bluntly.  I don’t think they should punish you, of course.  I just think that they should go out of their way to reward the players who are bringing value to the site.

If I’m a recreational player, and every time I sit at 25/50, I can start 3 games from nothing, I think I deserve more in rewards than the players who flock to me.  If I’m a reg who’s willing to take on anyone, who is the first to sit and the last to sit out, I believe I deserve more rewards as well.

The rewards will never be big enough to change the way games are started/played at high stakes, but they could make a difference in the smaller games, and to be honest, I think it’s just more fair.  Those who create games should be rewarded.  (by the way, I don’t personally create many games, so I’m not talking about myself)

7.  Addressing the Button War Problem, Games INSTA-breaking

Guys, this one has me stumped.  I could use some help.  The way that everyone rushes for the ‘sitout next BB’ button as soon as someone leaves the table (or even sits out) is so horrible for the games.  It’s embarrassing, honestly.

I can’t for the life of me come up with a solution, though.  Sure, you can force two hands to be played when it breaks to HU, but then everyone is just buttoning the last two players rather than the last one.  I’m not sure if this can be fixed with rule changes, but I don’t have much faith in the community to change it on it’s own.  As much as I believe it really doesn’t hurt anyone to play an extra 20 minutes at a tough table, I know that most people don’t see it that way.  As long as everyone has a fear of being buttoned, they’ll continue to button each other.


Okay, that’s all for now.  Again, please chime in, whether here, or on any forum you think a discussion could grow on.  Not sure if tackling one idea/issue at a time, or trying to touch on all of them (+ any more ideas you guys have) will be best.

Thanks!  Take care, guys.


173 Replies to “Let’s Make Some Changes”

  1. With regard to the button wars, I think that you could switch to a priority queue system based on “table collapse” score.

    The way I would do this is that when a mass-sitout occurs, I’d record a “mass sitout event” when more than 2 people sat out in one orbit of a table. I’d record the event against each player involved and maintain a count for the past week. If this number increased past a certain threshold, they would have lower priority on waiting lists that players who didn’t exceed the threshold. The effect would be that they couldn’t get onto tables with the fish if they’ve button-warred maybe 10 times in the past week.

    Anyway, huge fan here, glad to see you blogging.

  2. please discuss some stuff about high rake in lower stakes as i think the more edge players have the faster they move up in stakes which will benefit mid to high stakes as well!

  3. Hi Phil.
    Okay.That was a lot of idea’s.First of all I think HUD’s are okay because anyone can use them and they are cheap enough,I recently got holdem manager 2 for 90$ and its a great investment.Although it may be unfair that not everyone knows about the HUD,maybe we could make the site’s show if a player is using as HUD on there avatar for everyone too see.That way even if you don’t use a HUD but you know the other person is and you know your tendencies so you know he knows so you can take advantage without having one(level war lol).Next was multi accounting.I thought you weren’t aloud do that in the first place? If you are I think it should be limited to a time period as you suggested but personally I take notes on every single player I play with and it seems unfair to me(and all note takers) that we have all this information just disappear on us when everyone changes there name.Of course the flip side is that I can also change my name and I can easily write new notes so that one’s not too bad.Next was the HU.I think I know why its bad for the game that people only play the button,it just becomes a 1 for 1 blind war till 2 hands collide when its nitty reg vs nitty reg and obviously some 3 bets mixed in and if its reg vs fish the fish will get slaughtered playing OOP.However i’m assuming it can be taken advantage of if they do it every time so you or any good player will beat or at least have a chance against them(luck aside).Next was the data mining which I actually think is a bit wrong.I mean I know your paying for the hand history’s but you didn’t earn them by playing.It’s an iffy one alright.Personally I like PTR to keep track of the highstakes pro’s,myself,my poker freind’s or if I see a supernova on my table I want to check him out.The flip side is that bum hunters keep checking PTR at HU tables and wait till they see a fish.I remember I sat down at a HU table NLH 50 and I searched him to know what I was going up against(I would have played him if he was good,I have a little confidence as I am a winning player) but he was down and he instantly sat out.I waited about a minute and was about to leave when he said”When will you stupid reg’s learn,fuck off!” or something like that,the curse was blanked out.I was a bit shocked.I’m assuming they(bum hunters) followed him around like vultures to a wounded animal.It must be terrible to not be able to play without them constantly sitting down at your table(bad for the game indeed).I think if they agve an option like sharkscope did where you can have your name removed from the database that would be fair(or do they already have that?).Next was the screen shot,I don’t get it.Did a spot leave and he instantly sat out? Okay next was the lock in for the table’s.Personally I don’t like it but I could get used to it.The reason I don’t like it because it feels like a tournament(constricted).What if I wanted to go get a something to eat from the kitchen downstairs,I can’t sit out? I will get blinded over the amount of tables I play,if I played 1 table I wouldn’t mind but I do eight and I don’t want to lose that many bb’s and i’m sure Randy Lew doesn’t want to lose 24 🙂 and obviously other multi tablers such as yourself.Another thing is tilt.If a bad/good player is lets say doing 1 table,(best case scenario) obviously they could be doing more,and they lose a big hand and steam up.They might want to leave but if they have to play 23 more minutes what can they do? Option A:leave and get blinded over a minimum of 1 table for minimum(going by your 30 mins) 29 mins or option B:Stay and play tilted for a min of 29 mins and potentially lose a lot of money.Okay so obviously that is there choice but by putting in a lock down you eliminate the 3rd option C:Sit out,take a walk,drink some water and come back refreshed.Another thing is if an emergency happens and you have to leave foe lets say the hospital and your a medium to high stakes player the same will happen to you as in my first example.Okay that’s a very rare occurrence but you see what I mean,I see what you mean too about if a fish’s time is up the reg’s are forced to play each other for a bit which I wouldn’t mind at all as I am low stakes(50NLH) and as you said if you can’t afford to lose the slight EV of playing against reg’s for thirty hands you shouldn’t be playing as high as you are(completely agree with you there).Okay,next was the promo for playing a lot,love that idea,more action,more hands=better all round.The idea for slightly more rake back for game starters is good but I feel like it could be abused by very tight ABC players who will sit at a ton of empty tables and play very few hands when it starts then leave after 10 mins or so and repeat the process but again the site would figure they are doing it so its probably a good idea.Last was the anonymous name’s,I don’t like it but only for the note taking reason,maybe for a specific site it would be fun to do but I wouldn’t like it on all them but that’s just me.Anyway that’s all my opinions on the matters(hope I covered them all).Hope that’s somewhat understandable/coherent to read.Great read,gg once more.

    1. I think i good idea for you would be to compile a list of every poker tracking site start tweeting and a blog and get everyone to start opting out of them. i think its ridiculous as a rec player someone can go on internet and find all my results etc

  4. What do you think about that Phil : 2 hours maximum of sitout per day ? I think that it will force players not to sit out and to play more.

  5. You say spread the word, but how can your average player really help push this issue? These changes need to be implemented from the get go of US regulation.

  6. I admire you greatly Phil, but I think you’re just wrong in this one. You have to see things from other point of view, not just yours and the one benefiting recreational players.

    As long as I remember, poker has been a game where people try to win money, the maximum possible. Game clients hardly care about regulars(lately), governments sure don’t, both don’t care if you get here your income, they care about the people who inject capital. For them, we are “stealing” money which one way or another woul’ve had stayed in their company.

    So basically in this picture you want us, the regulars and semi-regulars, where de 90% of us doesnt know if we’ll be able to play in three months, to change the game so fishes could feel more confortable and megaregs like you scratch our back even more? No thanks.

    It’s hard as it is, to an average midstakes player to make profit from the games these days, not everybody have your capacity Phil. I don’t see how flipping(in best case) vs 5regs would benefit me or them, just abstract thoughts like “the games” and “online poker”. And if I don’t think about my benefit nobody will Phil. They don’t care. You don’t care.

    All the changes you recommend benefit the poker sites, megaregs like you, and fishes. Well, nor you or the sites need any help right about now, and you really prefer like a person to help simple gamblers more than the people who make their living from this? Sure, they could try to improve their game and became the next OMGClay,jungleman12, or whatever. But most of them will fail, you said that in your videoblog, so what you want us to do? To sacrifice great part of our EV for an abstract benefits and your well being?

    You’re the reason i’ve started playing seriously this game Phil, I really mean that, but you’re being very selfish and i hope you see it.

    Best regards, Martin

    1. This response really annoyed me. I know what you are trying to say, but what Phil is saying here is not selfish. Not one bit. You think it wouldnt help you to keep the fishes in the game? I would not be surpsied if there is a bunch of recreational bad players who play a few times, lose their deposit, and decide not to come back because he realizes _EVERYONE_ thinks he is a fish and the spot in the table. It benefits you as well, as it does every single regular playing this game for a living. Phil’s example of being -2bb/100 against regulars should illustrate very well how much it would cost you to not sit out instantly. Not much at all. (I’m assuming you are one of the sit-out clowns by your response).

      “All the changes you recommend benefit the poker sites, megaregs like you, and fishes.” <- That comment is simpy stupid and wrong. Of course it benefits all the regulars as well, not only megaregs like Phil here. If you are playing this game for money, you should understand that sometimes doing something -EV can turn into being +EV in the future (like making fishes feel good by NOT sitting out instantly). If even one nl5k fish stops depositing his monthly 10k because of your actions, it's hugely -EV for all the regs who are fishing for his money. And like I said, I believe there are these people who realize they are just being taken advantage of by regulars who only play him and not each others.

      Phil is not selfish here. He is trying to help the games stay good in the future. You simply are thinking this result oriented with no big picture in mind. you, Martin, are the reason the games are getting worse and fishes might disappear. So dont come crying if one day you realize most fishes have ran away, and thus you turn into a fish in eyes of megaregs. I hope you see it.

      1. The “fish” are the bread and butter of every pro, semi-pro, and good recreational player (at all limits).

        These ideas/concerns Phil has brought up, at a base level can be considered selfish, but not in the manner spoken above by the op. Phil’s concerns and ideas are towards every player involved and not just himself or the “megaregs”

        “Don’t tap the glass” is a well known phrase in poker. You don’t want someone verbally belittling a weaker player, nor do you want to treat them in any manner where they feel singled out and picked on because a)they don’t deserve it, and b)you don’t want them to feel bad and possibly leave, or worse, to never come back. They deserve to enjoy themselves at the tables and you want them there because that’s where your earnings are going to come from most of the time. By doing the things Phil has mentioned you are basically tapping the glass and chasing away the people your very own profits should be coming from, not to mention that chasing the casual player away by making them feel bullied, intimidated, and treated like dirt, will not only make them leave, but could possibly keep new players from coming in. The poorly treated player will talk, his story will get out to his friends and they may decide not to play, plus, the actions of the people who caused this makes all of the Poker community look bad. We have to fight against a negative preconceived image already and we don’t need to make it worse.

      2. You didn’t get the spirit of my post. It could’ve been a little harsh since I didn’t have time for reflexion after reading Phil, for what I appologize, my point is a little different and I need to clerify.

        I understood all the phsicological effects of those changes, and I had and have no trouble seeing the big picture here. Its just not what concerns me right now. My point is that its difficult to focus on the big picture when I can’t know if I’ll be able to play in a few months. So pardon me if I don’t care if games are slightly better next year, but im not a “Megaupload for life Premium account”(its cheaper on the long run!) kind of guy.

        And no, Im not a hit&run “clown”, I play cash deep and I need to deal with every reg in my level, but I don’t see the point of staying 30 min or whatever “locked” flipping with them when the fishes are gone. Sure my game would get better but the insane variance in poker today and the volatility of poker market as of today could make me loose tons of EV with no possibility of getting it back eventually.

        And well, the King of the Hill or the anonymous tables just seem bizarre ideas to me. With no information at all its just a silly no upper thinking game of getting hands and clicking buttons, if we talk about enjoying the game.

        1. I agree…I am not a megareg either, and I agree too that I don’t know if I will be here in a few months as well. Don’t punish me for playing against a fish and he leaves! I get punished because of the silly and insane variance of the game is changing the game into more of a game of luck/chance no matter what anyone else says…and some of the things that Phil says might help..but not benefit all. I agree much with what Denzil is saying,

  7. Never heard the “click HU” idea. I kinda like it, but I think it would make people try to pull fish out of rings games by asking for HU in chat. I know it’s looked down upon, but it still happens (and probably more with this).

    As far as anonymous sns is concerned, I think the potential for collusion would make many recreational players and even some pro players uncomfortable. Being able to police the games is invaluable since the big sites aren’t able to do it. There’s also things like someone taking another person’s old sn that can get tricky.

    HUDs also have the policing issue, like you mentioned. The sites should at least inform people about them when signing up (if not help in providing them). I think recreational players who don’t know about them and then find out later might feel a little cheated otherwise. I also like Sean Lynch’s idea of having a notification showing players who are using a HUD.

    Must move tables I’m totally with you on.

  8. Good day PG,

    I will comment on on the sit out situation.

    I think it can be very easily resolved with a little program tweaking and it will allow the player the ultimate decision as to whether they will play or not.

    My idea would also benefit the site as it will force action.

    Here we go! And by the way, I am not against bumhunting, but I am more in favor of simply having a system that allows all to play when they are ready. Online action NEEDS to be treated in the same manner as live cash games in casino poker rooms. There is no extended sitting out there.

    Went on a tangent there. Here we go.. take 2!

    Any player that elects to sit down an hit the sit out button will be given a 15 minute period where they do not have to play. Once they have been sitting out for 10 minutes, they will have a 5 minute warning to sit in. If at the end of 5 minutes they have not sat in, they will then be loaded into a waiting list. They can only re-enter play after there are NO Non Waiting list players available and only when there name is available from the In Order Waiting List.

    What has this concept done.

    It does not take away the right from the bumhunter, but it does put a time limit on

    It opens up the seats for those that wish to play without delay or penalty.

    It ensures that tables are constantly available. I do not believe the bumhunters will risk the whole 15 minutes only to end up on a waiting list were they will have no idea as to how long it will be before they sit back in.

    It creates the action for the players that wish to play, but it ultimately gets the action deserved by the site. Recreational and Pro players deserve the right to play and earn their FPP’s and VPP’s.

    As I said earlier, at no time could a player sit at a table at a live venue and have an opportunity to just Sit Out and bumhunt. It will never happen. Online should be no different.
    Online simply needs a system that protects all players.

    http://www.PokerGob.com Blogger

  9. Phil,

    Thanks for your ideas. They have been well thought out, and presented in a logical manner. I am just waiting now for the war to start on 2+2, so I will post here while I am waiting for the insanity to begin there.

    I am a fish. I know it, PTR confirms it, and the insta list that forms when I sit down at a FR or 6 max table proves it. I have no problems with a HUD, as I agree with you that is would be impossible for a site to police. What I would like to see is a seating arragement closer to what happens in my local casino. While many poker authors and players talk about table selection being important to building a bankroll, the reality live is that when you want to play, you put your name on a list and you get the first seat that opens up. If the list is long enough, a new table is started. If you are unhappy with your seat, leave the table and go back on the list. I don’t think it would be difficult for a site to program a seat selection dialogue whereby the regs could specify the number of tables they want to play, and the site just gives them the next X number of seats that are open. It could probably be designed so that everyone has to come in on the BB, to ensure that everyone has to put $ into the pot at least once before they abandon the table to put their names back on the list.

    As I am sure this suggestion will have negative effects on regs and their ability to bumhunt and get position on the fish, it is probably a good idea.

    1. I really like this one: if you want to play 10 tables, you have to sit at the first 10 available and it will cost you at least 1 big blind to move. AWESOME idea, fair to everyone, and could be combined with the MUST MOVE concept too. ALSO good for the poker site because anything that keeps the “fish” alive longer keeps the games going. Regs will have to play more tables to increase the odds that they will have access to bad players.

