This week on the pokerfuse podcast Nick and Mike discuss the recent announcement that the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure will not return to The Bahamas in 2020. Run It Once Poker expects to have Sit & Gos by the end of the year, the guys share their thoughts about the site. And to wrap things up, with poker bots making headlines—including a recent report from Morgan Stanley— the guys add their perspective on the topic.


Full Transcript

Mike: Hello and welcome everybody to the Pokerfuse podcast. It’s September 19th, 2019. This is episode number 28. I’m your host Mike Gentile, along with my co-host Nick Jones. Today on the podcast, PokerStars has announced that the PokerStars Caribbean adventure will not be returning to the Bahamas in 2020. Run it Once Poker has announced that it would be adding s it and gos before the end of the year and it strives to be a top online poker platform. According to Morgan Stanley, poker bots are a big problem for online poker operators.

The PokerStars Caribbean Adventure will not return to The Bahamas in 2020.

Nick: The PokerStars has decided that the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, the PCA will not be returning in January 2020. This announcement came late last week just a couple of weeks after they announced that the PSPC would be returning next year but not in the Caribbean but in Barcelona.

Mike: I can’t say it was a big surprise for everybody. I know that there has been a lot of push-back from players in recent years about looking to perhaps get away from the Atlantis and the Bahamas, but it was quite an interesting- the timing of the announcement was quite interesting coming just on the heels of the natural disaster that occurred down there. I know that some had speculated that perhaps they could have handled that better, but it was difficult when the circumstances brought themselves together, such as the announcement of the PSPC.

The timing was actually running short on when they would have to announce the PCA returning to the Bahamas if it were to do so. I believe that came out in an interview that was unrelated to the PSPC so it wasn’t something that— It didn’t seem like it was something that PokerStars actively pushed out as an announcement to happen right after the hurricane.

Nick: It seemed a bit unfortunate in the sense of- I know I was researching for an article about the Bahamas and just the situation there and the relief efforts there. The first article I read was, I think, The Wall Street Journal. The article started, the first paragraph is an interview with the owner of the Atlantis resort saying, “What we need is tourism to still come here. We need to get the message out that large parts of the Bahamas are completely fine.”

I think it’s unfortunate timing. Obviously, I think PokerStars have been planning this for a while. I don’t think the decision was made in any way related to what happened there. If anything, it’s kind of surprising that this wasn’t announced a year ago. In an ideal world, they would have announced this ahead of the last PCA to say, “This is our last one ever. We get to go out on a bang with the PSPC.” Really drum up the excitement for it rather than—

Obviously they decided, let’s announce the PSPC first and then we’ll announce it afterward, which is an odd PR decision. But obviously, I think they wanted to let the PSPC shine on its own for a while. I don’t think many lament the loss of the PC in the Bahamas that has been going for 15 years there. People perhaps got a little bit tired of the resort and looking for something new.

I found it interesting that the statement the PokerStars issued us did not say that they were retiring the PCA brand. They just said the PCA wouldn’t return in the Atlantis next year. It leaves open the possibility for it to go somewhere else in the Caribbean or ultimately to return back to that resort in another year, it just wouldn’t be there in January 2020.

Mike: Yes. You make a good point there that had been known prior to last year’s PCA that they probably would have played it a big to try and get as much bang for their buck as they could, but it’s likely that the decision not to go back to the Atlantis came after last years PCA. How they handle that with the announcement of this years PSPC, yes, hindsight, it’s easy to look back and say they could have done a better job with that but all in all- here is a question that I have for you, Nick, I saw that PartyPoker was doing some charitable work in the Bahamas and they do have an event coming up later this year still on the islands. I was wondering, have PokerStars announced anything in that regard?

Nick: Yes. With the PartyPoker one they’re carrying poker party the CPP kind of their PCA equivalent really which was in the Dominican Republic for two years. Last year for the first time went to a new resort called Baha Mar which is on the same island near Nassau the capital of the Bahamas. They’re going back this year and they will be back there in two months time, I think it’s mid-November they visit.

That event is still there and they’re running a couple of things to raise money for the relief efforts there. One is that they just have a Just Giving page up where people can donate to Red Cross efforts. I think they’re running a twitter campaign that if you donate and retweet, then you enter into a lottery to win, I think a package, a $6,000 package to the CPP. That’s a very small thing but just a way that people can donate and maybe enter into a prize draw.

