PokerTracker’s Steven McLoughlin On the New, Anonymous Bodog
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Bodog yesterday rolled out a software “upgrade” that, among other changes, made all poker play anonymous by removing screen names and player notes. “Bodog is not really after us. They’re after data-mining sites … if you read the Bodog terms and conditions, PokerTracker legally qualifies.” One of the many side-effects is poker tracking and analytics software that previously supported Bodog abruptly stopped working – not just the heads-up display (HUD), but personal tracking of results. One such casualty was PokerTracker.
Bodog’s move may have come as a shock to many players. But it was no surprise to PokerTracker’s Steven McLoughlin.
“We’ve known about this since January of last year,” he says, without any prompting. “The funny thing is I actually have a good relationship with Bodog. They’ve never called out PokerTracker specifically; we get on with them fine with the exception of their business direction for the new client. Our business is caught up in this mess unintentionally. Bodog’s real goal is to protect their players from data mining tools which were never permitted.”
PokerTracker imported poker hands played at Bodog – just as it does with poker hands from all the other major poker networks – and with that data it displayed an in-game HUD, tracked your personal results and allowed opponent analysis. But this all changed yesterday, when Bodog’s update broke support for PokerTracker along with many other third-party tools.
“Bodog is not really after us. They’re after data-mining sites … if you read the Bodog terms and conditions, PokerTracker legally qualifies. The Bodog TOS is dated 2010. It’s never been updated.” “PokerTracker is basically an automated note-taking system … we work within the terms and conditions with every single network we support.” Despite yesterday’s software update and an apparent shift in stance, the terms and conditions still do not appear to prohibit the use of personal tracking software.
“PokerTracker is basically an automated note-taking system. We don’t break any terms and conditions anywhere,” Steven explains. “I cannot speak for our competitors, but we work with the terms and conditions of every single network we support. The moment terms and conditions change, we change our policies. Bodog’s marketing this year said 'No more HUDs,’ 'No more trackers’ – but the terms of service never changed.”
“It’s not in our best interests to [go against the policy of the sites]. In order for our customers to be happy, we need to have good relationships with the various poker sites we do business with. We have great relationships with nearly everybody is the industry.”
But if PokerTracker and its ilk are not the main targets, what are?
“Bodog appears to be going after companies they feel are stealing their intellectual property,” he answers. “Bodog’s stance appears to be that if a company is breaking their terms and conditions, then this is a company stealing their intellectual property.”
“Bodog’s change essentially challenges those on the fringe to create tools that could be used for no good in an virtually unregulated environment.”
Soon after the Bodog update, PokerTracker tweeted publicly that they were no longer planning to support Bodog. Does the introduction of anonymous tables eliminate any possibility of HUDs at Bodog?
“No. Although PokerTracker is not planning to develop for the new Bodog client, other, less scrupulous, companies could create a HUD that operates during the current table session. Bodog’s change essentially challenges those on the fringe to create tools that could be used for no good in an virtually unregulated environment.”
Earlier this year, PokerTracker added such session-only HUD support for Cake Poker when the network authorized a PokerTracker-exclusive trial. At the time, player names on Cake were anonymized so HUDs showed no historical data. The trial was successful and Cake now permits all third-party HUDs.
“Initially we were only allowed to place a HUD on Cake to [show the stats] for the current game session. We had no issues with that. Cake allowed us to do it. We proved it could be done.”
Since the introduction of HUDs at Cake, the network has gone further and begun to “de-anonymize” tracked data. “They’ve changed completely. Very recently, Cake realized the future is allowing the player a choice. If you choose to change your screen name, you’re allowed to. Screen names are no longer obfuscated. Cake has learned that transparency is the best policy.”
But isn’t the opposite direction that Bodog is going in? “Totally opposite.”