Microgaming Poker Network is in the midst of many changes to its site rules with regards to online poker, as evidenced by its most recent rake program institution that now consists of a weighted contribution system. Now Microgaming looks to work toward the prevention of datamining by restricting hand histories for players.
On January 13, just one week after the implementation of the new rake program, Microgaming announced its intention to end datamining on its online poker sites by limiting the amount of information that can be obtained to use with third-party software. The computer programs that analyze hand histories are legal, but it has come to the attention of online sites that players use that information to gain an edge over opponents by analyzing their opponents’ play and using that data to devise strategies to beat those players. In order to discourage that practice, sites on the Microgaming network will not distribute hand histories in bulk, nor will they allow players to store them in that manner or store hand histories of regularly observed tables.
Microgaming’s Head of Poker, Andrew Clucas, explained that the purpose is to achieve a “more level playing field” for all players. Some counter that datamining is simply a tool that allows players who study the game intently to use that as an advantage over players who choose not to analyze hand histories, and winning players should not be penalized for using that tool properly. However, most in the poker industry conclude that the advantage is unfair.
Clucas responded, “Concern has been rising over the long-term effect of third party software upon the poker industry as a whole, and in particular the negative effect it has on the recreational player demographic. The decision to put a stop to the practice of datamining on the Poker Network is part of Microgaming’s overarching network strategy to support operators in attracting and retaining recreational players. It further demonstrates commitment in providing a secure and fair playing environment.”
Many online poker sites already prohibit datamining, as illustrated by the December 2009 incident involving Brian Townsend and Brian Hastings. The two CardRunners players and Full Tilt pros were accused of having used the data mining process to devise a strategy to play against mystery online pro Isildur1, which resulted in Hastings beating Isildur1 out of approximately $4 million. Full Tilt Poker found Townsend and Hastings in violation of its datamining policy and suspended the pros from play on the site for one month.