It’s Time to Change Online Poker Hand Histories

hand historyA while back 4Flush’s John Mehaffey penned an article where he offered up his suggestions to the upcoming crop of online poker providers in New Jersey on the ways they can avoid the pitfalls of their predecessors in Nevada.

John’s suggestions range from providing simple, easy-to-find, terms and conditions to where customer support centers should be located.

Now, I can’t find a fault in one of his suggestions, but as I was reading his article I flashbacked to one of my own articles where I laid out my own ideas on how to improve the online poker industry moving forward, and considering this article was written over a year ago –before any licensed online poker room had launched in the US—I feel this is the perfect time to revisit it.

My First Five Suggestions from 2012

At the time, my five suggestions were:

* #1 – High-Stakes games need to be eliminated

* #2 – Third-party-software must be banned (including bots)

* #3 – Sites must submit to random, independent, audits

* #4 – Players should be given a universal online identity

* #5 – Cheaters must be prosecuted

Considering that points #3 and #5 have already been implemented to some extent by regulators, we can scratch those off the list immediately. My thoughts on banning high-stakes games and third party software hasn’t changed one bit, and neither has my opinion on creating a universal online id for online poker players, so I’ll ignore those as well.

But I do have one more suggestions to add to the list.

Suggestion #6 for Online Poker Operators

* #6 – Eliminate the showing of mucked hands in hand histories

Despite my desire to eliminate all third-party software including tracking software, I know people will find ways around whatever measures the sites put in place and use them anyway, and frankly I don’t see the site’s caring enough to do anything about it. So I’ve come up with a quick-fix that should be pretty uncontroversial: Stop showing mucked hands in hand histories.

Put the dataminers on notice

I never understood why hand histories showed mucked hands in the first place. This is never done in live poker, and it really serves no purpose in terms of game security. The only reason would be to detect collusion, but the type of collusion you would detect would be blatantly apparent to begin with.

My estimation is that this will cut the number of minable hands by at least 25%. I arrived at this number very scientifically (using the simplest, rounded-off, stats I could think of) by assuming that the average player wins about 50% of their showdowns, and if we make the further assumption that 50% of the time they lose they will have the option to muck their hands, we get 25% less hand histories with usable data.

If a player would have the option to muck their hand in a live poker game than this option should be extended to them online, especially when we consider the advantages this information has in an online setting compared to a live setting.

Poker Bots

A second reason I am advocating this change is that it will help reduce the effectiveness of Poker Bots. Poker Bots are becoming increasingly more problematic in the online poker world as the developers continually improve upon their products. One of the biggest improvements has been in adaptive learning; where the poker bots take any information they have on you and develop strategies to counteract you.

A simple fix

Furthermore, this is an easy to incorporate change and one that there is no “backdoor” for. This would also cut down on the number of sites selling hand histories as data would be harder to collect and wouldn’t be as useful, except for the highest volume players on a site.

By giving players the option to show their cards we could drastically reduce the impact of data-mining in online poker, by both human and computer opponents, and diminish the advantage the players who rely solely on data have. Imagine if they were suddenly forced to make real time adjustments to your play instead of referencing their 10,000 hand database on your play, or the effectiveness of a poker bot after it was denied ¼ of the information they use to gather?

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