The bigger thing that they’re doing is, they’re running a pretty cool charity tournament. It’s an online tournament. It’s a $100 to enter, it allows reentries and 100% of the money goes to- I think is a Red Cross effort, really some charitable effort to help with the relief efforts of the hurricane. The prize money for that, they are putting up multiple packages to the Caribbean Poker Party.

They are putting up I think three like 15 to 20,000 dollar packages and a few more $6,000 packages. The total prize money is close to $100,000 across those two promotions, I think 80 or 90,000 dollars. That’s a pretty nice incentive that PartyPoker have given for players if they want to be donating money to the efforts. That was good to see.

Mike: Yes. It sounds like they’re doing quite a lot to get players down there.

Nick: Yes. On the PokerStars front, we heard nothing from them. We saw nothing come out of them. We’ve seen PokerStars in the past they’ve run the perhaps larger humanitarian crisis. They’ve run like charity tournaments where basically it’s a way of donating. You into the tournament and I think it’s just a donation system. They used to do that. I think they’ve done it a bit less recently. S omething that we saw is they do have in the PokerStars New Jersey client, there’s a link to, I can’t remember the charity off the top of my head, but again a charity page.

That’s there. We haven’t seen whether there’s any kind of additional incentive or much promise from PokerStars or anything like that. From what we can see right now and all we heard back from PokerStars was they were kind of promoting these links if people wanted to donate but that’s all we’ve seen from PokerStars at the moment or from anyone else. PartyPoker definitely seem to be leading the charge there with the charitable drive.

Mike: Yes, it seems like a bit of effort behind a charity drive of their own could have helped neutralize some of the questionable PR that came from the announcement that they won’t be back in 2020. As you mentioned, there is a link in the New Jersey client that is promoted to players there so that they can give. Who knows? Maybe they have something else planned coming up and it just hasn’t been announced yet.

Nick: Yes. I will say I think PokerStars have currently just got their hand full with everything they’re trying to do with PSPC and platinum passes. We won’t get into too much details here otherwise this segment is going to be really long. I think it’s going to be coming out in the next day or two, a really nice long article on Pokerfuse detailing all the ways that you can win a platinum pass in the next couple of months. Is that right, Mike?

Mike: Yes. That’s going to be coming out on Friday not sure when everyone will be listening to this podcast but it will have detailed information on how and where people can get more information about winning a platinum pass.

Nick: Yes definitely check that out but it’s- putting it together, pulling all that information we got similar article on Pro with a slightly more industry bend to it. If you’re a subscriber, definitely check that out detailing all the methods they’re doing. There’s just a lot and piecing it all together took a while. Like PokerStars haven’t made it easy yet to work out everything they’re doing and I feel maybe they are just- there’s a lot going on.

We counted six different live events over the next two to three months were a platinum pass will be given away in some format. With a year out till the tournament, they’ve really kicked things off into a high gear. They’re running this mega pass satellites, which again feel very under-promoted to me because they’re very interesting. It’s a four-step satellite system. You have to start pretty early on if you want to end up at the end of the giving away a platinum pass every week for the next two to three months. They’ve got loads going on. I feel like they may still be trying to play catch up with their own efforts because there’s just a lot of activity.

Mike: I promise we won’t get too deep in the PSPC not to extend this segment. I did want to ask your opinion on something. It seems to me like there’s maybe a stronger effort this year to get Platinum passes in the hands of more recreational players. I know last year, they were putting these Platinum passes on the top of a lot of live events, giving them to the winner which would have the effect of making the player pool for the PSPC more skilled than if they gave them away randomly. This year, it seems to be a bit different. What are your thoughts on that?

Nick: It absolutely seems to be the case. It’s pretty early days so, we don’t want to draw too many conclusions. Honestly, I can’t remember the first month of Platinum Pass promotion they did in the year-long drive. What we’re seeing at the moment, a good example, again, something we just wrote on pro today was, last year, perhaps most famously, Ramon Colillas , he won the PSPC. He won his Platinum Pass and he won it through the CEP. It’s something we talked about, I think a couple of podcasts ago, this Spanish local Spanish talk. He won the leaderboard across the whole event.