    2. I like this idea, Bruce, but I think there is a loophole that players would exploit: couldn’t I just sign up for the maximum amount of tables (no matter how many tables I planned on playing at once) and leave the ones that look unpromising? So, even if I only wanted to play, say, 4 tables, I would sign up for 24 (or whatever the max is), take my seat at all 24, and leave the worst 20. Even if I had to pay a big blind as a penalty for leaving, the EV I gain from table-selecting like this far outweighs the cost.

  10. As much as Bodog has gotten wrong in the past, their shortlived No Waitlist policy before switching to all anon tables worked well to help deter bumhunters and not make the spot feel as bad when he sees 23 people on his table’s waitlist.

    I agree with the screen name change policy you’ve suggested and especially the Must Move idea.

  11. For heads up tables I always thought they could do a request type thing instead of having players sit at tables waiting.

    Players indicate they want to play heads up and are matched up with another player. When players sign up they can sign up to take all comers and then get randomly matched up with another person looking for a request.

    They can also choose to approve requests before they are seated with a player so they can table select a little bit.

    They can also have an “ignore all requests from” list if there are players they want to avoid.

    Additionally players can individually request to play a match with a particular player.

    Basically how friend requests work on websites.

    That means the HU tables aren’t blocked. Tables are only created when two players agree to play together.

    Also cuts down on bumhunting or at least evenly distributes the “bums”.

  12. Re: Tracking Sites, Anonymous Tables and Changing Screen Names.

    My personal view on tracking sites and fixed screen names is that the pros outweigh the cons.

    I think that the biggest threat to online poker at the minute is the high standard bots that have been shown to crush the games up to mid stakes. Collusion is also a threat.

    Most of the poker sites seem to turn a blind eye to very obvious botting and collusion until players discover it, prove it and publicise it.

    It has been shown repeatedly that we simply cant trust the poker sites to act independently on the issues of botting and collusion.

    The main resources that players use when detecting and proving the use of bots/collusion are the tracking sites. Without Sharkscope and PTR there are many instances of botting and collusion that would have been missed.

    Anonymous tables must be a goldmine for bot runners and colluders for obvious reasons. I never play at anonymous tables or sites that allow screen name changes – I’m too afraid of being cheated!

    You have outlined the downsides of tracking sites well. I would agree that they discourage action and have had a bad effect on heads-up games. This is a real shame, BUT…

    …until we can trust that poker sites will act independently to prevent cheating we NEED tracking sites and fixed screen names so that the community can attempt to police the games!

  13. Have sites give all players huds. Fish won’t take the time to learn how to use it and they can’t bitch about them being unfair

  14. I don’t like the anonymous idea even though it would work.
    What is nice about poker is that there is an elite level of reputation for the greats that profit.

    IMO just give the people that are down negatively the option of changing names, like if a winning player tries to change their name, a pop up will say, “Sry you are a winning player and we can’t change your name” but that is just my person belief.

    Anyway great blog!

  15. I agree with a lot of your points. But your idea for changing the HU lobby is not fair or reasonable at all. Here is a different idea to fix the ugly/insulting HU tables:

    In the lobby 5 *random* 1 player seated tables show up per stake. The people who show up are different to everyone. An unlimited number of these tables can still spawn and players can still only sit at one table. Have the lobby show these 5 player waiting tables, one empty table and all of the tables with 2/2 players. Now you don’t have a system where great players arbitrarily get *all* of the fish. That is ridiculously unfair and your right – it clearly shows your bias.

    Also I think you completely ignore the really big issue. The reason the game is so hard right now is that countries keep shutting down a fish’s ability to deposit money and/or play. This is the whole reason we’re in this situation in the first place. The waters have been shrinking with more sharks and less fish for years now. We are way past equilibrium. What I mean by this is that if we only started with the current number of fish there is absolutely no way there would be so many pros. The only way so many guys moved up in the first place is that there was more free money around. I strongly believe we have fewer poker pros every month than the last – plenty of guys are giving up the game and few guys are able to actually learn at the lower level (because rake is more than they can win off fish). No elaborate system is going to help the overall poker ecosystem much at all until you fix this problem. You shouldn’t petition the sites to implement systems that help the top .1% of players – if you actually had the game’s best interest at heart you would petition them to campaign to get poker legalized world wide.

  16. Phil, as usual, you elucidate some incredibly complex issues with great thought and style. You are amazing!! You’re also looking amazing btw – don’t know if you’ve been losing weight but hope to see more magazine pics of you in the near future. Wouldn’t be surprised to see you in People’s 50 Most Beautiful sometime in the near future. It also is very generous of you to share your thoughts. As online poker disappears in the US, feels like a lot of poker pro celebs have disappeared too. It’s great that you are around.

  17. Regarding bumhunting – If I’m a recreational(which I really am), it would be good if I had some idea about what kind of player that I’m up against. It would be obvious if I’m up against as well known opponent, eg. kidpoker or BarryG1, etc that as a rec, I know that I am sitting against a player who is much better, on average, than me, but what about RandomUser1234? If you reverse the scenario, it’s obv not the same, since the reg would be better able to size up and make adjustments to any random player, plus iirc the HS online world is small enough that all the regs know each other, so it’s kind of win/win for the reg.

    I suggest that sites find a way to rank players, so I know if I’m up against a shark, an intermediate, or a noob. That way, I can choose to play against a player of roughly equal or greater skill level.

    FWIW, I can see how regs might not like this, but if you look at it from the rec perspective, how it may keep them coming back.

    Hope this made sense 🙂

  18. Phil, great stuff as always. As an Aussie reg, yep I can understand your frustrations as I’m sure many others do as well. My main issue is simply the large volume of players who just don’t play “in the intended spirit of the game”, although that’s basically a pandoras box in itself. My idea is simple and perhaps not the best bit thought I could throw it out there. 2 players or 6 max (whatever) buy on to a table for whatevs amount, say 10 stacks, then each hand the game resets with everyone back on 100 bb. Players leave when they have busted their buy in or have won say 50% of buy in. Needs work, I know, just a very basic concept. If this is total rubbish feel free to remove 😀

  19. Very good article with lots of good ideas.

    The two ideas I disagree with the most are:

    (1) A promotion that rewards most hands played pretty much just encourages mmters. While I’m not necessarily someone who thinks the sites should do anything to discourage mass-mulit-tabling, I definitely don’t think they should run promotions that encourage it. For one thing, it’s not necessary. Most of these guys will do their thing for a bit of rakeback and anything you give them beyond that is just gravy.

    (2) If a site allows screen name changes, I think the notes absolutely have to be persistent. Not only does it go against the spirit of the game if your notes are lost whenever a player changes their screen name, but it also makes it a lot harder for players to identify and report bots and suspected collusion, etc. Sites should be able to use a combination of account verification and technical methods to prevent MAing.

    The idea I like the most is the must-move rule for waiting lists.

    I came up with this idea at one point:


    I still think it would be a fun system, but I guess the reality is that there are too many player types who wouldn’t like it and as long as other options are available, it just wouldn’t take off.

  20. Hi Phil,
    As are most players, I’m a big fan.

    For the wait for BB/sit out issue, how about this:
    The option only appears when you join the table. After that, there is a “break” button, for legitmately needing to be away from the table. While you have that clicked, your seat is reserved. When you rejoin, you post the blinds/antes you’ve missed, or a % thereof. If you’re gone too long, you are kicked off the table. Bottom line, it should cost you slightly less to sit out rather than to be playing.

    If the table has more than 2 players, and everyone is on “break”, then the table will literally break, or all the players are booted. Currently, it is a dead table with no action while everyone waits for the “mark”.

    Also, how about some way to take the blinds/antes up front for each round? This would create incentive to stay at the table for at least one round since you’ve already paid. If a player goes all in, they have the option to include any of the blinds/antes they paid for that round, seeing as how it could be their last hand. If you plan to reload, you can ignore that feature of course.

    Hope some of this is of interest.


  21. Hi Phil. I would like to address the HU problem. With the KoTH way you’d find yourself with a number of 4-5 regulars who are friends with each other who could very easily discourage any other reg from playing that limit, but the very very best who have a significant edge vs them. What could happen is in fact that they could all be playing vs a certain reg who just moved up from the below level, maybe giving up a little edge there, to gain full exposure to “spots” and more than gain from it.
    That happens a lot in sng HU games and talk from experience.

    My solution is to rank players and give rakeback depending on the rank. Also adding a sidebet to HU games that goes to sits out last would very much help in starting the games.

  22. I don’t know how this would work for 6max, but regarding the heads up tables: why don’t they just put a limit on how many people you sit out against/leave within a set time frame? Obviously there should be exceptions, like playing a certain amount of hands before you leave or being stacked, etc. Maybe they could even add some type of bank system, similar to how on some sites you earn time in your time bank. You could earn the right to leave opponents based on how many you played without bumhunting.

  23. Hi Phil,

    What do you think of the idea of elimination of HU tables entirely?

    I feel it’s obvious I what effect HU table have on the overall poker economy. Stars was very reluctant to add them years ago and then did in a limited fashion. (Are the HU stakes still 10/20nl and below? Been 8 months for me.)

    Your idea of must move tables, I feel, is fantastic on first read. I’ll have to explore it more.

    Good read overall, hope all is well,

    1. TBH, if sites didn’t offer HU I would probably quit poker and it has nothing to do with profits or bumhunting. It’s because it’s the only kind of poker I really enjoy playing.

      The one compromise I could maybe live with is 4m tables. To borrow a line from a DC videos series, “Five’s a Crowd.”

      1. Hi Tony,

        Sorry to hear you would quit. But it is really what the sites need to do. Does PStars still have limited stakes at HU? They didnt have HU for YEARS and then brought them in slow but never high stakes, for obvious reasons.


  24. Maybe I don’t fully understand the button problem, but it seems to me that it could be easily solved by requiring players to post their blinds before they are allowed to sit out if they get a button before posting their blinds. Sitting down at a table you already do this (have to post your blinds if you want to sit in on the button) so it seems consistent and easy to require you to do the same if the blinds skip you somehow on the way out. Heads-up should have this too; unless an uneven number of hands are played or someone gets stacked both players should have to post the same number of blinds and the player who got first BTN should have to give up a BB if he wants to sit out on his BTN.

  25. Hi Phil,
    I think everything you wrote is very good and these are serious issues that continue to get worse. As a heads up sit and go player, we face similar problems and these kind of problems extend to every form of online poker. We lost our game with the addition of hyperturbos its all 25<bb play now and it's all figured out.

    How do you guys think a sit out time bank would work with cash games? In a live game, depending on the room, you get an hour max for a break and then your chips are picked up. What if online players were given an hour total per 8 hours of sit out time? If you go over, you are removed from the table and you cannot sit that table again for 24 hours. Could apply it to heads up tables too. Could oust a bum hunter just by sitting in at his table for an hour. if it were up to me it would be like 20 minutes but I know cash players like to ea dinner and com back to their tables.

  26. Thinking how people would behave if any of the recommendations were to be implemented, I can never see 5) work. People would just spam the waitlist, and close the must move tables.

    1) and 2) can be witnessed at Party and Micro respectively. Both don’t help a bit.

    6) has been the only idea I ever really liked. First two people to a table receive 99% rakeback (or the equivalent in VPP’s at Stars) for the first 100 hands of 3handed+ play. Or something like that.

  27. Phil,

    I have a suggestion for the Buttoning problem. Do what many casinos do and if the table breaks, the remaining players can be moved to another table with free play till the blinds. if there is no other table at that stake you can perhaps give the account a “token” that can be cashed in for free play next time that particular stake runs.

    This solves the prisoner’s dilemma situation since, if you button me I’ll still get free play on my next table. So players who otherwise want to keep playing after a rec player leaves can continue playing without fear and hopefully the game sustains a bit longer.

  28. Mad props for taking the initiative on this issue Phil and I strongly agree with you and respect your genuine intention to promote and protect the integrity of the game. Having said that, there is another side to this issue.

    It all comes down to perspective. Poker is a game, after all. And one with multiple area’s of skill as the one’s you mentioned including game and seat selection. While particularly annoying to witness, especially for yourself probably more than anyone, it is all done with the goal of maximizing potential profit.

    Bumhunters et al. play the game for one reason-to make money. They would argue that what their doing has little direct impact, if any, on the outcome of the game at hand, so it would make little sense to punish them. You made a good point that the result of what their doing is turning off the recreational player and perhaps decreasing their potential to make money in the long run by not having the presence of mind to be subtle and at least play another orbit or two before sitting out.

    To anyone with familiarity to the financial markets, bumhunters are like the spot traders on wall street. The volume of trades artificially affects the asset’s price and you see a long term effect on the overall market. The same could be said about ‘bumhunters’.

    In the end, I think what you proposed about incentives to start games and promotions for playing creating action would be the best route. Also, with your reputation, if I were you Phil, I’d start my own site with whatever rules and restrictions you would deem fair. It might be impossible until regulation comes, but with how highly you are thought of, the players would come!

  29. As someone who plays at the nano stakes, I honestly can’t respond to a lot of your critiques, as they’re well above me. But here are a couple of thoughts after reading yours.
    1) Why not have tables, especially at HU, where the opponent is unable to be known until after you sit down. Once you sit down, you’re required to play X amount of hands/X amount of minutes/X amount of bankroll.
    2) As a nanostakes player, who sees literally thousands of different players, the ability to use a HUD is so crucial. Switching names is terrible in that type of situation. I like playing against good players, but have a (growing) small bankroll. It helps me to have an idea of how people play, especially as I learn the game. I also think people will switch names as often as possible at the nanostakes level. Maybe if you bust your total bankroll, you get that option?

  30. Hi Phill

    To solve the insta sit out problem:

    Any player who meets the criteria, of having played more that 30,000 hands and made money after rakeback, must play 30 hands before leaving, after a player who does not meet the criteria leaves.

    Players need only be made aware of the rule once they reach the criteria, so 99% of the people effected will be regs, there will be no need to confuse the fish.

    The numbers can obviously be tweaked.

    What do you think of this? I can’t see a flaw.

  31. I think it would be pretty cool developing on the idea with lobbies.

    – 6-max NLHE cashgame
    – 12 persons kan participate in the lobbygame. On 2 tables
    – When 12 tables has entered the lobby, ready to play, the players will be randomly assigned on the 2 tables.
    – You can leave the table whenever you want.
    – There’s a waitinglist so new players will automatically receive the seat that has just been left.
    – When the game starts, you will only play 15 minutes (maybe anoter timeinterval, but I think it compliments both regs and recreational players), then the 2 tables will break and the players will be reassigned to the 2 tables at random – new positions and new opponents (but only some of the opponents are likely to be new)
    – You should not be able to change table or position during the cyclus. Maybe it should be possible to have some kind of random tablebalancing during the cyclus, if for example 4 players leave one of the tables and 6 remain on the other table. However one could argue that if the remainging players can’t stand to play 2-3 handed for the remaining minutes of the cyclus, then they must simply leave the lobby.
    – When the cyclus has ended, and there is below 12 players remaining in the lobby, then the game will wait to start until 12 players are in the lobby again. Hopefully waiting-lists will keep this running smoothly and fast.
    – It should not be allowed to sit-oute/not post blinds. It’s only allowed to leave the lobbygame entirely.
    – Do you leave a lobbygame, you can not return to the lobbygame before for example 30 mins has passed.

