Prior to April 15th, the Merge Gaming Network did not have the support from a lot of poker software and online poker services. Although supported by the major trackers Hold’em Manager and Poker Tracker 3 since 2010, it had little support for more niche products and services. It also flew under the radar of professional “dataminers” – the illicit practice of observing or “mining” cash hand histories then selling these hands on to players.
But since Black Friday, all has changed. With PokerStars, Full Tilt and the Cereus Network leaving the US market, Merge was propelled in to the spotlight as the largest network of poker rooms still serving US customers.
Online services, pivoting to maintain their relevance to the remaining US player base, are giving Merge a much closer look.
Poker analytics and HUD software Poker Office added support in May, and Bluff Magazine’s online tournament tracking site ThePokerDB announced recently they have begun tracking Merge hands and will go live with results soon. PokerTracker added Merge to their “Table Tracker” table finder product in a recent PT3 beta release.
The adoption does not stop at legitimate software tools; Merge has also caught the unwanted attention of the hand history dataminers. A practice prohibited by all major poker sites, miners observe or “scrape” hand data live, generate hand history files, then sell these to players in bulk. Players can purchase batches of a million hands or more at a time then import them in to analytics software. Having access to such data on their opponents while they play is considered by the poker rooms as an unfair advantage.
HHDealer added Merge support from the May 8th; HandHQ added support this week, and has hands available from May 12th. hhSmithy also added in Merge support recently and has hands mined from the beginning of June.
PokerTableRatings also followed suit this month and has started to sell Merge hands in bulk; they hope to have online player lookups and graphs available soon.
Merge Gaming has seen impressive growth, more than doubling in size year-on-year and with 70% increase since Black Friday. However, Merge blocked new US accounts at the beginning of June, resulting in a fall in traffic each week since the cut. Merge hopes the US block is only temporary as they expand facilities to cope with the increase in US players. Players with Merge accounts prior to June 1st can continue to play without restriction.