I think he shipped one tournament, final table two others, he got the most points. At the end of the year, he won this leaderboard. Obviously, you have to be a very skilled player to do that. The prize at the top was a Platinum Pass. This year, they haven’t said that’s going to be the price of the leaderboard. It very well could be thought they have said is that the next two stops that they’ve got this year into fairly small cities in Spain, they will just do a random prize draw. Any online entrant who will sacrifice their way to the live event on day two, they will have a draw and someone will win a Platinum Pass.

They did a bit of that absolutely the first time around but almost every Platinum Pass given away so far and I think we’re over 15 has had a heavy dose of random factor to it. 100% it seems like so W. Coop’s another example. I’m pretty sure last year, the leaderboard winner and the main event winners won Platinum Passes. Again, they could do that this year but so far, they’ve made no mention. There’s been no connection between W. Coop and platinum pass at all. The only online methods we’ve seen so far is just completely random installs rewards chest and this new mega power system which is obviously skill-based but it’s very casual player focus.

It’s encouraging people to basically start their path either for free or three like $2 spinning guys, I think. Really, the first month has been very casual player-focused. I think they’re looking to get those stories from recreational players, average Joe moneymaker type people. I think maybe the one downside of the Colillas win , fantastic story, it did turn out that he was a very, very good poker player. Although he wasn’t a professional, he won both of the two big Spanish tours that year. He won the leaderboards on both of them. It didn’t quite hit the money maker average Joe type stories and maybe just doubling down on it this year.

Mike: It’ll be curious to see players reactions in the forums and throughout the community, just to see what they think of this change or at least what appears to be a change in strategy with the Platinum Passes for the PSPC because on one hand, they’re going to be probably upset that they’re not having the chance to win this Platinum Passes that they had last time. On the other hand, it should make the field quite a bit softer.

Nick: I think it should. Obviously, that’s what PokerStars are going for. They have said, although they’re not going to say how many Platinum Passes they’ll give away, they want it to be bigger and better. I think the way to do that is to highlight how many of these passes are getting put in the hands of hopefuls, which will hopefully obviously drive the professional players to— A lot of them will be coming to EBT Barcelona or any way still a huge stop for the main event for the high rollers to get them playing the 25 Kevin.

I think the only other interesting aspect is going back to the PCA. The end of that is it just leaving a hole in the calendar for an event that was quite unique in— It wasn’t quite a limited scope for poker stars life stops. The EPT this year was an event or two events in Sochi, an event in Madrid, Barcelona and we’ll have Prague in December. I guess there was Monte Carlo.

Mike: Maybe I’m mistaken, but I thought that I saw something where the Ozzy millions was moving into January this year. Is that correct, do you know? I’m not sure so definitely don’t quote me on that one. But yes, you’re right. It’s at beginning of the year, they really didn’t have a lot of competition there. It will be interesting to see if someone steps up to try and fill that spot in the calendar if it hasn’t been already.

Nick: Yes, it’s both a spot in the calendar, but it’s also just I feel like the type of event that PokerStars have, it was very much- it felt like the event where they would invite a lot of media to, I think a lot of their staff would go to. I think it probably had quite a lot corporate benefits. It was a cool place that people could go. It was good place to try and bring mainstream media to go look at this fairytale stuff that we do. Look at the stories that we tell, that kind of thing.

They lose that a bit. I think Monte Carlo is something that they’ve never done in that way. My impression where, PCA was very much the event where they would try and get, I think, some broader coverage of and really get— Like there was a branding exercise involved with it. I wonder if maybe the PSPC is just that now, so it’s going to be Barcelona in 2020, but it was always that permanent fixture in January, where a lot of players would go and meet, a lot of media would go and meet and it would just be— The start of the year would kick off with two weeks of poker stars in the sun.

It’s going to be a hole there and I wonder if they look to replace it. All their signs point to just European focused now. We’re not seeing the money maker tour in the US. From everything that we know, everything’s going to be European focused in their key markets, Russia, Spain and France now, the UK. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if we saw an EPT London, which is kind of surprising they don’t have really. They only have F estival stops there. I imagine we’ll see that but not in January. That’d be horrific.

Mike: Well, who knows? As noted the actual PCA brand has not been retired so perhaps we will see it reemerge somewhere else in the Caribbean in the near future.

Run It Once Poker expects to have Sit & Gos by the end of the year.