    Additional ideas:
    – When a lobbygame is getting ready to start, it should not be possible to see who is registered for the lobbygame. That way there will be more lobbygame open, since the bumhunters have no choice but to try it out, and they will probably be more inclined to play for a few hands before they leave. So it won’t scare away people, and it will create more games.
    – It could be done with both accountnames, but it could also, in my opinion preferrably, done “anonymously” for each lobby. So if you enter a lobby, you will have to chose a screenname for that lobbygame, and that screenname will be yours throughout the lobbysession. For example, Galfond enters a game on his MrSweets account on PokerStars, and he choses to call himself “abc123” in that lobbygame. Then he’s anonymous, but people will still be able to pick up reads on him and each other (enter notes for example) aslong as he/they stays in that particular lobby.

    I think time per cyclus instead of hands per cyclus is better because then you won’t have to wait for the other table to finish, because both tables will never be equally fast. Additionally, and maybe more actiongiving, the timefactor has a cool “countdown-feel” to it. It feels exiciting to know that this particular will only be assembled like this for for example the remaining 8 minutes and 36 seconds. You have X amount of time to win back your loss from the donk that you have direct position on and so on…

    2 tables/12 players is better than 30 players in a lobby in my opinion, because it will make it more likely that you will meet a player that you have played with in your last cyclus in the next cyclus again. Thus giving bumhunters a reason to stay and outlast the timefactor on a tougher table, to be able to have the chance to be assigned to a table with the donk(s) in the next cyclus.

    Regarding what I mentioned about sitting out, then it can be discussed whetever it should be allowed to take some sort of break, without having to leave the particular lobbygame entirely. That could be solved by eiter:

    1. Allowing sit-out in for example 5 min per 1 hour (one’s sit-out time should be reloaded up to 5 min for each hour or every 4th cyclus – so that you can’t save up sit-out time).
    2. You’re still not allowed to sit-out at any time, but you can choose to press a button that says “Take a break”. Then you will be removed from the game, but not the lobby entirely – and you will be placed as nr. 1 on the waiting list in that particular lobby for up to for example 15 minutes. If a seat is open and you don’t chose to accept it within 1 min, the seat will go to the next player on the waiting list, but you will still be nr. 1 on the waiting list for the remainder of the 15 min.

    Regarding stacksizes it can be discussed wheter a change could give more action. It could for example be the following variations:

    1. Your stack will be “untouched” for the entire time you stay in the lobbygame.
    2. After 4 cyclusses you will have to/or be allowed to buy-in from scracth again (20-100xBB for example)
    3. You can buy-in from scracth each cyclus, or other options..

    These variations are proposed because maybe recreational players or regs would like to buy-in from scratch every once in a while. For recreational players an interessting choice to be able to have and for bumhunting regs, maybe a pleasant option if placed in a bad cyclus (from what information one can gather in a single lobbygame…). And if only placed as an option, then good regs can be able to build their stack deep for an entire lobbysession.

    I’m sure there’s some good additions and optimizations to be done with this idea, but this is what I had in mind at the moment, and I think it’s a useful idea to fire up some games 🙂

    It might seem a little bit complicated and rulebased in writing, but in reality I think it can actually be implemented quite simply 🙂

  32. I completely agree with most of what you say Phil. Also feel free to speak your mind, I would rather have your true feelings from the heart than more politically correct stuff, so I appreciate your real opinion thanks Phil.

  33. good gawd Phil you’re scaring the beejezus out of me. is all of this crap really going on? I wouldn’t know because unlike you I can’t afford to zip up to canada to play online but now I’m not sure I’d want to even if I could.

    one thing for sure though. I think I should be the one to decide how long I am going to play. PERIOD.

    1. after losing my huge bankroll on FTP and like you Groucho would love to do the Canada move but really can’t afford it.. hearing this sad! The reason I loved poker the most when I was in my earlier years of playing was to go up against someone who thought they were boss and taking huge stacks from them and winning massive pots.. playing the better players was not only satisfying for a learning level but even more so when I ws to take a lot of money from them. it seems that the new generation of players resemble the new generation of teenagers.. what ever comes by easiest with no challenge and the least amount of trouble for them getting cash, not the love for the game and improving but getting what they want without having to do it the hard way. I sadly don’t think kids these days have what it takes to go by what you want.. but I want it to happen, so these scared players who think they are good can get owned by some actual good players like you Phil 🙂

  34. HU cash has to be treated different then ring games. They are simply a different beast altogether. One way to change the landscape and possibly better the games is this. Every player has their one user name when signing up to a site. For example Tom Dwan signs up as durrrr. Players have the option to change their name every 24 hours. This applies only to HU cash. You can’t change your name for mtts or ring games. HU bum hunting is most widely noticed and looks bad in the lobby. The fish don’t like to see 30 players waiting for a mark.
    After a period of time, day/week/month, the poker room releases a list of all of the temporary names for each individual user. This way players can still track each other and police each other. Also regs can review their databases and look at their opponents to learn about them. In a CR video Brian Townsend was talking about how he was pretty sure he was playing a certain player, even though they were under a different name. He was able to identity their tendencies.
    This may sound complicated, but it really isn’t. I’ll use Tom Dwan again. Say He signs up as Durrrr on “New Poker Room”. Every 24 hours he has the option to change his name. After a month, “New Poker Room” lists all the different names he played HU under during the month. (All HU tables don’t have to be “anonymous,” there can still be regular tables where you know who you are playing.)
    Also instead of a poker lobby showing a ton of tables with one player sitting, maybe there can be a drop down menu or something with a list of everyone who wants to play HU. If someone wants to play you, a pop shows up and says x-player wants to sit, click yes or no. The list can even be shuffled, so players don’t get priority by being at the top.

  35. I prefer anonymous tables to changing screen names provided the former is properly policed by the sites then I do not think we would be any more vulnerable to cheating particularly collusion which given the nature of on-line poker is very difficult to detect. It would render live HUD stats pretty much redundant and as reg I would have to work harder I would not instantly know that seat 1 had a vpip of 60% nor that I had blundered into the table from hell, and yes I would have to pay something into the game to find out.

    I have seen this type of “bum hunter” behaviour in live games where it is even more embarrassing and trust me it absolutely kills the game the fish eventually wise up and stop playing. I started playing before the on-line boom and watched grinders go to huge lengths to keep games fish friendly which sometimes meant playing a tough table to “keep the shop open” in the hope that a fish would sit down. Those players knew that to get value sometimes you had to give something back and if that meant listening to the fish’s bad beat story or running a small bluff against a calling station just to encourage the behaviour so be it.

    I do not play HU but it certainly looks like the game is dead at the higher levels when you have 5 different players across 20 tables waiting for a customer. Frankly only a fool would sit down because it is pretty obvious what is happening. I also suspect that if a great HU player sat down then most bum hunters sit out so they offer no value themselves but expect others do so. Sorry that is not how the game works and that behaviour will kill it stone dead.

  36. Anonymising players will just take the skill out of the game. If you don’t know your opponent you will obviously just take default lines. The end result will be a lower version of poker.It won’t help recreational players as the pros will know the default plays better.

  37. Hei, Phil. I got an idea for you. Might be decent or poor, you decide.

    What if the SB and BB was equally split between the players at the table, but of course still placed at the SB and BB positions?

    Ex: There are 6 players playing 1/2nl. Instead of two players posting 1 and 2 dollars each, if everyone posted 50c a piece then placed 1 dollar at the SB position and 2 dollars at the BB position. Wouldn’t that sovle the problem? Now you actually want the BB, but it doesn’t change the amount you have to put it every round.

    Might be some huge holes here. Though of this 10 seconds ago. Like people entering can’t be able to post BB out of BB position because it would take money from the other players etc. It could be solved though.

  38. Why do you view the recreational player as if they cannot make their own decisions, or take their own risks. As you need to protect their feelings so they can come to the table more often and give away their money. Sounds elitist.

    High stakes games are just not sustainable without fish. You can create all sorts of regulation, new rules, features but in the end the games only exist if their is money to be made.

    In the lower stakes this is not an issue as their as many fish, and lots of money to be made.

    There is a few things that can be done to improve the overall game quality, as to remove any unfair advantages like using tracking sites.

    However beyond that, I would just leave the games alone, and if they cannot exist any more they will not.

    Maybe it suites your purposes as a high stakes pro, because no one will play you. Although I see the point as now the game isn’t so competitive, it’s like the NHL, but certain teams refuse to play certain teams. Thats to assume poker is competitive by nature and not just profit driven.

  39. hallo Phil
    i like all of your ideas, except one.
    if we were allowed to change screennames, we would definentaly have to be allowed to keep the notes on the players. i play 8-game and have put in thousands of notes on hundreds of players. these notes are priceless for me, because it takes a lot of time to get reads on players in 8-game, due to the fast change (6 hands only per variant) of the games.


  40. 6. Rewards/Promotions for Game Starters and Hands Played

    isn’t it easier to remove waiting lists? That would solve so many problems.

  41. Must move games is a nice solution. Alternatively waitlists could be limited to 3-4 players. What are the odds anyway that you will get to play the ‘spot’ if you are #5+ on the waitlist? Might be embarrassing for some players to see the waitlist instantly fill with 10+ players once they sit down.

    On games insta-breaking. Maybe a fpp type solution:

    – First player to sit out (usually the ‘spot’): nothing happens
    – Second player to sit out: When sitting out without at least playing one more orbit a fpp penalty should be issued where the player loses x% of fpp’s gained on the table and these should be distributed to the players that don’t sit out.
    – third player to sit out: If they sit out without playing at least one orbit after the second player leaves they also lose x% of fpp and don’t gain the fpp’s lost by the second player. These go to the players not sitting out.

    Don’t know how much effect this would have on high stakes, but on most stakes there would be a significant incencitive to not sit out instantly. If the table instant brakes at least the last player would gain all the fpp’s lost by the 4 others (6max)
    Recreational players should at least get the feeling they are just another player and not a fish where a bunch of sharks enter once they sit and stop ‘hunting’ as soon as they sit out.

    KotH system seems fair to me and maybe add lower stakes heads-up so weaker regs get a chance there and maybe allow more tables at the lowest stakes.

    One thing that also should be changed imo is the outrageous rake at micro and small stakes. Where high stakes players pay a fraction of a bb/100, micro PLO players pay 20bb/100 on average and smallstakes PLO ~15bb/100.
    With such high rake not a lot of new players keep playing or will go on a heater and ultimately PLO will die if nothing is done I think. With much lower rake at the bottom many more start out on a heater and keep playing even though they might not be winning players in the long run. Also the recreational player lasts longer giving him better value per dollar deposited. Because playing very loose will probably mean 40bb/100 rake. Or one full buy-in every 250 hands.

  42. It’s about time that pokersites change something at the system. I was playing until 1 1/2 years ago at stakes up to 10/20. Back then it was already getting ridiclious, especially at the HU tables. Nowadays I only play live games and only as a recreational player. I would play online (and probably would donate some money) if I didn’t knew I will lose even to worse players, that just use the full technique available to them. They have a HUD, they get new hand histories every day and they will just have so much more information then I have. And since we all know that poker is a game of incomplete information, it follows that they will have an edge which doesn’t come from their “skill”.
    I admit that it is difficult to forbid huds and I dont really like the idea of a SN change or a switch in the direction of rush poker. My problem with these changes is that it rewards nitty players to much – at least in NLHE. Furthermore, at least for the idea of rush poker, table image and history will get less important. If you take more skill components out of the game, the edges will get even smaller.

    The only positive change that I observed during the last two years to a “better poker system” is the change in the rake system from dealed to contributed rake. It takes care of some of the 24 tabling FR nits, that get almost 100% rake (at least on some IPoker skins).

    First of all. The only solution that I see, is to play live poker. There are possibilities to abuse live poker too, but there are much more ways to punish people who play nearly unethical.

    HU Tables:
    IMHO the most important problem. There should have been changes years ago. My favorite solution is a form of an anonymous HU-SNG format. If you want to play HU at limit x, you just join a waiting list (that noone can see). As soon as two people are in the waiting list, you get together at a HU table. From now on, you are not aloud to leave for x hands or until you lose 100BB. If you leave, you will get “blinded out” for y hands.
    It kinda follows the idea of must move tables and I would love to see that for 6handed play too. You dont join a specific table anymore, rather then a limit (10/20), a game (PLO/NLHE/…) and a version (HU/6max/…) of the game. If you get seated at a table, you can not leave without getting punished or play for a while. It would also encourage recreational players, because they would save time looking for a table.

    A lot of people here wrote that they play poker to make money. And I agree, most people do. But there are people which play for the competition and there are people to play for the money using every edge they can get. And I have no respect for the people in the latter case. These people should get punished in every possible way we can achieve, because in the long run, they are destroying the game. Its surprising how split the poker community is. I know poker players who are probably the most ethical people I know, but sadly I also know poker players who are much worse then your average citizen, when it comes to money. I like to tell people that poker players are “good” people and the world would be a better place if everyone would take on their mindset, but its getting harder for me to justify that.

  43. There is a real problem with must move tables.

    IRL you can’t really troll the WL, but online, this will happen all the time :

    3 player in WL on a really juicy table, Troll arrives and click twice on the table’s WL before insta quitting the newly created table. This way he will be on top of the juicy table WL and won’t have to play a single hand on new table.


    Obv, other players won’t accept that and the troll war will begin.

  44. I am long time recreational (winning) player. Here are my comments on your well thought out suggestions.

    Note, I have thought a lot about how to improve the games because I remember how much more fun games used to be during the party poker days and my real life occupation is to optimize all day (quant trader).

    HUDs: I’d like them banned as well as they provide unfair advantages, but I agree that since it is very hard to enforce that sites should allow it.

    SN changes: I believe the main reason for this is to
    a) Prevent tracking sites from being as effective
    b) Prevent multiaccounters from having an edge on those who are ethical.

    I believe that a better way to prevent tracking sites is to limit the # of tables any login can view to 4 and to NOT show the hand results. As a player, I do not like that anyone can view my game and see my hands. At higher stakes, I understand the railbird factor, so I believe they should show the winning hand (but never all hands, even in an all-in situation). This will blunt the ability of PTR to track effectively.

    To prevent edge from multiaccounters, I believe they should allow name changes but it should be very infrequent. Perhaps, 1-2x/year. I’m actually somewhat indifferent to this. I think sites should just get better at ferreting out and punishing multiaccounters.

    Anonymous: While I personally would love this idea, I believe it is not practical. There were a bunch of 2+2 posts about how this would scare everyone away. I am also against it because this also further fractionalizes the player pool (see more about this point below).

    HU tables: As a recreational player, I absolutely HATED that when I logged in that I couldn’t get a HU game at times because all the bumhunters would sit out (note, I almost never sat alone and would always try to join player tables). PTR killed my ability to get games. However, bumhunters destroyed my sense of poker being fun. I was willing to play almost anyone at my stakes because I just wanted to play.

    In some ways, KOH makes sense. It would foster competition among regs and would also foster an atmosphere for casual players to know that they will get a game 100% of the time without feeling like they are the prey (this is very important!). To prevent abuses by good “teams” monopolizing tables, sites need to cap the number of open tables that any one player can have to one HU table. This way they can not monopolize 1/2,2/4,5/10, etc. 5 non-running HU tables sounds perfect.

    Round robin: I agree that this is more like rush, which was a great idea, but will fractionalize the player pool, hence I am against it.

    Must move: Yes. Great idea. In fact, this should be the FOUNDATION for how games are created online. You have 2-3 main tables per stakes (maybe slightly more, depending on likely max # of tables played) and subsequent players would then be added to a waiting list (perhaps with no names visible, just the number of players on the waiting list). When it hits a certain number (say 9 for a 6-max game), then a new must move table is created. This creates a constant flow of new players.

    The key is for sites to police those that get on a waiting list then sit out when a must move is created. Players should not abuse this. In my opinion, players are customers and should be treated with respect; however players should not expect to get away with doing things that are disrespectful to other players just because they believe they have a “right” to – this mentality would not fly in a live card room and should not fly in an online one.

