An issue that has begun to receive more attention in the poker community lately is the use of third-party software that automatically seats a player at a cash game table.
It is not always clear where the line should be drawn on what types of third-party software the sites should allow.
The purpose of these auto-seating scripts is to allow players to join tables that contain weaker players ahead of other strong players. These scripts can join a table within a fraction of a second of the targeted player sitting. This often causes the weaker player distress. Since it is clear that no human could physically click a mouse that quickly, suspicion and mistrust push these players away.
This software is not commercially available: If it were, and were commonly used, the result would be tables filling almost instantly at the mid- to high-stakes. Recreational players would feel increasingly targeted, and lose confidence that they are playing against legitimate, human opponents. Even with its limited distribution, chat logs posted on 2+2 demonstrate targeted players have already begun expressing concern over the use of these scripts.
Auto-seating scripts have been banned by the Ongame network, where a lack of waitlists created very intense competition for available seats.
In response to player complaints, Party Poker recently made the decision to disallow the seating scripts, stating that the scripts contravened their anti-cheating policy. “Please be advised that we take a negative stance against any players using an auto seating script and encourage you all to report any players known to be doing so and the names of any such software,” a Party Poker representative posted on 2+2.
PokerStars allows the use of these scripts to register for Sit-and-go tournaments. The commercially available program SngRegistrator scans the lobbies and automatically register its user in tournaments that contain a pre-set number of players that the user has previously indicated a preference for playing against.
PokerStars representative Lee Jones confirmed that Stars does allow this type of software, but it is “monitoring the situation.” Lee continued, “We know that programs such as SNG Registrator are becoming more prevalent and more powerful; we’re watching to see how this plays out.”
It is not always clear where the line should be drawn on what types of third-party software the sites should allow. Heads-up displays automatically calculate tendencies from thousands of hands. Software such as Table Ninja automatically calculates and enters bet sizes into the betting box. However, generally the ultimate decision and physical action must be taken by the player.
Sites should err on the side of banning software that takes the action for the player, particularly in cases where there is clear evidence that it has a negative impact on the confidence and enjoyment of their player bases.
Policing this type of third party software may not be straightforward for the poker sites and effective detection and enforcement strategies may take time to develop and implement. Nonetheless, taking the first step of officially disallowing the software will be a good first step in deterring and preventing its use.