Mike: While on that, not the biggest online poker site in the industry and quite frankly, far from it, Run it Once P oker has its sights set on becoming number one. We recently published an article on Pokerfuse that quoted Phil Gelfand, on that poker podcast, with Adam Short, Daniel Negreanu, Terrance Chan and Ross Henry, saying that he thinks with a little bit of effort, Run it Once P oker could be the number one poker site in the industry. What are your thoughts on that, Nick?

Nick: That is a big goal that— I know party poker. I think Patrick Leonard said that three years ago, he said, “If in a year’s time we’re not number one, I’ll be disappointed,” so they missed that mark. I wouldn’t be surprised if like when Unibet came along, they had high hopes. I don’t know. There’s no harm in setting your sights high. I think people often underestimate the huge funnel that poker stars have in driving you customers constantly to their brands that developing takes years and years of skill and brand equity. That is, I think, almost insurmountable. But do I think there’s huge scope for them to 10 X in size? Yes, absolutely.

Mike: Yes, and Phil had said that in, I believe it was that they were just one or two updates or one or two features away from becoming a top two or three site. Now that I think about it, maybe that was on his blog post and not on the podcast, I forgot. I could be mixing those two up.

Nick: When you say one or two updates away from being a top two or three online poker site, was that a top like their software will be amongst the top two or three or is it literally in terms of traffic? Because something in the back of my head says, I read something like that on the blog and it was like he was saying that their software would be amongst the best within a couple of updates.

Mike: Yes, you’re right. Here I got the quote in front of me, it says, “I feel like we are one or two updates away from a clear top two or three poker platform experience and I think that a year from now, we have a good chance of being number one.”

Nick: I’m not sure if I disagree with that really, the updates but they’re just huge. The updates they’ve got to me seem as big as everything they’ve done so far. They are having both sit and gos in tournaments, we can lock them into one update if they can do it in one and having a mobile client. They’re both huge things. Then you could add on to that probably some other games, although I’m not so sure maybe they need either zoom or luxury single product or something else. Yes, they’re two or three updates where they’re just massive updates.

Mike: Yes. I think that the term platform experience could be debated exactly what is meant by that. I think that two or three is quite ambitious as far as updates go. What we did find out and I had mixed up my sources there, was that on that poker podcast, Phil did say that they would likely be having sit and goes by the end of the year, but MTTs were still going to be away off. Right there, there’s two updates. For as good of experiences it is playing on Run it Once P oker, they still do have some work to do. As you mentioned, a fastfold product, for example, would go a long way to getting their platform up to par with the others that are leading the industry.

Regardless of the software itself, you still need the liquidity to have the real important experience. That’s something I know that they’re working on. Phil is now playing on the site himself. I think we talked about that recently on the pod and he’s also streaming a lot more even streaming games that are not on Run it Once P oker. He’s doing a bit of work to try and raise his public facing image back up to perhaps where it was prior to embarking on this venture but those marketing efforts are going to hopefully pay off for the site when it comes to traffic and getting the liquidity for the games that they need.

Nick: Yes, and I hope that they get to the point that at least the concept can be properly tested because I feel like until they have a mobile client and until they have tournaments, then we can’t really say whether many of the things they’ve done are successful or not. I think the difficulty will be is that one thing is having- and the same goes in MTT, is having even bigger problem in terms of liquidity.

You can’t just snap on 1000 euro guarantee tournament and expect it to fail because you posted that number up there. It’s going to help and it gives you a lot of flexibility in terms of marketing in terms of getting the message out there organically about what’s available, but it’s not like all of a sudden they can have like six figure guaranteed MTTs . They will just not have the budget for taking the overlays. We see with Partypoker, I think it might have been back in the day, if you had announced it early enough then people would find out about big overlays and fill the space to the point that there wasn’t much for no like Partypoker runs with like 15 to 20% overlays that we’ve seen in power Fest.

I think the first day they had $250,000 of overlays some totals missing by six figures it can’t happen, it’s not the money is out there and it will come to you if you just post it. That’s a long way of saying that step one is obviously offering it but then step two, they will have a real challenge filling sit and gos so they actually run no one wants to sit and wait for sit and go to pop and 45 minutes later, it still hasn’t. I hope they get to the point where they can at least find out whether they can do it or not.

Mike: Yes, as far as marketing goes as well. By the way full disclosure, Pokerfuse has entered an affiliate agreement with Run it Once Poker so we do have that I just wanted to let everyone know that we’re not trying to pretend like we’re anything but. As far as marketing goes, they’re doing something else that I think could boost their exposure quite a bit. I heard—

Nick: Can I guess what it is?