    Games-breaking: I believe must moves would address this (constant flow of people into any given game).

    My true game changing idea: REDUCE the number of options. I know players love options, but it reduces the player pool for any given game (I loved HA but I’m OK with it going away to make sure that PLO or HE games were more frequent). Increasing the player pool in a given level will prevent a lot of problems above.

    I believe that there will be so many players feeding into a limited number of games that there would be an INCREASE in the number of hands played overall (caused by a virtuous cycle of good, heavily desired games begetting more good games). Here are some example types to remove:
    – limit the types of tables: remove fast, remove deep w/o ante, remove shallow or cap (need only one of them).
    – remove levels: remove levels below .25/.50, remove .50/1, remove 3/6, remove 50/100, remove 100/200.

    Players would revolt because they love options, but players do NOT see the big picture. In the end, players will play where the fish are, and the fish love jumping into crowded tables full of action. I could go into more detail, but I think this is sufficient for now.

  45. Dear Phil

    I like your thoughts and I’m sure they would improve the game in general, even for the regs. I never gave anything about table selection even that would probably enlarge my profits. Poker is a competitive game and I want to play better players as well, otherwise I wont learn anything and not move on. So sitting on a table, waiting for a fish and live of the rake is just not what I understand with “playing poker”, it’s working in a factory and doing repetitive work, boring.

    The idea of not being able to choose the table is great. As in the Casino, you’re on a list and you’ll be seated. In addition to that a max. sitout time per day and user would help. An anonymous user opens to much opportunities for cheating, so I’m negative about that one.

    Hopefully all this thoughts and ideas will be useful and help to bring the game further.

  46. The best solution for the insta-break problem is for players to pay TIME instead of RAKE. I actually have a lot of opinions on this and might write a blog on it but in short: TIME games used to be common in live casinos (i.e. you pay $5 per half hour). So if time is collected on the hour and on the half (4:00, 4:30,5:00) and the Spot busts at 4:37, the regs will have motive to play until 5:00 (and probably longer when they get stuck, tilt, engage in ego wars, etc.) The other advantages of time are that it can be taken from your pocket (i.e. account) instead of your stack, which keeps more chips on the table. Furthermore, RAKE games punish LAG style play, because rake is taken from the pots you win. 3rd: TIME is more honest, pros and rec players both know how much your paying the poker site for its service. This is why its NOT done: pokersites, casinos make more $ by skimming pots at a rate no one really is aware of. However, a great opportunity exists in that the U.S. legislature can require games to be TIME when, and if, it legalizes and regulates it. (Imagine if your bank was allowed to charge you 3-5% of every transaction you made instead of a monthly fee for managing your checking account) Fun Fact: there is a $1-$3 $100max NL table at Hustler casino that RAKES $1 million a year (according to casino staff). That’s 10,000 buy ins!!!

  47. Re: KotH

    While I’m a HUreg and I def think something needs to change, the KotH system you proposed will result in a whole new angleshooting contest. If scumbagreg A logs on, sees 5 tables, he will sit one of them, snapsit the empty table it creates and will sit out. Alternatively, he’ll play 2 hands (or however long until a new table is created) and quit. If all of that is somehow made impossible and loopholefree, he’ll timebank every hand, slowroll, and do basically everything he can to make his opponent quit playing him so he can take the table. In short: awesome in theory, impossible to get this implemented loopholefree in practice. Believe me, I’ve encountered this type op behaviour and worse and you’d be amazed at just how scummy some people can be.

  48. Hee Phil,

    Nice new site. But I think your points will only help people like you, pokersites and some very good regs. Because there are not much winners at poker and people are trying to do whatever they can to be able to win: HUD’s, HEM, PTR (for HH). You are trying to be objective and your methods of approach are acceptable because you do address your bias in several points. I think that your main reason was starting a discussion and you have succeeded in this (2+2).

    Just keep doing what you do and your level of awesomeness just keeps on rising and stop sitting at the 100/200PLO tables with that weak game of yours :p

  49. I forgot to say in the above comment…

    I really like the must move tables idea – it is the most obvious change to implement and would be least controversial.

    It is a total pain when there are 6 players on every waitlist and then just empty tables.

    I don’t see why this cant be easily implemented and I imagine it would be popular with most players.

  50. Love the blog…. you raise some excellent points! totally agree about the HU tables. Its brutal to see waiting lists and people sitting waiting for others. If your good enough to play a limit… play IT!!! pro’s vs. joes …. picking on the weak… once and awhile ill sit with one of those players just to taunt them if i win because they are pathetic. I understand people are making a living… but come on and grow some chestnuts, They could even have a random draw for heads up tables… like entering a heads up tourney except u get placed at a cash limit and havta play for a set time atleast or be stacked as you mentioned. I love to play for cash because of the swings, but where im at with regards to huds and stuff its -EV for me and probbably alot of people who could do well heads up in person against some of those people. I love tournaments for that reason…. i’d like to see those players in tourneys when they get a tough table…. do they cry? … makes me sick

  51. another idea…. if you sit to play… you choose to play… if you don;t you should have to post your blinds…. thus forcing players to move tables and be lowered down the list and lowering their chance of having a fish join. I don’t see any problem even–>forcing a player off of the table if they sit out for longer then 5 minutes. This will light a fire under alot of the nits who prey on weak and they will have major trouble multi-tabling unless they want to play other “good players” i say good in ” because there is a difference between a good and a winning player… because of all of this…. you aren’t beating a limit… if your only playing people who aren’t players

  52. you are one of my favourite players but don’t you think that it’s kinda hypocrite to demand these changes after you’ve maked millions of $ with HUD, databases and tableselection and you are set for life? i understand that you dont get much action on HS but anonymous tables?! c’mon…the next demands are what? that we will play live cash games with ski masks on our faces? why treat live players different from the online ones, right?

  53. Ban tracking sites, is a given for most players Id say.

    HUDs are not great for the game, and I would rather see them kicked out, but I can live with them.

    I think what stops the bigger sites implementing change, is they fear their regs will leave en bloc for pastures new.

    Sites, in their own interests should ramp up detection of multi accounters/bots/colluders ect.
    Appreciate how difficult it is, but they could surely try harder!

    Not into HU or BH so Ill pass on those.

    Good to bring these points into the public domain Phil.

  54. Dear Phil,

    I’ll go through your points as they appear in your post:

    .)Regarding InstaSitouts: I don’t really see it as as much of a problem as you since I don’t really think that recreational players are bothered by this that much.
    Also, about your argument about playing against other regs not being that bad, hhen players that are breaking even against each other are forced to play the only entity that is benefiting is the poker site (and the occasional super shark). So even if one only loses the rake in the 30 hands you mention that players are supposed to play after the recreational player left/is sitting out, it’s still a loss, and however marginal it might be if you only look at one table, having to do it on every table will have a significant effect on the winrate. Additionally, not every player is here because s/he enjoys the competition, as one could infer from your post, I think there are a LOT of people who just want to make a living of poker and cannot be bothered by penis length contests.

    .) button wars
    I am agreeing with your concern for button wars though, but I think this can be easily remedied by letting the ‘sitout next BB’ option become what it says: you sitout on your bb. To prevent the normal sitout button from becoming the new button war button, an additional rule should be implemented saying that if you want to sitout somewhere else than on the bb you may do so but you have to place an bb+sb when you want to sit in again (regardless of the position you sit in, so you cannot wait for the BB to come around in this case).
    that way, what essentially happens is that a full round of hands is being played where only the BB but no SB is being posted (since the BB from the previous hand is sitting out), while one by one, the players will be sitting out. The last one to sit out is the lucky one not having to post a BB but since you never know when the recreational player is sitting out this luck should become pretty evenly divided among the players. Additionally, the player not having to post the BB could be made to be the first one posting the BB once the game starts again. It might not be a perfect solution but it is the fairest one I can think of.

    .) HU Tables
    I cannot say much on the third problem, the hu tables, but it again seems to me that, like the first problem, this essentially is a problem for supersharks like yourself and the pokersites. (This is also why I am not at all surprised that Pokerstars responded to your concerns so quickly) Again I am not really convinced that a quadrillion of open hu tables is keeping recreational players from joining them.

    .) Databases:

    Again, less action caused by bumhunting is not necessarily bad for every poker player. It is certainly for you, certainly for the sites, but finding out fast whether an opponent is worth playing, or whether it would just benefit the poker site is very valuable for most other regs.
    I don’t really think the ’embarassment’ argument is a very good one either. First, for the recreational player to be embarassed he would first have to know that these sites exist. Second, some players might not be bothered by this. Third, if they know that they exist and actually are embarassed, these sites offer the possibility of being hidden from searches.

    I however have sympathy for the unfairness argument with poker tracking software in general. I would therefore also agree that if they could be somehow banished from online poker, this would be a good thing (though it would be interesting to see the results – i guess much less multi tabling, therefore less rake for the sites and it being harder to move up the limits. additionally possibly much higher variance for all regs since theres a lot more uncertainty in every hand.) Since this does not seem to be likely, I would like to see the pokersites giving all new players easily accessible information to the possibilities being offered by third party software.
    I would also encourage the poker sites to offer anonymous tables, should the recreational player not want to be part of a game hugely influenced by tracking software. However, they should also make clear to every player in this case, that, though they are doing anything they can to avoid bots playing on their sites, it is much harder to discover bots on anonymous tables so it is more likely that one is playing bots on these sort of tables.

    I share the concern with other players about the bot issue, which is why I am against being able to change screen names. Additionally, I think it is an integral part of poker to develop reads on players, which is impaired by being able to change screen names.

    .) Ridiculously Huge Waiting lists:
    Another point which does not really bother me. Your solution (must move tables) also would not work, as already being posted in a previous comment, since the regs would simply click away the new table and join the waiting list again.
    The only good thing about this is that a lot of tables with 4 regs would be created, and as long as they do not insta leave this might encourage action. The reason is that I think when a recreational player wants to play 6max, he often does not want to join a table with only one player sitting on it, but is more than happy to join a table where four players are sitting, regardless of whether they are actually playing or just waiting for a bad player.

    Summing up, I am agreeing pretty much with one of the first comments to your post: you seem to look at these ‘problems’ entirely through the lens of a poker superstar, with occasional concern for the recreational player and the poker site.


  55. Phil, thanks again for your post. I’m glad a prominent and credible player such as yourself agrees that something should be done to improve the state of the games.

    I just wanted to make one point regarding anonymous tables. Many people have argued that anonymous tables prevent detection of colluders and cheaters, but this need not be the case.

    Simply have the “temporary” screen name linked to a permanent user ID; this information could be made available in the hand histories after a short waiting period (maybe something like one hour).

    As long as the temporary screen name and the temporary ID are not linked in real time, it will reduce the power of stuff like PokerTableRatings and make for more difficult bumhunting.

    However, since every temporary screen name is linked to a permanent user ID — and this information is available after a short waiting period — colluders and cheaters can be detected just as easily as before.

  56. “The best way to slightly level the playing field, and to derail tracking sites, is with screen names.”

    So what is wrong with leveling the playing field completely? Live rooms allow you to return to the same table as a new player after 45 minutes. That should be fine for screen name changes as well.

  57. You’re dead wrong on this one Phil. Online poker is not a zero sum game and thus cannot be compared to sports or competitive games. If a regular player sits down at .25/50 they will pay $50.00 in rake per 500 hands. That’s 10pt/bb in rake. You’re starting off with negative 10pt/bb and that’s what you have to beat just to break-even. You’re not just competing against other players you’re competing against the rake.

    You want to see the health of the games improve? Lead a grand and wide-sweeping movement demanding lower rake. Pokerstars and the other companies make obscene profit and reward players with shitty quality games of low health. Games where regs can’t even play against each other because they don’t have a hope in hell of being profitable unless they play a billion hands and get SNE rakeback. It’s garbage. The games suck because the poker sites don’t care about the health of the games. They care only about getting rich. Lower the rake cap to 25 cents at all limits below 5/10 and you will see the health of the games dramatically improve. I guarantee it. Why the hell should people pay mortage sized payments to play online poker? It’s bullshit – games like WoW are run by blizzard for far cheaper with far more players, server requirements, and cost. Zynga bloody poker runs for free with advertisements. Figure out a better online poker model involving advertising and less rake and the games will get a million times better. That’s the only way to fix the situation. Stop the greed of the one party causing the problem.

  58. Hi Phil:
    Thanks for posting your thoughts here. I feel lucky to have found this thread. I’m probably what you would call a fish. I didn’t know all of this stuff existed. When I signed up for Pokerstars, I clicked the checkbox telling them that I didn’t want to be searched for. I thought that provided me some form of anonymity. Obviously, I was very wrong. Here, it turns out that my adversaries have been able to look up all my hand history and profit/loss information. As a newbie online, I am totally shocked that all of this exists. I play mostly live poker and consistently make money there, so I have a good feel for how low many ‘reg’ poker players will stoop to gain an edge. I’m very dismayed to find out that I have been basically hustled and misled. Mainly, the poker sites should let fish know what is going on so they can protect themselves. Yes, now that you have mentioned it, I have noticed players sitting out all at once when I sit out and creating long waiting lists to follow me, which felt suspicious. I also get a lot of requests to play ‘heads up’. I figured it was mostly just the overaggressive style of play that is characteristic of online play, from what I have read.
    Naturally, sites like PS and FT are not going to want to place warnings on their signup page about players using HUDs and all that comes along with it–like the tracking, etc. There are sites that send emails to players when a fish shows up online on a site. The average fish has no idea that this technology exists and it blows me away, especially since I ‘thought’ I was hidden from tracking on Pokerstars.
    I always thought there was an unwritten code of ethics when playing poker, but it appears that these people are just a bunch of vultures, when they do all the things mentioned that obviously turn off the fish. Most of the sites say using Sharkscope, and other data mining sites are illegal and have a way of policing it. But I see this is total BS, and the sharks are using it every chance they get without fear of penalty. It’s a big blow for someone who plays by the rules.

    Most of the solutions that have been mentioned make it very complicated for the average newbie player, who just wants to sit down and play. Even the normal things like the time-out bank timer take a while to figure out, let alone all these complicated time banks or FPP penalties, etc. I agree with one poster who suggested that many of these should only kick in after a certain level or number of hours played is attained.
    I also think the poster who said the average mid stakes (who is not that sharp) grinder who is having a hard time making a profit even under the current system, made a silly argument.

    I agree that players who have become regulars and logged a substantial number of hours, should have additional restrictions placed on them to prevent them from playing the ‘sitting out’ and button manipulation games.

    I also think that players who have lost a certain amount of money for their stakes should be able to change screennames to effectively wipe out their past history (on data mining sites like Sharkscope,PTR, etc), if they want to–without having to know all about them and having to contact them individually to ask them to remove the information. Presently, I believe you have to join their site and pay a membership fee, to ask them to delete the information, which seems ridiculous.

    I like the idea of anonymous HU tables. They could have an option where you can right-click on the other player’s username and request their username if they want to give it..for example, if you want to play with them again. This would allow you to buddy list them, etc.

  59. I’m a very low stakes recreational player but find this discussion interesting and a fascinating dissection of human behaviour and attitudes. Despite my playing position believe I can and should contibute. My bro passed it on. For me, the answer is very simple, but it depends what you believe is ok/right.

    I’ve had the discussion in detail with my bro about what I think you have called ‘HUD’ software and maybe tracking software. I want to go back a step though and ask the very simple question.

    Is online poker meant to be a different game to live poker?

    Ok, so that may seem almost a stupid question to ask as there is an obvious difference that you play it on your computer which means there are natural differences as a result. However, my question is not framed on that, my question is meant to raise another point.