Mike: Yes, go ahead.

Nick: Is it marketing with us? Is it having a affiliates deals… ?

Mike: I do think that marketing it with us will be a benefit for the site, but that is not what I’m talking about here. I heard Phil mention on their poker podcast that they would be looking to add nosebleed stakes, perhaps even before they get to MTTs. I think that that could be an important draw. Now there’s a lot of drawbacks of having those bleed stakes for an operator, but when you are an up and comer, I think you need to take some chances. I think that’s one chance that could end up with a lot of high visibility and could draw players to the site, get them aware of the site, get them playing on the site, get them definitely railing and I’ll be interested to see how how they pull that off. What kind of games they have, what kind of high stakes players will be playing on the site and the indication is that could be coming in 2020, relatively soon, I would imagine.

Nick: It was interesting because I know when he was, I think pre-launch, he was talking about plans for the site and high stakes was always there in the plan and they always involve doing something a bit different. Like, I want to even say he suggested that he would allow hearts high stakes or there was some slight change because the problem he’s got is with Run it Once is that it does not lend itself to a railbirds’ product right.

They’re by default anonymous tables. There’s not even hand history, you can’t be like posting and sharing like really thick hands and the anonymous thing other than Phil Galfond has his own real name now, it really doesn’t work at all. Obviously, the model that they have will have to change if they want to tap into that, I think and they definitely want—

Mike: Just to correct you on one thing quick, Nick, I’m sorry to interrupt but they do have downloadable hand histories now. That was a feature.

Nick: They do but not if you’re observing the table.

Mike: Right, only the players can post them themselves, true.

Nick: Yes, exactly and a big thing about railing these hands is that you can see- they seek hands and copy and paste the hands and share with friends. Any people all who will stream it and do poke and Joey will be able to do videos about it and stuff but the product definitely, I think, needs to be altered and I think that again, that’s something that Phil has said going back a long time is that they would have a slightly different experience for like the nosebleed games.

Mike: Yes and it doesn’t seem like that’s too far out of their capability. We saw it happen, as you mentioned when Phil himself started playing on the site. They made him be not anonymous. I think that getting everyone their own avatars- if you had a Phil Ivey, people would start showing up. Patrick Antonia’s lot of the big old school names, perhaps, would be a bigger draw than maybe some of the big online killers but I think it’s a good idea. I’d like to see it happen and I think it could pay off big.

Poker bots make headlines at Morgan Stanley, MPN and elsewhere

Nick: I think we’re going to have to talk about bots. I’d hoped that we could avoid the subject entirely but there’s just been too much going on in the last week that it would be real miss of us not to try and tackle the topic.

Mike: All right. There’s all kinds of bots all over the place and I don’t mean that as that they’re running rampant. I just mean the bots are an interesting topic in today’s world and especially when looking in online poker.

Nick: Here are the things that happened in a bullet point form and then you can choose what you want to dive into. Obviously, the big thing is and I say the big thing- I think that maybe set this conversation going was a week ago, Morgan Stanley issued an investor’s note where they reduced price targets broadly speaking reduce the optimism of three companies specifically the stars group, GVC and Playtech prompted by basically went two months ago an online poker bot run by Face— I think it was Facebook’s AI team Pluribus reported that they had created a human beating six max no limit hold on bot and Morgan Stanley said that this specifically showed that bots were a huge problem online poker. Those operator face to constant battle. It was now a question of when not if these bots would dampen the draw of online poker and therefore they were reducing price targets on these three companies.

We had that. We had then a couple of days later, Poker Snowie, who produced what they say a human beating but it’s a piece of training software that you can use to analyze your play, get advice on your play. It’s been around for like three years.

Mike: Former sponsor of Pokerfuse?

Nick: Yes. You’re been very good on your disclosures this episode, Mike, there were former sponsors going back like three years or so. This company dates back like decades plus because they’re pretty big in the backgammon world. They wrote the original human beating backgammon bot, I think. But anyway— They released a big PR basically questioning the whole original Facebook AI Press release about this was the first-ever bot. Obviously, they say that they have software that has been able to beat humans in six-max big bet games for a long time, et cetera.

Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but we saw a couple of days ago, MPN decides to release data on the last two and a half, three years of game integrity efforts they’ve made to police the games and close bot accounts. This also comes after Partypoker started doing this a few months ago. We have eight, nine months of data. In fact, Partypoker released another month worth of data I think today or yesterday. Now, we have two big operators releasing information about bots. There we go. I think that’s all the main bullet points about bots in the last week. Mike, what would you like to dive into from that?

Mike: One of those definitely jumps out at me as being a bit more interesting than the others. That’s the MPN one. I haven’t had a chance to read what they put out. I’m curious what their data has shown.

Nick: They released quite different data to what Partypoker have released, a bit more information. What Partypoker have done is they’ve just released the number of accounts closed, the amount of money seized every month dating back to last December. They split it between their .com and .eu networks. They previously, but have stopped, they released how much of these closures were due to purely their own internal efforts and what percentage were due to reports from other players prompting them to investigate

Mike: The hand histories went away. Is that correct?

Nick: Yes, I think you’re correct. MPN this week released data going back to January 2016. Every single month, they released relative figures on the percentage of players who were investigated. It goes across all their monthly active users, what percentage did they investigate? What percentage did they close? Then the absolute figures on the amount of money seized and returned to players that month. [crosstalk]

I think I have all of them. They also have a monthly figure for what percentage- I can’t remember. They came up with a really nice term for it. Basically, here it is, their proactive detection ratio. This was the number of accounts they closed entirely by their own integrity team, say like, Partypoker’s figure. Yes, they released all of that information. What would you like to know?

Mike: I’d like that last figure. Their integrity figure would be interesting.

Nick: I’m going to make you guess what these numbers, obviously, as we do on the podcast. Broadly speaking over the last three years, what is their proactive detection ratio? What percentage was entirely due to game integrity team?

Mike: This is the number of total bots that were attributed just to internal detection. Correct?

Nick: As a percentage, yes.

Mike: I would say 79.

Nick: It was actually 98.

Mike: 98? That’s quite high.

Nick: In the last year, it’s close to 99%.

Mike: Let’s back up a bit because I think there’s one thing that may be skewing that number. MPN didn’t have hand histories for a majority that time. Is that correct?

Nick: No, that’s incorrect.

Mike: No, I thought they just recently went back to offering hand histories.

Nick: Their original client, which is still alive in some places is always had hand histories. Their Prima client, which was released maybe a year ago stole— That was optional for a very long time. They’ve since started the back in. Although that is a good point, I don’t think there’s a dip in that figure during the time when they released the premium client. There’s high as 99% to compare. Partypoker is more like 75%. From what I can see is a directly comparable figure. They seem to be reporting the same thing. MPN is definitely claiming here that they are catching a lot more than— Again, we’ve talked about this before.

Mike: Or players are reporting a lot less.

Nick: Exactly. We could say like maybe partypoker got loads more people who are proactively reporting them. I don’t suppose but you take it on face value. MPN is definitely saying with this figure like 99% we catch pro anyone’s even told us about them. I think the numbers get more interesting. Have you really not looked at these numbers at all, Mike?

Mike: I have not at all.

Nick: What percentage of monthly players in a monthly basis, how many accounts percentage do they investigate?

Mike: What percentage of accounts that they investigate? Percentage of their total account?

Nick: Yes. Percentage of total monthly active users are investigated for potentially cheating?

Mike: This is by both player reports and internal, I would say 18.

Nick: Interesting, 18 percent of all players were investigated every month?

Mike: Is that high? I can’t imagine it’s low.

Nick: Yes, the number is historically about 7.5 percent. In the last year, it’s more like 10 percent, which actually certainly is quite high. On a monthly basis, 10 percent of while players are looked into. But again, looking into this, mostly in an automated system, and like one player giving it a two-minute glance over some stats, it depends how authorities investigations are. Anyway, so the main figure, what percentage of monthly active users have their accounts closed due to fraudulent activity?

Mike: That’s got to be pretty low. One?

Nick: Yes. Pretty much. Historically, it’s 1.25 percent. The last year, it’s down to point 0.67 percent. You know that.

Mike: Do they attribute that to any particular reason? Prenup perhaps?

Nick: One thing that jumps out in their numbers- couple of things really is they really improved although they say they improve their game integrity systems about a year ago. When they did that, when they implemented these things, they caught a huge bot ring and seized over 300,000 euros in one month. Ever since then, the investigation rates went from about five percent to about 10 percent of their player base. But their closure rates has got lower. They are saying since they’ve improved these processes, they scared away basically all bots.