    Should online poker and your ability to play the game be any different to what you can achieve in a live game?

    i.e. in a live game/tourney/casino, the only tools you have at your disposal are your eyes, ears, mouth (unfortunately for some 😉 ), smell and taste hopefully not contributing too much! In an online setting, should you be granted any more than those tools in order to play the game of poker. It’s true you have less information online than in a live game, but hey, everyone’s in the same boat there (or should be!)

    If you feel you should have different tools and online poker is a ‘different sport’, then you will believe tools like HUDs and trackers are ‘part of the online game’ and that’s ok… SO LONG AS everyone is using the same and the poker sites make it a standard tool within their software!

    If not, like me, you will agree that I want my online experience to resemble as closely as possible, the real thing, it just so happens I’m playing online.

    When I sit at a card table in a live game, I have no HUD, I have no tracking info. I have no idea whether that guy sitting opposite me with his cap on and sunnies is some gun who made final table at WSOP last year or some guy who’s just trying to look like it. My skill and to me the skill of poker is to work that out as quickly as I can. I can’t do that by checking in with some in depth stats on the way he plays.

    For me any of those tools are cheating in that you can’t use them in live poker so why is it ‘ok’ in an online version. Don’t bother ever trying to rationalise that to me because you will never succeed, it is fact. Believe me, I’ve heard every explanation in the book.

    Now having covered that, let’s strip the software tools and player information away… right now, all you have is your logon to your site, possibly connections with a few people you’ve played with before that you already know (just as in live poker) and the rest, well you don’t know them from a bar of soap.

    For me Phil… the problem you are presenting has just been solved… and… online poker is much closer again to the real thing.

    As I said, the (true) solution I think, is the simplest of all. It’s just a pity that so many can rationalise ‘cheating’ by making crazy statements like ‘well everyone can do it’ and ‘I don’t use it for this or that’ etc.

    If anyone is using the software to do something they couldn’t do in a live game, it’s an unfair advantage – particularly if they are trying to ‘pick on’ weaker players. Part of the advantage of a weaker player in any sport at times is anonymity where you haven’t truly seen yet how that player responds in different situations… all of that is solved when a piece of software is guiding your decisions.

    Maybe one day, we’ll all just have a software ‘pet’ that we can set up to just play the game for us based on all the statistics and information we can obtain on players. It can also be set up to target the easiest of players and we can sit back and just watch our pets slug it out.

    Yep, that would be poker.

    What is the world coming to.

  60. Fascinating timing that I just posted after I see the post from George Gonzalez says:
    January 17, 2012 at 12:39 am

    Seems we have similar feelings George. A whole new world hey. Funny enough I even had a guy I knocked out of a low stakes tourney over the Christmas break abusing my play, when in fact I’d played the hand well… he was slow playing with small raises compared to the pot and I had some good outs so kept calling. I hit my hand. He then starts telling me how rubbish my stats were and I’m hopeless. It was just poor form and from left field and I’m thinking what stats? I almost responded I’d been working hard on exercise and dieting and thought my ‘stats’ were great.

    I guess to add to my post after reading yours, it’s probably likely that a blanket ‘no software tools’ solution will never happen unfortunately so if those who wish to play poker like it was meant to be played, or as close to, online it would take an initiative from the site itself to create ‘no history’ tables/games, which would remove any of this tracking, hunting, fishing, goodness me, are we talking about cards here?!

    Or maybe one day a poker site will come along that does just that… there is no history publicly available.

  61. King of the hill doesn’t work IMO. Assume a jungleman challenges all available tables and conquers them all. probably most of them without a fight. He sits at all of them and no reg nore any fish would play him knowing only the best hu player of the site is sitting there. all games will die

  62. Poker revolves around money.

    Take away some money from those who abuse the esprit de corps of poker via bumhunting, button warring, instantly sitting out, etc…The integrity of the game is being threatened by these unethical players.

    Much like you have indicated that rewards for those who would start games, not bumhunt etc.. in that same paradigm, penalties should be assessed for those who do.

    Loss of bonuses, rakeback, VPPs, and any other incentive for 30 days once a player has reached a predefined level of unethical acts. Repeated behavior after being suspended from these incentives could lead to overall suspension from the poker site for up to 1 year.

    Poker sites are not benefiting from their selfish shenanigans so I don’t see a problem with a poker site implementing these procedures.

    As someone has already mentioned, the poker site will record each player action and record a integrity score. When that score is lowered to a set level then the sanctions will start.

    On another subject, I think there should be HUD only, Non-HUD only, and mix tables offered by the poker site. The HUD can only be offered through the poker site. All other HUDs would constitute fraud with severe sanctions.

    Like all evolved regulatory events in history. It goes like this:

    morals –> ethics –> standards –> rules –> laws –> ENFORCEMENT –> PUNISHMENT FOR THOSE WHO DO NOT FOLLOW THE LAW OF THE POKER WORLD.

  63. I think the best thing for on-line is to try to imitate the real live games… So any thing to hide your opponent identity is bad…
    Also I think it’s bad to forth any one in any thing. Like make regs play vs regs if they don’t want to… So a lot of your words are just recommendation to people and not for the sites…
    I think the worst thing for the game are training sites. They create too many regs. They good for me (I love them and love poker videos…) but they bad for the game. It’s much more interesting to let people learn the game by themselves…
    But they are too good for the creaters of them so… I don’t see them gone any time…

  64. Online poker, much like online anything will never be exactly like the real thing. Regardless of whether or not huds should be used, “huds aren’t allowed in live games, so they shouldn’t be allowed in online games,” is a poor excuse to ban them. There is software that online poker rooms have banned. Poker tracker and other such programs is simply where they draw the line.

    There is no way to make online poker an even playing field for everyone,the way live poker is. If you consider hud’s cheating, then what about the use of calculators, hot keys or push/fold charts? What about players who invest in dual 30′ monitors? Poker online is like other online games, in that you can put as much money/effort into your setup and use many available tools. An example of this is when I downloaded table mods for AP. I had a very hard time following the action while multi-tabling. To me, the available table theme’s made everything sort of blend together. In my opinion, the mods were a huge advantage to me.

    Online play and live play are so vastly different. Online, one doesn’t get the advantage of live tells, body language and all that stuff. When playing online the player isn’t forced to play in an environment with lots of external stimulus, like in a casino. I don’t think one
    can play 24 super turbo sit and go’s at the same time either.

    The idea that huds will automatically make someone a winning player is just ridiculous. It takes lots of effort and time to learn how to properly use the data. I made a post earlier that sites should make huds available to everyone. (Or maybe sell them in the poker room’s store for points)

  65. I’m sorry to say that I think I saw this happen to me live, at 1/2 at the Mirage. I didn’t know who else was playing, but even I could tell I was the weakest player at the table, and seated to my immediate left was Hal Lubarsky (the blind poker pro). When I left the table, the entire table broke up behind me. It was sickening.

  66. A good start. Amazing how quickly online poker has become like financial markets trading, where the big mutual fund fish are pounced upon by high frequency algorithms. Except that poker doesn’t have that kind of ecosystem – big mutual funds still charge fees and make their money, even if they don’t like being taken advantage of.
    At a live game, you have to adapt to the conditions or try to get in another game. Maybe multitabling has to be limited (2 tables of cash or tourney), and pay hourly. There’s no one here to blame, the market (online players) just simply got efficient to the situation. Just need to change the incentives. Of course, that’s the rub!

  67. Quote ” Upsides:
    1. No one gains an unfair advantage ”

    I believe everything a poker player does, like buying a HUD, subscribing to coaching websites is trying to get an advantage over opponent. I believe any type of advantage is unfair for the other player. Like if I’m born rich, I can afford more poker coaches thus being unfair to someone who is less financially capable. My point is that the game lives on such dynamics and if we try to forcefully stop it, it might get worse.

    If a site ever takes away my edge in these games, I’ll leave the site and go to other sites.

  68. How about “ante only” tables. So 200NL 6max would have everyone ante 50c instead of having 1/2 blinds?

    If you sat out you would have to post extra $ for sitting back in if you were in better position – to stop people just playing their button 😉

  69. HU waiting list and people refusing games is one I really hate. I am a breakeven micro player, and v.small and losing smaple HU, but I still find it difficult to get people to play me, drives me crazy, and this is at50NL. Regulars wil lplay a couple of hands and then refuse just because you raise or fold the BTN, or 3b or something. I have wanted to learn and play heads up and think I would be good at it, but dont see a future in it if I have to deal with this every day.

  70. 1. Screen Name Changes

    I’m personally not a huge fan of these, because I feel like a big part of poker is getting to know your opponent and adjusting to him. People changing their screen name, effectively wipes all reads clean every now and then.
    I could live with this change if the changes weren’t too frequent(maybe once every few months at the most), but am not a fan, because it takes away so much from the game.

    2. Anonymous HU tables (or 6m tables)

    Not really a fan of this for the same reason as #1. It just takes away from the game, because it becomes impossible to develop longterm reads and thus makes the game less interesting.

    3. HU Tables/Lobby

    I’m all for KotH personally. I think there’s a better way to go about getting HU matches going than the rightclick someone at a 6maxtable thing.
    On Pokerstars already you can just create a Homegame and play there(although you might need to get your stakes increased, once you have it set up though it works brilliantly). Other pokersites don’t have to implement Homegames, they can just allow players to create private password protected tables.

    4. Round Robin Tables/Games (Similar to Rush Poker)

    Kinda dislike this for the same reason as #1 and #2, it takes longer to develop reads and history, which is a big part of poker. And yeah seperation of player pools aswell if it is offered besides the regular games. I prefer this over #1 and #2 though, because you still do develop some reads+history, just takes longer than it currently does.

    5. Must Move Tables

    This is just too awesome!!! Implement this for 6m/FR games IMMEDIATELY imo. 2(3 if they want to keep fast tables) lists per limit and let people sign up for this list. When there are 4+ players, start the table.
    You could also ONLY show the potentially anonymous signup list and not the active tables(like rush poker) and thus solve the tracking sites problem at the same time.
    You might still want to show the 50/100+ tables though for railbird purposes.

    6. Rewards/Promotions for Game Starters and Hands Played

    I’m not sure this’ll do any bad or good. I guess it might be good for me as I tend to start tables, but don’t think it’ll help the games that much overall and maybe only cost pokersites some money. In the current games you could maaaybe reward people enough to start 2-3 handed games, but then it’d still take a weak player to get the game to fill up beyond that point. Just implement mustmove and this isn’t even needed anymore.

    The other kind of rewards were basically just variations to happy hour. Which would be kinda fun I guess to see some variations, but happy hour does reward everyone equally while your ideas mostly benefit the massive multitablers.

    7. Addressing the Button War Problem, Games INSTA-breaking

    I somewhat liked someone’s idea to pay time instead of rake online, although the time probably has to be a lot more than it is live or else the pokersites will suffer a lot? You’d also have to solve the issue of people joining and leaving tables without paying time. So you’d probably have to make people pay time individually when they join. This would make people reluctant to jump into 2-3 handed games though having to pay time immediately playing in a game that is more likely to die. Having people pay time once every ~10 minutes might solve this, but this doesn’t seem like the greatest idea afterall.

    Not exactly sure on how to solve this, but I think the must move tables would certainly help create a system where this is going to be less common.

    So bottom line is: IMPLEMENT MUST MOVE TABLES!!!

  71. 2) Anonymous tables:
    Player names give you the feeling there would be a human opponent, someone real. Someone you see again. Someone next door you would also meet in a live game.
    But anonymous tables!? I understand the idea as a pro but if I was playing for fun and saw such tables I would just run away and think “what a stupid internet shit. Probably just machines or bots.”

    3) HU Tables:
    Is it really worse to have 5 or 30 players waiting for the fish?
    I honestly dont see a big difference. Maybe the first day 5 looks normal, but when you see the second day 5 different players waiting you have the same impression like if it were 30 players.

    And after all maybe the fish, or even a pro, wants a specific player of these 30.

    I dont see much wrong with this waiting. Yes, in a perfect world it would not exist, but tiny problem and nothing to care much about.

    4) Round Robin
    Just like rushpoker a nice idea but nothing that must ever replace the regular system.
    All the poker is running for one reason: To get the fish in. So the question is does such system attract the fish?
    In my eyes not at all. The fish wants it simple, just like in casino. Too many changes or strange results he cant understand at first, makes him not come.

    5) Must move tables
    This means the fish is forced to move of the table???
    Makes no sense at all for me.
    After the first move there would be a table full of pros who all would sitout…

    6) Rewards.
    Most hands played sounds boring to me cause some multi-regulars would always win it.
    Most BB won is too technical for a fish. Most money won maybe. But again some players would usually spread it around. And honestly, what do I care about 5k, when I need to win 100k or something for 1st place first.

    I 100% agree with the rakeback/vip points. Bumhunters dont deserve it. They would moan but still play on. So noone looses anything by cutting their rakeback.
    The fish absolutely deserves it but maybe doesnt care about it. But still, good idea.

    How about this: Rakeback is only payed to the loosers of a month, nothing to the big winners? Of course in steps, but this as a general idea.
    The looser needs it, the winner doesnt. (with you Phil being a looser when being in minus in a specific month!)

    7. Button problems.
    It is annoying, sure. But all a logical step. If you know one player always sits out at button, you would be stupid not to do it as well. And so it goes on.

    But is it really that bad for the games? All these fishes, I think the huge majority knows what is going on. These are rish man and usually intelligent. They know the games are build around them. it would be ethic to play a round more but if it isnt done they still come back.

    If you want a solution, I would say the first person sitting out has automatically to pay the big blind. Meaning the most sensible way of leaving would be in the big blind instead of button like nowadays.
    Easy one to bring in but I guess the poker sites dont see this as a big problem and I think they are right with it

  72. KotH only serves the interest of the Kings. You assume bumhunters insta sit out 100% of the time they aren’t clear favorites. This obviously isn’t the case – there are degrees of bumhuntering, and sometimes they’re just itching for action, or tilted enough, to play a wider range of opponents. Ergo, bumhunters are making money for the site, and removing them would lose the pokersite very real income.

    Moreover, fish prefer gambling at poker rather than chess for reasons you are aware of. If only Kings sit at the tables, the fish get annihilated so fast, they’re quickly turned off by the whole prospect (of playing poker online). Atleast vs the lesser-skilled bumhunters, they win more often, leaving a better chance of them wanting to try again.

    That the fish win enough to maintain an appetite for the game is crucial to the entire ecosystem.

    Therefor, I say again – KotH benefits one entity only: the Kings. Not the pokersites, not the bumhunters, and certainly not the fish.

    Imo, PS and FTP got it right – allow/show one table per hosting player per limit. This cuts done hugely on the amount of empty tables. Some of the other sites haven’t got this yet, and yes, it’s very ugly – for no real reason. It’s stupid.

  73. I wonder, it took for you 5+ years to figure it out. I have said the same thing to peole since PTR came and the bumhunting age started.

  74. Dont know why the blog is directed to the whole poker community when the it only talks about high stakes games which is about 1% of the player pool

  75. Phil,

    Regarding the King of the Hill/Anonymous idea on HU-tables: I play PLO50 HU. I give action to LAG regulars. I avoid slightly winning or solid nits. For one reason only: the rake is so damn high that I cannot beat the nits nearly enough to compensate for the rake I end up paying. If you look at the bb/100 rake in micro/low PLO tables, it is insanely difficult for one solid reg to have enough of an edge over the other to beat the rake. Which means that if they decide to play, this is a long-term -EV for both of them. Is this what you want us to do? I just checked, my lifetime rake paid on PLO50 tables is 17.5bb/100. Maybe if I play against people with significant holes in their game, I can perhaps afford to pay that.

    Now, if I am seated against a solid winning player, who pays another 17.5bb/100 rake (i.e. collectively it costs us 35bb/100 to play on that table), this changes the picture completely. Over 300 hands, we end up paying one buy-in of rake to the house. There is absolutely no point in even trying to be a winning player in these circumstances.

    If we cannot practice at lower stakes because the rake kills us, what do you expect people to do? Quit the game or move up and play over their bankroll/skill level because the rake won’t kill them there? Take your pick.

    I am a great fan of yours and I think you are easily the best PLO player/coach in the world. But here I really think you either haven’t considered all the aspects or you are simply talking your own book. You certainly wouldn’t want the sites to abolish rake cap and take this 35bb/100 rake to the nosebleed levels, do you? If they did, what would you do? Keep trying to beat it? Select opponents against whom you think you can afford to pay that? What if they made these tables anonymous and you don’t know whether you’re playing against durrrr or scout236? You have to keep in mind that the players who generate revenue and traffic are to a vast majority these who have grown from lower stakes games. If you practically shut down this opportunity, this won’t do a lot to help the popularity of the game.

    The number one issue for the whole poker industry is and will be in near future the high rake. Only people fro mid stakes on can really afford that without this affecting their winrate massively. As the edges are becoming ever smaller and solid regulars more frequent, the large rake will take care that less games are running. Just like Party Poker SNG-s where they ran a 20%+ rake in micro stakes. At one point your only practical choice is to quit the game or look for a weak enough opponent to justify the rake.

  76. Hey Phil, I like your proposals, especially KoTH but, one suggestion to add would be making the number of tables at each stake dependent on some dynamic factor such as number of players online or number of 6max games running. That way during peak hours with more people on then more available empty hu tables could be made. This allows more people to play and doesn’t make the lobby look as bad when there is say 2 6max games and 30 hu tables.

  77. Hi Phil,

    A proposal that might address some of the issues that you’ve mentioned: why not develop some “King of the Hill” approach to all SH and FR games ? By setting up, for instance, a single waiting list for all the tables of a specific limit (one would be able to claim for like 10 seats in this waiting list).

    This would prevent bumhunting (and also table selection as a side effect) and harmonize the overall level of players to a specific limit. Beating a limit would therefore mean beating the average playing field of the limit, not being a good bumhunter.

    We might imagine that a regular refusing to sit on a table for a single hand would loose its other waiting seats.

    Clearly, the idea is to be further refined, but I find it interesting enough to be explored. I hope it is clear enough.

  78. I haven’t read everyones responses, but in reply to the issues with people sitting out in high stakes games; When I play live, the card room says no more than 2 people can sit out at any one time on a table. Surely implementing this rule would have a significant change on how the high stakes games run now?

  79. I wish online poker sites would have a 2-3 man walking rule like they do in Live Games. Except it be the 2 person sit out rule (at full tables)

    For example, you can not sit out if one person is already sitting out. You must leave the table and relinquish your spot if someone else is already sitting out at your table.

    This is the general premise of my idea… it can be tweaked and modified to fit certain games.

  80. Hi Phil, really enjoy the blog.

    Online poker is certainly a different discipline to live but it seems to have gone too far now to the detriment of the game as a whole. The fact that players can be researched and preyed upon by better players, whilst not illegal, looks and feels pretty shady to many. Poker is always battling these kind of stereotypes so it is something that the game can ill afford to foster or promote online, especially at the moment. And Bumhunting must be one of the most mindless, ridiculous practices i have ever come across in any walk of life. Those who partake in it should feel ashamed, i mean imagine explaining that to a non poker player.

    I don’t know what the answer is but i feel rake needs to be reduced to promote true competition rather than a generation of players trying to just survive and grind VPPs (or whatever). Online poker will never be exactly the same as live obviously, multitabling would have to be banned for a start (how would you feel about that Phil?) However i agree that a players statistics should not be able to be kept and analysed. I have no problem if someone beats me because of Talent, dedication, practice etc, but i don’t see why they should have other artificial advantages just because they have more time to utilise them properly.

    I feel that Pokertars has a huge responsibility to help change things for the better as they are virtually a monopoly at the moment, something they have hardly played down with their “WE ARE POKER” campaign. Lets hope this slogan rings true and they take a lead to make changes for a more enjoyable, transparent, and competitive online experience in the future. Or they may find more and more people giving it a miss altogether.

  81. Why just no lobby for HU play?

    Just a dropdown box asking what stakes you want to play/how many tables/minimum amount of hands to be played/min-max buyin/etc and youll be automatically linked to an opponent.
    That way youll never get picked on by regs and more likely to play some1 just like yourself.

  82. Can’t think of any in the poker world who has as much power as you to influence the state of the games coupled with as good a thought process, excellent post.

    I would contribute that on the issue of limiting non-running HU tables, you shouldn’t have a fixed number for all stakes at all times; I think it should be proportional to the amount of traffic at those stakes.

    Say, at 1/2 there’s a much larger player pool, so there should be more non-running tables available. I was thinking maybe there could be a forumla which fixes the number of non-running tables to the number of running ones so the amount of non-running tables will vary with how much action is going on at that time (or some variant).

    Also, I think the KotH idea should be looked at further.

    ATM I think instilling it would be too unfair on players who legitimately don’t want to have dick-swinging contests with other regs.

    Most obviously, I think you should limit the amount of tables someone is allowed to be king of. This would stop the same very small group of regs taking over all the tables, and encourage more action as worse players will be more willing to fight for tables.

    Further, there should be some limiting factor on how long a player can hold a table for. As I think will occur, KotH will not encourage reg-on-reg action substantially, and so limiting the time someone can be KotH for stops certain players (who may be at the top for reasons other than skill; they have all day to play for example) monopolising tables.

    Again, glad you’ve phrased this debate in a clear manner and I hope the discussion will continue as such.

  83. Change games from a Small Blind-Big Blind system, to Big Blind-Big Blind. The main reason many of us sit out when a fish leaves is because we don’t want to be the sucker that posts the last big blind. Make it two big blinds, last person isn’t as heavily punished, games don’t insta-stop.

    Random alternate thought that could have no merit: make the first HU hand at a breaking table have the old Pokerstars blind structure. Button posts Big Blind, Cutoff posts Small Blind. Then switch to the normal action-generating Button Small Blind.

  84. So that the poker rooms see, who generates the most money they can do rankings….. I’m from Latvia, and we have a national card gam ZOLE, there are servers and they have ranking systems a player has an icon besides them- blue: newbie yelow: player red: expert G(guru): the absolute monster in the game… So why can’t it be used in poker too? So the recreational players would see how many blues, reds etc. ar sitting at the tables… But it would hurt the regs but thats plus for the recreational players….

    The change name situation, thats not so good, because it would be hard to track your favorite players and so on…

    The sit out problem can be solved- if a player is multitabling and sits out at one table to wait the moneybags, but continues playing at the other tables, than he is sit outed on all of them, i don’ t know how to say it right, at all tables.. It would absolutely end the problem… The answer for them- why don’ t you play there, but play there???

  85. Poker Stars are so tight. They should offer RAKEBACK deals to players not Freerolls into Comps tha only a handfull can profit from and many do not take part in as they run on a Sat. I like to go out on Sat night.

    You want to play Tourn fine use your Rake Bac to pay the entry otherwise keep your Rake Back in your account. Guess what Poker Stars Rake Back make players pla more to earn more Rake and as they do so do you. And players who lose might Break even with Rake Back and hence will also play more creating more Rake Back for you.

    So Use your Brains and Offer Rakeback Poker Stars. If Full Tilt does ever come back your New Cash players will start to drift away!

  86. hello,
    sorry in advance for my English (Google translate is my friend)
    About the tables that break when a fish leaves the table, I may be a suggestion based on what is happening in my club (ACF) and probably also elsewhere in the world.
    Tables on NL100, when a player leaves a table, which we’ll call “T”, the last player arrived on the table “T +1” is forced to play up on the table “T”.
    Conversely, the NL250 tables and moe, that’s the first player arrived on the table “T +1” is forced to play up on the table “T”.

    Thus, there would be more table selection possible, and especially for choosing opponents. It would be impossible to move “long” on a table because we know in advance that such soap bubbles, players will rise gradually to the first table, also called the main table.

    Of course, there are multi-tabling, but one that plays 16 tables at once in the medium term will play the first 16 tables.

    The arrival of each new player would arrive via a pipe, fish or shark, and invariably go back to the main tables cross his path all the players in the room, fish or shark as well.

    And the second result, it helps that the tables are full.

  87. Suggesting that because a government is preventing more fish from entering the pond, that your games have become unbeatable with regard to the rake is like saying that you’re not willing to improve. Every poster here is a fish in the Galfond pond.

    Good points Phil. Must move makes sense.

  88. Love the must move idea, Phil. With the caveat that existing must move tables get priority in joining existing juicy games that would have long lists in the current poker climate. This would ensure that there’s no value in trolling wait lists and rewards players that actually want to play with better quality games.

  89. another note … once someone ask John Cage ( an american music composer and a buddhist ) “how can you accept all that misery in the world” Cage answer “I think there is the exact dose of misery” … a difficult concept probably, but you might give it a try Phil … and then see my point ……….. from here, frome Paris, this croisade to change the online poker doesnt look that healthy, that ethical, you look more like does you pretend to attack …………. gerard

  90. How about limiting the function of the “sit-out” button. Instead of allowing people to selectively sit out on certain tables, only permit them to sit out on all tables. That way they can’t selectively sit out.

  91. What if sites had table limits on cash games like bodog? Imo, the games would be better and the fish would last longer. This is assuming the poker landscape is similar to what it was pre 2006. In 2005 there were so many sites, PP, PS, FT, Paradise, Prima, UB, ect. If pro’s picked 4 tables @ each site, they could still play tons of games at a time.

  92. “Sit Out next Button”
    instead of “Sit out next BB”
    People can only leave on BB, not in button. You can still leave, but the blind will be posted before.

    It’s not much you will lose if you quit before – only 1 BB per table session. And you still have the choice to play that hand.

  93. Phil is one of my favorite players and personalities, but he is missing a major point IMO.

    A lot of the issues he is discussing is because there are too many sharks and not enough fish (LDO).

    It is more like creating an open debate on which medicine to take instead of addressing the root of the illness to begin with.

    The main problem is very little money is flowing up.

    The HS regs are sitting around waiting for the occasional fish and then fighting over him.

    A lot of those “fish” you are preying on are lower stakes regs taking a shot.

    Years ago when you got to where you could beat a stake you moved up, but these days a lot of regs just open more tables at the same limit. You stay in your safe zone against easier competition and make more money.

    If you HS regs want to improve the games “upstairs”, you need to focus some of your persuasion on making “downstairs” a little more profitable. This would create more soft spots at each limit, allowing more players to gradually move up.

    Low stakes players have no influence, high profile players have the influence, you should use it to get the money flowing up and it will inevitably address some of your issues.

    Or you could do nothing about the root of the problem, sit around debating temporary solutions to a increasing problem, and keep fighting over that more and more scarce fish you are desperately searching for.

    I do agree about the tracking sites.

  94. Yea i really do not see this happing at games from NL2-NL400 for the most part. All though there are issues with HU its not that bad upto nl400 imo. Also Anno. sites is redic. Talk about mass decrease in ones edge and huge increase in ABC poker for 90% of the players… zzzzz seams like problems of the HSP imo.

  95. If you seek for cash to flow upwards more freely, one of the biggest stopers of this are HUD’s. 90% of players do not use these, not because they choose not too, but they simply don’t know they exist.

    HUD’s without doubt give an unfair advantage to the user, It’s comparable to a footballer trying to kick a ball without boots on!

    If they’re going to be used on sites, at the very least players who are using them should have tags associated to them to explain what they are doing.

    True the game has developed at such a fast pace online, but the recreational players you want to encourage to play simply have no idea what they are getting themselves into. Thus lose upon beginning their online experience and are then swiftly discouraged.

  96. One easy first step against the overloaded HU-lobbies could be, that players who only sits at tables without playing, are checked from time to time if there are at the computer.
    For example, after not playing any hand there´s a pop-up “are you active”, when the player does not react, the next pop-up comes after 3 minutes and then he is kicked out.

    I´ve got often the feeling, 50% are at the next supermarket, but sitting at 14 tables.

    This is also one annoying point for a fish, he sometimes has to search for action.

  97. Big fan, thanks for that blog entry! Regarding screen names change (say once a month). I think this is a “must have”.

    The *only* downside to this is the fact that people need to be able to catch bots, colluders, chip dumpers and all the various kind of cheaters at the table. And for that they need screen names.

    That’s why I’d suggest that in addition to your “main account” name, you simply do the following: every time a player changes his screen name (for example once every two months), his previous screen name (the one he won’t use anymore) gets automatically linked to his main account.

    That way people running investigation can still detect cheaters after the facts (they’re always detected after the facts anyway: detecting cheaters takes time and lots of hands).

    Screen name changes would be a really great addition and it wouldn’t prevent HUDs and trackers from working: it would simply prevent people from PTR’ing bhums and prevent datamined hand buyers from having every single hand ever played by the players.

    Please PokerStars do this. Allow screenname changes once per month or per two months (and link older names with the main account name so that cheaters can still be busted).

    Let’s get the lowlifes out of our beloved game…

  98. I am a low stakes rec player FWIW. My 2 cents:

    1. Why is there a “sit out” option at all? If you can’t handle missing a couple hands to piss you’re playing the wrong stakes. Get rid of “sit out.”

    2. Minimum of 20 hands must be played when you sit. If you started a HU table and Phil Galfond sits there, tough luck, you’re in for 20 hands. Why start a table at a given stakes if you’re not willing to play it?

    3. Don’t show the SNG player list before it starts, and cut rake on those to something well below normal hand rake, to 1% maybe? If they were cheaper to play and regs couldn’t bumhunt them, all of us “spots” would be playing SNGs with each other and if the regs wanted in on it they’d end up playing each other too. And seeing $100k SNGs with all you high flyers would make for awesome railing.

  99. well for HU it should be something like in rushpoker, you clicked to join the PLAYER POOL, of course you should be able to set some things like stakes, minimum maximum BB’s etc. but you are joining the player pool and get your opponent randomly from there, and you have to play for certaing amount of hands or time so some people wont be clicking and leaving anyway all the time when they get “bad” opponent for them

  100. It’s nice to read a blog from someone who has a lot to say and a lot about him to like. Smart and adorable in one package. And very sexy.

  101. I was a 100nl FR rush reg until they got shut down in June. I the idea of starting a rush type game but only changing the players you play every 10 hands is one of most stupid idea I’ve ever heard. People liked rush mostly because it was fast. Changing players only every few hands what eliminate this.

  102. Hello everyone.

    I am a casual poker player. I play poker about one year. I am also using tracking software for a few weeks now, but only occasionally. It helps me, but on the other hand it is also distracting me from the game.

    Like some other people i also think that pokersites could have built-in poker tracking (plus analyzing) software and HUD in the future, Such software would allow to import only current history data and no past or third part data, obtained from other people or bought in the market. And players would pay to a pokersite to use it (if they wish, of course, there is no need to use it). Maybe there would also be two versions of such software, cheaper casual and more expensive and advanced professional version. Few weeks ago i sent this suggestion to a PokerStars but they did have any comment about it.

    Optionally there would be also anonymous tables with different possible combinations, like someone said before, for example, screen names plus HUD, screen names no HUD, anonymous plus HUD, anonymous no HUD or similar.

    With built-in poker tracking software and HUD there would be very clear and transparent rules about using it (no gray zones, judgement calls, etc.), all other tracking software would be prohibited while poker client running or prohibited at all times, depending on a pokersite policy. In my opinion this would be better and environment for all players and also for pokersites.