They said up until this point, bot operators might be lacks and left around, obviously, hundreds of thousands of years in their accounts. Since we’ve been much more proactive, they’re basically implying like operates much more scared to be leaving much money around. It’s much harder to operate on network. They’re definitely putting out these figures because they’re proud of them. No doubt about that. They think they look good against partypoker’s numbers now. They reported about a million euros in total refunded over this period of three years.

It roughly works out about 25,000 euros a month over this time period. Now Partypoker reports close to about a 100 and a 120,000 dollars a month. The Partypoker is four, five, maybe six times larger than MPN. They roughly work out like they’re in the same order of magnitude, at least of how much they’re both seizing in proportion to their network size. MPN might be fractionally more, might be about the same. They’re both talking in the same kind of terms but MPN is definitely saying that we’re catching almost all of them ourselves. Our numbers have gone down. Here’s three years worth of data.

Transparency levels have increased. We talked before Party Poker, very commendable what they’ve done, I feel like MPN have even upped their stakes even more, here and saying this is what we’re doing. We’ve said before we see other operators do this. We’ve talked before about some of the problems with Party Pokers numbers, and the implications and drawing conclusions. I feel MPN directly addressed some of these things. I think their data is fascinating, would love to see that more from Partypoker and from other operators as well.

Mike: On the topic of bots, one of the things that we’re seeing is we’re comparing what one site does to what another site does and how many accounts they catch. How much dollars or how much money that they confiscate and taking us a bit back to the last segment listening to Phil on that poker podcast. He was talking specifically about their strategy for catching bots. Something really jumped out at me when listening to you talk about MPN and Party.

This approach is step one is annoyance, make it difficult for bots to operate on the platform. Their step two is prevention through detection, as Phil stated. If they’re very successful at step one, it’s going to be hard then to compare if they were ever to start releasing the numbers of bots that they’ve caught or the money that they’ve confiscated, it’s going to make those numbers hard to compare across the board. That strikes me as maybe there are certain aspects of each software platform that makes it more susceptible to bots or makes it harder for them to operate.

Nick: Yes, I definitely think that’s possible they also have the advantage of building something from the ground up with that in mind. I think it’s easy to talk when ultimately, you’re very a small operator and you’re going to be flying under the radar, quite a bit. Definitely, there’s an aspect of running online poker room where it’s kind of you don’t have to outrun the line, you just have to outrun your friend in the room.

You don’t have to be impossible to run a button, you just have to be a much more difficult than a much larger, more blase site where you can just fly under the radar and do your thing. As long as running on does better than other people, they’re going to be ahead of the game, absolutely. There’s absolutely an aspect of that. We should probably just touch on very briefly— or maybe we don’t have to. The Morgan Stanley opinion regarding the Facebook bot and how that meant the death to online poker, do you feel like—

Mike: Yes, I think we should. And before we wrap up, I have kind of a side note about bots to that I’d like to to raise and get your opinion on, but let’s let’s talk about the Morgan Stanley stuff because it looks like it’s gotten picked up by mainstream news, it’s getting a lot of attention.

Nick: Yes, I want to circle back to because to because I think that perhaps the most interesting think. it’s very detailed report, some of it I don’t agree with, but broadly speaking there’s a lot that’s not that contentious. They’re saying there are advances in AI, it shows that there’s absolutely products out there, at least, this in an Academic sense, that can be even very good players that online poker that there is a constant battle of operators both combating that and combating the perception of it.

And that’s all very true. The only question is whether there was a big watershed moment a big thing this thing happened and therefore the whole situation is changed. From my perspective, that’s always been the case and that it under an academic setting a poker bot can now do X, Y&Z. It really doesn’t change the situation on the ground, which is bots have been running on the sites since MPN, January 2016 they were catching bots.

They don’t have to be beating world-class players, that’s fairly irrelevant to both the perception of bots and the reality of bots on site. I feel like this was already should have been baked to anyone’s price of the sales group, for example, is understanding that this is a known risk and a constant battle. It’s literally written in the annual reports of these companies in their risks and uncertainties section about bots and the perception of bots.

Mike: I suspect that even though AI has been advancing, that perhaps the detection methods by the site’s has advanced more rapidly over the past two years than AI has. Bots have been around for a long time and detection has always been there, but there’s always been that “Hey, are they letting these bots operate on the platform because it’s generating more rake?” But since it’s become more visible and become more of a maybe a PR liability I think we’ve seen more operators come out talking about bots and perhaps even increasing their detection methods at maybe what could be a faster rate than the advancement of the actual bots that play on the sites.

Nick: Exactly. I think a better metric if you were to measure how much of a concern bot should be, it wouldn’t be whether in a lab test whether an AI group have built a deep mind like bot to beat Chris Jesus Ferguson. It was literally him and four other people, That’s irrelevant. What’s relevant is how our efforts ongoing to evade detection and what are the efforts by operators to catch cheaters?

There’s lots of things still in the Arsenal of operators that could be used from like forcing webcams and voice activation we even had like punch brokers on this podcast talking about that. That seems rather fanciful, but there’s a lot that could still be done. I absolutely would say that operators have stepped up their game in its methods, I am not suggesting that the problem is solved and moving in that direction, but I do not think that this Facebook perverse thing two months ago, changed the reality of the situation one bit. We’ve had court cases in Sweden about cooperate pot operators court we’ve had huge PLO mistakes, PLO rings court and PokerStars three or four years ago. I think I’m going roughly off the back of my hand, we had bots at the express a tournament in winner-max two years ago and court cases around that like this is not a new thing, it just is really this comes back to your first point which is this thing got picked up a lot in mainstream media.

These investors know itself seems to create more of a negative perception problem than it was, it’s almost self-fulfilling. It was foretelling something that its own investors were saying, which I imagine is very common with these public investors notes but I don’t know. The thing is, everything they wrote in it is true. It was very useful piece of information for someone to understand the threat to the industry. It’s very relevant. I just think it’s talking on a moving target, which has been around for years not like this thing happened and now online poker is dead.

Something else was saw written on this was, let’s look at like online like back end. That’s actually a good example talking polka snowy. You know if you get real money back online because the bots have always been really good, I don’t think that’s why you don’t get real money. You don’t get real money cash game back in life, do you?

Mike: No.

Nick: You do not, there’s not the world’s I mean there are some back end tournament’s. They’re mostly for hobbyist, there are a couple of professionals and a few hustlers around but you do not get huge backgammon clubs in London because- and it’s the same with chess and it’s not because they could have a bot with them. It’s because no one wants to play backgammon for cash. It’s probably too skill heavy is probably one reason and it’s just not popular, where live poker is absolutely massive.

I don’t really think it’s primarily due to the risk of bots that no one wants to do it. Online poker has had bots for years, they’d be real for years and it is a constant battle and that absolutely should be a consideration if you’re an investor in an online poker company. I just feel that this was weirdly timed and weirdly tied into something of a non-event.

Mike: Yes, well tangentially related another, I guess potential risk to the online poker industry that bots pose and I’d like your opinion on this is I’ve seen a lot of chatter lately about iGaming moving into customer service bots and it just strikes me that online poker companies are so notoriously bad at customer service to begin with, to automate that process with a bot it’s just going to turn off customers even more, in my opinion.

I was curious to know what your thoughts on it were and if you had seen any or heard any chatter about any of the online poker operators implementing bot customer service as part of their platform?

Nick: I haven’t done. Seriously, I presumably that will work like a live chat thing on a web site.

Mike: Yes, they already have a problem with can spam email responses. I can’t imagine that having that happen in real time in a chat box is going to make people satisfied and want to play on those sites.

Nick: Right, I can’t disagree with you there.

Mike: All right. I was just curious if you had heard any news on it that has been, I’ve seen it even outside of the gaming industry, it’s starting to gain a lot of steam and popularity and I just I don’t know, I see it as a train wreck or a disaster waiting to happen if that’s ever implemented into online poker.

Nick: Bots are taking over the world might be considered inevitable, isn’t it? They’re going to take everyone’s jobs.

Mike: They’re going to be doing podcasts soon.

Nick: That’d be fantastic. Take Thurday afternoon’s off.


Mike: Well, that wraps up this episode of the Pokerfuse podcast. As a reminder, please give us a like and a subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and you can also follow us and interact with us on Twitter, Nick is @pokerprojones. I am @SpookyBugs. Thanks, everyone for tuning in.