  103. Hello again.

    I will say just couple things more about the idea of built-in poker tracking (analyzing) software and HUD to a pokersite.

    Of course, it would contain only important information about players. I mean, do we really need a “donk bet % on turn” stats?

    And the other thing is – what would then the poker tracking software developers do for a living? They also probably have some agreements with pokersites about using their software, at lest those bigger ones (Poker Tracker and Holdem Manager), so it it probably not very realistic to expect built-in poker tracking software in the near future.

    Anyway, something needs to be changed in the online poker to keep the game fair and interesting.

  104. here is the first comment. the reason the game is like it is, is because of all the training sites. u all had to make millions off training sites and now u have to live with what u created. short term money, long term -ev. that is the fact. had to develop HUD’s….short term money , long term -ev. so u created this atmosphere. now u want to change it? because u made your millions already? i say ban all tracking sites, HUD’s(and yes i use a hud), and also ban training sites. i have been emailing sites for years telling them about time tables as i am tired of playing heads up and getting hit and run on. teach more people the value of table selection. u think the games are bad now watch what happens….there wont be any games. msot of what u say applies to hihger limit games anyway. this is obv somehting that concerns u as i am sure not as mnay people subscribe to training sites right now. so when the govt makes poker legal make sure u get as mnay people as u can to your. site and train them all to be the best and there will be no games. we can have every one in the worl winin gor losing 1 bb/100 hands. joy

  105. I copied and pasted 2 great easy ideas from earlier posts that would really help solve the HU problem. Give these ideas some love.

    David says:
    January 15, 2012 at 9:55 pm
    I agree with a lot of your points. But your idea for changing the HU lobby is not fair or reasonable at all. Here is a different idea to fix the ugly/insulting HU tables:

    In the lobby 5 *random* 1 player seated tables show up per stake. The people who show up are different to everyone. An unlimited number of these tables can still spawn and players can still only sit at one table. Have the lobby show these 5 player waiting tables, one empty table and all of the tables with 2/2 players. Now you don’t have a system where great players arbitrarily get *all* of the fish. That is ridiculously unfair and your right – it clearly shows your bias.

    Mario says:
    January 17, 2012 at 5:29 pm
    Why just no lobby for HU play?

    Just a dropdown box asking what stakes you want to play/how many tables/minimum amount of hands to be played/min-max buyin/etc and youll be automatically linked to an opponent.
    That way youll never get picked on by regs and more likely to play some1 just like yourself.

  106. Love this discussion. A few thoughts (sorry if they are repeats, as I didn’t read all the posts):

    1. CREATING ACTION: Love the must move idea. Have a certain number of main games which people can request table changes between. This limits table selection which sucks but does so fairly across all players. Don’t let people see who is on the wait list – if you think you can beat the game, join just like you would live. If you can’t, play lower. This whole idea that it should all be built around fish is crazy. And yes, I am a pro saying that. While it’s nice to stack a rich fish, that should be a right earned not based on bumhunting but based on being a regular action giving pro at your stakes. And just like a casino, if you decide to quite the game, there should be a waiting period – say 45 minutes before you can get back in that game. The lobbies would be insanely simple. Want to play 6 max 5/10? Sign up here. You get added to the list, either a new game is created when 6 players wait or it doesn’t.

    HU is obviously somewhat different. I like the idea of having an action score. Every time you refuse action or you quit a match within say 5 minutes (enough time to check PTR, but the time should be unspecified so people can’t game the system) your score decreases. When people enter the queue for a heads up game at a stakes, those with a higher action score are matched with similarly rated players. Fish, will obviously not game select, so if you want to play them, it helps to have a high action score yourself. And the impact of refusing players should increase the more you do it. That way if you don’t want to play Phil or “megaregs” you aren’t really penalized. But if you are bumhunter, your only action will be other bumhunters.

    2. SITTING OUT: You should be limited to the number of times you can do so (1 per 30 minutes played or something like that) and for how long. If a everyone in a game sits out at the same time, that game should break! Takes away this squatting for fish to reload advantage and forces action. You just get added back on to the list.

    3. BLIND HUNTING: In a HU match, when a player wants to leave, they should indicate that. Can’t insta-quit unless broke. From that point on, your opponent can select whether they want to play 1 more hand or 2 – this counteracts people who angle giving notice right after their opponents big blind. As I write this, it saddens me that the “0.1” win rate some of you are squeezing out is based on this blind stealing/preservation tactic. This is why you decided to make poker a career?

    4. HUDS / TRACKING: End access from tracking sites by allowing name changes (like the keeping of one main name idea for logins / etc). This also helps the fish hunting / embarrassment factor. HUDS are fine – I just think you should know when you are playing someone using a HUD so you are fully aware when you play them. And that shouldn’t be hard…if they can see when you run a VPN, they can certainly see when you run HM2.

    Really hope the poker sites get involved in this discussion. Phil I hope you send this along to all the PS pros so they can get mgmt’s attention.

  107. i played online poker at almost every site out there in the last ten years. i have lost at every site out there in the last ten. i wont play any more online untell they find away to get rid of all the extra stuff people us like hud i have never used any of that. Thats probly why i lose because i don’t believe its fair but i can say no one will ever take another dime off me untell the poker site put a stop to that. I like to play and would gladly come back and start playing again if they even up my chances. I have lost over 200k online in ten years and wont be losing another dime tell they fix this

  108. My whole point is i now play in a live game with friends that dont play online either because most of us are just recreational gamblers. And we have all tried gambling online and lost alot of money we then find out that most people have had an advantage of the recreational player and we choose to not support online gambling any more.There are now 9 of us that wont be puting anymore money online cause of this and we are all fish.

  109. Poker is all about making money and profit, based on a glory of 5% winners and on illusions of 95% losers that they will become winners someday (there are of course other things, like challenge and fun).

    You have 1.000.000 players, for example. Reduce the number of players to 50% – 25.000 of the winners will suddenly become losers. Increase the number of players to 200% – 50.000 of losers will now become winners. Remove the 950.000 losing players – only 2.500 players of all 50.000 winning players will remain winners. Remove the 50.000 winners – 47.500 of all 950.000 losing players will now become winners, replacing the former winners.

    There will allways be winners and losers, no matter what, and both are important to the game. But the truth is that the poker can not survive without losing players and their illusions. If almost all losing players would stop playing or stop depositing money for some reason, the big majority of all today’s winners would become losers, if there would be no replacement for losing players.

    But on the other hand, if almost all today’s winners would stop playing for some reason, the losing players would probably be very happy, because they would have a slightly better chance to become winners someday.

    So, how to increase the total number of players to 200%?

  110. I agree with much of the issues concerning cash game play that has been discussed in great detail.
    However from a recreational players point of view having promos / prizes / a cut of the rake for people who create an online ‘home game’ and actively recruit players via social networks have to bring value to the site. If you get new sign ups during this recruitment then you also get rewarded.

  111. The subject of winning and losing players is a tough one, as everyone has the capacity (maybe not ability?) to become a winning player at whatever game/stakes they choose. No one forces you to move up, or play out of your depth or comfort zone.
    Yes, we want to make money from other losing players, no, we don’t want to be one of those players.
    Joe makes the point above that he has lost $200k in ten years gambling online, and dislikes that others have an unfair advantage by using tools like HEM/PTR. I do not seek to criticise Joe, but the sentiment he writes about.
    If you want to get better at something then you need to learn more about how to do that, and utilise those tools that are available. We do this in all walks of life, not just online Poker. My question would be, why spend so much depositing, but not on learning how to improve?
    I have been through the rollercoaster of beginning to play online poker and after initial success found I was depositing more often than I thought I should be. At which point I put much more time and effort into finding out how to play the game, strategy, forums, and tools to help me do that. Having a HUD is not a magical guide on how to play, it just assists our decision making process if we decide to use or believe what it tells us. Why should this be taken away? If we sat down at a live game for the first time, would the grinder who is in there everyday stand up and say “sorry, I think I’m too good to play in this game” and walk off? Of course not and we would not expect it, so what makes online poker any different.
    I think there can be confusion between what makes a losing player, and why. Of course everyone should be encouraged to play, redeposit etc and this can be done with reload bonuses and other such marketing strategy but lets not criticise those that work hard at their game and do not lose.
    I think if you are losing $200k online there are other issues that require changing in your game, not the poker world as we know it.
    I am not some poker pro, I am a recreational player (maybe 5-15hrs per week) currently sitting just above breakeven for the 2yrs I’ve been playing, but have learnt what works and what doesn’t, how to use a HUD, and most importantly bankroll management so I didn’t go bust again. These things are easy to learn, but a nightmare to stick to. I’d recommend losing players to think about these things first before blaming ‘the system’.

  112. Solution to the HUD issue in my mind is for sites to create their own hud and allow all players free access (very costy) or perhaps a free trial, and then an option to either pay by $ or FPPs for the program and allow for small instalment payments so recreational players who do not earn many FPPs/month can still aford to pay for the use of the program via FPPs on instalments, perhaps include some new pokerstars pokerschool instructional videos made by a respected online pro about how HUDs can be used well so that recreational players have a better understanding of the function and aplication of a HUD and how it can be used to improve their game. – negitive to this, a ton of bad players would improve their game. – positive all players would have the easy access to the HUD and would have instructions available for its use which would even the playing field

  113. If a HU table breaks – after 10mins, 100mins, or 6hrs – what happens to the table according to the KotH style of HU tables?

    If I’m sitting with 10 BI’s do i get auto removed from table?
    Do I bump out another person sitting alone at a HU table?

    If i sit HU with someone for 2 minutes, me and my friend click “request to play HU” at a 6m table, a hu table is formed, and then one of us leaves, did we just circumvent the KotH method with a limited number of HU tables available to be 1/2 full?

    — LOVE the article and PG.

  114. What is online poker besides skill and luck, glory of the winners and illusions of the losers? Is playing online poker a real job or is it fun? Is online poker a sport? Is it a food chain, which relies on strong eating weak and strong exploiting weak? Is it survival of the fittest? Or is it a business and economy, driven by profit and greed, so it deserves to die sooner or later?

    In my opinion playing online poker (emphasis is on word online) is definitely not a real job. Maybe it is fun, but not for me anymore.

    Online poker is not a sport. In sport people buy tickets to watch athletes, footbal players and others. In sport professional major league players and teams do not play in the same league as the minor league players and teams, amateurs, high school players or recreational players. They play in a separated leagues, based on their results, and all leagues have both winners and losers. Sport has very clear rules about the using of prohibited substances and any other prohibited things, it also has severe punishments for those who break the rules. Online poker does not.

    I do not like the idea for online poker being a food chain, like some people are saying on poker forums. This idea is just wrong thinking and it has no real future. The simple truth is that the poker can not survive without the losing players. So everyone who have the benefit from the losing players are now just trying to find a way how to attract them to put money in the poker ecosystem and make their game more enjoyable with getting more fun for their money.

    If online poker is survival of the fittest, then the persons best adapted to existing conditions and environment will be able to survive. Almost no one is willing to be a loser and to continually deposit the money anymore and then just give it away. For winning and famous professional players, who also play live games, probably nothing will change, they will win in the future also. They will remain the best and they are already winnes for life. Recreational players also have jobs, they do not have to play online poker for a living or to survive, they can easily manage without it. So called mediocre professional players, bumhunters and similar players will just have to find a real job to pay their bills, for food and other things they need. Such players need weaker players very badly because they are not capable to win against the top professional winning players. On the other hand, recreational players do not need them at all.

    Is online poker a business and economy, driven by profit and greed? Yes, in my opinion it is. But if it only that and nothing else, i hope that it really dies soon.

  115. Just few things more.

    In online poker we all play in the same league. And the differences between players are huge. Of course, no one forces you to move up the limits and stakes and to try your luck with players who are significantly better than you, but that is not the point. And some players are fully equipped with the all available information about the other players, while some players are not.

    What would happen if the fully equipped professional football team would play against the amateur football team who has no helmets and boots? Yes, poker is not a sport, but anyway. Or if the professional heavyweight boxer would be boxing against the lightweight amateur boxer?

  116. Hey Guys,

    Just read through all of these again and took notes. Thanks so much for contributing. Sorry that I don’t have time to respond to everyone individually right now.


  117. Why don’t you try to start a US regulated poker site phil? Seems like the timing is really good. Then you could institute whatever rules you wanted. Assuming working within the US laws is even possible.

  118. Great, thought-provoking article Phil.

    Although, as a pro I agree with your ideas, I think you are looking at things backwards.

    I think the end of online poker can only be delayed by making the game more attractive for recreationals and largely ignoring the wishes of different types of pros, who’s arguments boil down to them making more money, like of course me.

    THE GAMES WILL BE MORE ENJOYABLE FOR RECREATIONALS IF THE PRO’S EDGE IS REDUCED. Saving online poker is all about looking after those that pay for it. What we want as pros doesn’t really matter.

    Like any intellectual challenge with a big enough prize and open access, poker has largely been solved. Statistical databases and coaching websites have provided plug-and-play optimal strategies for anyone with a reasonably high mathematical ability. Therefore, 80% of my opponents at 2/4 – 5/10nl have almost identical stats. I’m sure the other 20% will iron out those minor leaks soon. No matter what is done, the games are always going to be very, very tough unless more recreationals gamble for fun.

    The entertainment or experience that a recreational player receives is dire. No one chats, all play the same, tight, tough game, he is tracked, hunted, sometimes humiliated, loses his money very quickly and stops playing equally quickly.

    I use PTR all the time but it should be stopped to REDUCE THE PRO’S EDGE and improve the recreational player’s experience. It stops games going between pros and makes recreationals targets, which is humiliating. How hard can it be for a poker site to block PTR ip addresses and new accounts that are obviously solely used for datamining? You shouldn’t be able to observe more than 4 tables of games less that 5/10 for more than an hour a day. Even better, stream them incorrect hand histories to undermine the database.

    I have written my own Poker Database application which I used until a couple of years ago because the HEM HUD is just too good. I crush recreational players because their stats leave them out to dry. Poker Tracker and HEM, excellent as they are should be banned. Not because they are unfair but simply because they MASSIVELY INCREASE THE PRO’S EDGE. Ban them in the same way that collusion programs are banned.

    Name-Poker Pro’s
    Celebrity Poker Pro’s are one of the best ways of improving the image of poker for recreationals and potential recreationals. Poker Pro’s lives, ambitions, views, stories should be all over the sites. They should be David Beckhams and Lady Gagas. Cool, sexy, contoversial, risk-taking, interesting and people who we want to emulate. They should be playing poker online all the f-ing time. In big exciting games. They should arrange to play each other at certain times and the games should be advertised and showcased. There should be video links from the poker sites to their latest crazy bluffs, prop bets etc. Nitty, sensible, dull, stoic players should never be name-pros on poker sites. More Durr, Farha, Scotty Nguyen, Stu, Mattasow, Hellmuth (funny when he cries). Gossip, scandal, WWF flaming – entertainment.

    Screenname changes
    I think that name changes reduce a recreational player’s enjoyment and if PTR-like sites are stopped then name changing won’t be so necessary. However, if it significantly protects recreationals then it must be allowed as it DECREASES THE PRO’S EDGE.

    Coaching Websites
    I have spent over a hundred hours on coaching websites – they are excellent and have really improved my game. However, because they INCREASE THE PRO’S EDGE and therefore decrease the recreationals’ enjoyment, they are bringing forward the end of poker. However, they can’t be stopped.

    HU Tables & Bumhunting
    Having 100s of HU tables open reduces the entertainment and experience of the only people who can save poker – the recreational players. The industry should do whatever is necessary to make them go away. Maybe players can only have one table open in total over all stakes and they can only sit waiting for a maximum of 1 hour per day. Therefore, whenever the boss is looking (the recreational player) he will always see action. I would include 6-max and other tables in this. If a recreation player decides to sit down on a HU table he is going to get fleeced very quickly anyway so it doesn’t really matter. I play HU myself.

    Rewards for game starters, rakeback that punishes tight play (I am tight), must-move tables, no waiting lists – I agree with all these.

    I use every advantage I can get and I don’t think its helpful to talk about ethics. All pros are essentially trying to exploit the vunerability of someone else. Unless, you’re giving a sizable proportion of your winnings to charity for the greater good, none of us pros are doing something ethical. People also talk about a change being “good for the game”. Coaching websites have dramatically improved the standard of poker at the tables, but to what avail? Whether the changes to the online poker industry are “fair”, “ethical” or “good for the game” really doesn’t matter. Online poker is almost over. The third world entrants to the internet will take the remaining EV in low – mid stakes cash games soon enough. The only chance OB1 is attracting recreational players to the industy by providing an enjoyable experience in which they continue to play even though they usually lose, because the entertainment value of playing outweighs the financial cost. Otherwise we’ll be putting the last nail into the coffins of the only other recreational players – the addicts.

    See you in the Job Centre! (not you phil (: )


    Operators won’t make drastic changes, as financial and operation risk are far greater than the benefits.

    All the suggestions that were thought in respect to “live casino experience” should be pursued.

    Create alternatives for your customers, and they will choose. In that regard, I am very in favor of “the freedom of choice”.

    My wish list, 2 added features

    1) Anonymous tables (COMPLIMENTARY to existing system)
    2) Create short-handed tables (4 max) – grinders will risk more $ to beat recreational players, who like to gamble…




  120. The top player of the community have to create a non lucrative poker site!!! Rake only what it cost for operate the site and get back the initial invessement. Imagine… The 2+2 poker site… break even recreational player will suddently become a winning player and more player will get reward from playing poker… Poker site are the most dmaging thing for poker… They remove so much money of the poker economy… They dont deserve that much profit!!! The player = the solution… We dont need mafia, thief and criminal to get involve in online poker!!!

  121. 200 000 person log on pokerstar each day… Lets start a site where you pay 10$ to create your account and another 10$ per month to renew it… NO MORE RAKE and non lucrative site… Like if you subscribe to xbox live or War of Worldcraft… This solution can save online poker… Professional poker player can do this and restore the image of online poker and get it back to where he is suppose to be. The problem is simple, WE ARE the slave of poker site. I was beatting the plo100 hu at 8bb/100 hands and the poker site made as much money as i was doing. They charge me 15K to win 15K in one year… WTF… WE NEED a 2+2 poker ROOM… where the community decide and where one account = one vote…

  122. I’m in love with playing poker, even made my own website (still needs a lot of work) but online I’m only playing the micro tables. I’m probably also the fish, spot,…

    Because of that, I might be in the place to speak out for a lot off people.

    A big solution for me is to change the poker tracking software. I have it also and I was sickened to see what it all does. This advantage is just to big against other players. My thought is this: Change the software so it only tracks how you are playing and it does not track anymore the other players. You can still use it to improve your own game, but no longer to find the fish or see the stats off the other players.

    That software has even options that you can use to find losing players? No no, this software is the cause off it all.

    Because off the popularity off poker, I guess many people try to make a living off it. They grind the tables and approach it as their work, no longer the fun off the game. On the micro tables they are easy to see. Mostly 5 of the 9 players on the tables are those grinders, they play 10% of their hands and then they just bet the flop en turn no matter what. They also play at many tables the same time, resulting in slowing down all tables they are at. I don’t like those grinders.

    Another thought: The online sites could make a different set off tables where tracking is completely off. So the players have the choice where to play. With or without tracking software. On the no-tracker tables, they can even disable the HUD’s. Just turning off tracking software could mean for the sites a loss in income, creating a new set off tables could counter this. Give the players the choice and see what happens. I would certainly play more online with my $15 bankroll 😉

    That’s my thought. Hope my English is good enough and that it contributed to something. The slogan for my website says it all for me: Because Poker is also fun!

    Have a nice game!

  123. First off I’d like to commend Phil for putting this out there. It’s not a topic that all or even many players will agree on for certain, but rocking the boat is always a good way to start the wheels turning on improvement. There must be controversy and disagreement before value and reason will show their head. Without the strong ego’s of poker players the game would not only wither, but a lot of people would lose money and their valuable time in the process. In poker as is in life; mass discussion can only lead to positives.

    I’d like to also state that I did not read all of the comments on here before making this post. That may reduce any credibility I have with some of you, but that credibility is based solely on what I’m writing here as many of you dont know me. So, i’m not concerned in the slightest.

    Of the posts I did read there were some interesting points, as well as many babbling ramblers who were only trying to convey they are winning players at low-mid stakes. I’m a losing player on the internet and the lack of ego I have about it should be a lesson for all you non-winning players out there. Don’t let guys who win determine how much fun you have or decrease your ability and effectiveness in improving. Some people learn by going broke and working harder on finding the mistakes they have, and others simply read and study. While i’m not saying losing is something you should plan to do, surely look at ANY losses you have as learning opportunities.

    I remember when Doyle’s room first started and was trying to gain momentum. It had a promo where you could get a copy of supersystem 2 with your first deposit. I enthusiastically took this option and began reading my first piece of printed poker literature. I remember some of what the strategy sections taught me and have forgotten the rest due to changes in the game or what ever, but won’t forget the story sections where Doyle explains stories and experiences at or around the poker table/ community over the years. I think, personally of course, this is whats missing in the game. And, to an extent is a good base for understanding where Phil is coming from in his posts about improving the games.

    Sometimes you gotta just call the guy you’ve been beating up on, instead of raising him.

    This game is a beautiful and complex machine with many parts and components. The problem with that is, the natural greed of the game tends to make some of the parts which are most important seem useless and obsolete. The etiquette and respect for your opponents aspect is lost on many of the new aged players and I think that has a lot to do with why the game is in the state it is now. With the lack of personal encounters and relationships in a physical sense that the internet version of the game has created we have lost touch with this old yet essential part of the game. as much as this game is about making money for a lot of us, the ways you go about it are very important to the survival of the game it self. I think thats what Phil is trying to say here, and hes offering ways to improve the poor state poker is in now. I personally enjoy playing live games more than online for that main reason. The face-to-face aspect of live poker tends to limit the scumbags/ thieves a little bit as they cannot hide their shame. The hit and runs happen far less frequently live and you don’t see games breaking when the fish leaves in a live game ever.

    The game has changed from a game to a business. While this has been true for some players all a long, the massive number of players from the internet takes the numbers of business oriented thinking players to astronomical new heights. As this is your right as a player, I again must say , its how you go about it that will determine the effectiveness. A good friend and poker mentor of mine told me some of the best advice i’ve been given a long time ago andi’d like to share and reiterate this point to all of you. even though most of you will claim to know this as it is, i think you’ve lost it’s meaning along the way and it’s something that very well translates to this blog. Treat the players at your game as if they were your customers. Understand it’s bad for business (your BR and the state of the industry) to turn those people away. To have an attitude of, there will always be new people coming up proves that you will eventually cap your profits and become stagnant and not profitable.

    The lack of table talk among the online community is one of the biggest contributors to this. You can make a fish/spot feel at home or as if he/she’s having fun by being happy and joking with them, being kind and offering hollow advice or even some minor advice while playing a live game. the internet almost eliminates that by not only having it be chat box based only but having it in its unwritten policies to not use the chat at all. I’m very upset and distraught that even the WSOP this past year has taken measures to eliminate table talk and am worried that the game I love will soon lose all human aspects and with that the fun it brings to me and many others.

    I have no suggestions as for how to improve the situations directly with software upgrades or policy changes but what I’ve written above should resonate with you guys and get some thoughts going on why what Phil is trying to do is important. Business as usual can turn to no business at all if the industry becomes unsustainable. take the path less followed and try to improve the quality of the games and make them happy fun and emotionally exhilarating again instead of robotically destroying souls. it will certainly work well for all parties involved.

    Thanks for your time.


  124. Great Blog Phil! With regards to your last point, addressing the button wars, something which they do at my local casino in a cash game is they still take blinds (and antes if they get used) away from people’s stacks. Player who sit out constantly online and miss their BB don’t pay anything and can leave if they want w/o losing anything to their stack. Sure, when they come back they have to put their miss blinds in, but they can easily leave the table and find a new one.
    What i’m suggesting is to not stop anteing away someone’s stack if they sitout, as it will give more action and the nits and those who MTT will be put straight into the action. The only disadvantage is that if someone is genuinely gone for a while due to something they have to deal with then it becomes a problem.
    The anteing away is one possible solution, but can be changed.

    Aside from that, I agree 100% with all the points you’ve raised, me personally even though I grew up with online poker, I’m mainly a live player, i use info and feel rather than math but do use math more now I realise its importance. The HUD i’m sort of against because it is an UNFAIR advantage towards those who play here and there (recreational). They can adjust their game all they want and the reg. will always be one step ahead of them. Taking HUDs away will do more damage than good as most online will moan and complain that it’s unfair to take it away, on the flip side it allows them to be like a live player and can help them transition to live poker easier. That’s why i don’t use the Note system or HUDs, i feel the only way to improve my way of playing and thinking about opponents should be committed to memory. All of the greats never used the online software we have now and they’re all success.
    The first points you put forward were great too.
    You’re being a poker ambassador!

  125. A lot of good ideas here. Not everyone will agree with all of these ideas, and some look like they’d be very difficult to implement, but some of them need to be tried.

    I really don’t like data mining one bit, and as a general rule, I believe that online poker should look like brick-and-mortar poker as much as possible. With that in mind, players should have to take notes to keep tabs on their opponents’ playing styles, not have a device provide that information to them.

    Anything that levels the playing field, rewards human skiils rather than machine technology, and keeps recreational players at the tables are worth pursuing.

    Thanks, Phil, for laying this out so clearly.

    Keep flopping aces,

    Lou Krieger

  126. join bovada to play by the numbers no screen names there cake allows you to change your screen name once per week also good for annanimity

  127. Just as in poker rooms, I think we need site pit bosses to be randomly monitoring tables for players not adhering to the code of conduct. Petition the sites to enforce terms and conditions rules about players insta sitting out (it’s in their best interest to prevent this!). If they don’t do it, they are punished, just like a real site. The punishment could be as simple as being banned from playing for 24 hours, with multiple infractions being subject to greater punishments.

    What is a bunch of regs sitting down at a table with one fish anyway but implicit collusion?

  128. Hey,

    I know what you are trying to say and the undertone of changes needed in order to avoid ’embarrassing the weak player’ on the surface does make sense in life. But not in poker. I played my first brick n mortar casino cash game (5/10) at Tropicana in Atlantic City in 2002. I played online 18 hours per day, but with button and the physical cards I was the fishiest of fish.

    When I lost a couple of hundred and got up to get going I heard one player say to his friend ‘damn it! i wouldn’t have bought in if he was leaving.’

    I took it as a challenge, and over next year played dozens of live games. Did I get better at them? A bit. At the end, realized that online was faster and more convenient.

    But (a) I didn’t quit the game just cuz I overheard some one say I suck (which was a fact); (b) It’s not evil to point out people’s defects as long as the person can do something about improving.

    There is a world of difference in saying ‘haha! he sucks are this game because he has Down Syndrome’ and saying he sucks because he don’t know what he’s doing and got more tells than ….

    I also think your idea of 30 minute mandatory games wont get far with ‘problem gambling advocates’, but that’s a different story.

    Keep on playing and throwing them ideas out. Someone sure has to.

  129. why isnt there a poker site that offers exclusively anonymous tables, as someone who doesnt use any of the poker software available im at a disadvantage from the off like many other recreational players. it would allow players to turn up at an even playing field and since they would generally be weaker/non professional players would encourage the pros who would usually use the sofware to show up, strikes me as a viable poker site i know id play there. maybe a sister company to poker stars even since funds in a start up may be a concern.

  130. u maD bro?? sounds to me phil is crying that he cannot win anymore and that there is no more money in poker and is encouraging the fish back so that the money filters again – nice try phil u capitalist bastard, ur as bad as the rest, why dont u send someone 10k online and remember where the fuck u came from u piece of shit – think ur so high and mighty, ur just a fluke – all of the odds uve conquered in ur poker life to get where u are, someone else has had to be on the opposite end otherwise its mathematically impossible – so the next time u see a homeless guy just u think to urself ” just for the want of a coinflip there goes i” and dont u fucking forget it, dont be ungrateful for what u already have, try and remember what the rest of the world doesnt

  131. More player capped tournaments (I do not mean mtt sng b/c they start with low chips and not enough room to play a bit). locked down a player for a bit after they’ve won 50bb or something like that (to avoid hit and runs…)

  132. I dont understand what Phil is crying about, most of the losing players will always play no matter for them if they lose or win its the gambling.. Whats the idea to play against an equal or a stronger player… its -ev almost always. its easy for Phil because he is the king of the crop.. it is almost everytime +ev for him… most of the losing players are big addicts who cant win, there is nothing noble in the game, you spot the target and take him. It is like in the movie Rounders “It is immoral to let a sucker keep his money”

  133. Hi,

    I’m a French blogger and i allowed myself to post a translation of you article on one of the main French poker forum.

    Here the link : http://www.wam-poker.com/forums/traduction-fr-article-blog-phil-galfond-83627

    If there is any inconvenience for you, just tell me and i will delete it.
    If it’s ok for you, i could go on translating more articles from your blog, that i know a lot of French poker players are very interested in.

    Thanks for all you give to the poker community.

    glgl! Julien-

  134. as a very little fish in this big sea , i feel online poker is getting harder for the mega bucks players , thankfully i will not reach that league nor do i want to it is a game to me nothing more , but surely there are enough big roller players out there for decent games at ant time of the day / night ? you should try playing low stakes and see the sit outs and idiots who find it fun playing out the time limits every hand ? the games are so boring many times i just throw my chips in time limits are more needed than anything else on all sites , it`s not like you can see any traits by looking at faces , or see any weakness in the player ? if i was not disabled i could go to casino and play same stakes i do as online but know some tables are limited times to play ,

    your a great player love watching you but feel you just want a site made for big rollers and get rid of us small fry or the players who like to fish out and make a few bucks , how did you start ? did you have a few hundred thousand ready to play ? i would think you started in lower stakes play learn the game move up a level ?

  135. Hi Phil. I hope you see this. I have been working hard on something. Hopefully it can lead to these kind of changes. Most of what I am doing relates to the sng and tournament scene. I would really like your take on what I have written, my plans, and if you want to add to it edit or basically give some good information like you have here that relates to the cash game scene.

    I cannot say exactly what I am doing with this in a public forum. I assume you have my email from this post, but if you don’t, message me on 2p2 “nnnobodyyy” I have to go forward with this soon, so any quick reply just to see if you are interested would be appreciated. I think our best chance to fix the online scene is this narrow window of time before internet poker gets re-established in the U.S.

  136. Hay thanks for the pretty good information, i really like your blog,
    i am damn crazy fan of poker,
    I often browse online poker news blogs to keep myself up to date.

  137. Yup these situations must drive away alot of people who normally would have moved up in stakes….I was shocked at the number of people in 2+2 saying it was just fine to have 2 players playing against a 3rd and splitting the profits. I would guess that str8 up games at HSNL are a thing of the past…..people using different accounts, sharing profits….will eventually kill any new action. I had always said when/if my ticket ever came in I would love to blow 100K playing (donating more likely) the pro’s at nosebleed’s but after reading what really happens its clear an amateur would never get a clean game. sick. Love the blog!

  138. Does уouг website haѵe a contact page? I’m having a tough time locating it but, I’d likе to shoot you an
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