PokerStars’ new policy on third-party tools came into effect on March 4. A number of changes have been implemented on the use of third-party software programs including the most significant change— restrictions on automated seating scripts and limitations on the use of hand charts.
Many of these changes were previously revealed to software developers by PokerStars back in late January. The room had also confirmed its plans to implement its new third-party tools policy to Poker Industry PRO—our premium news site and data analytics platform dedicated to online poker, although at the time, dates for it to come into effect had not yet been officially decided.
Restrictions on Automated Seating Scripts and Hand-Range Reference Material
The dates were finally confirmed by PokerStars’ Director of Poker Innovations and Operations, Severin Rasset, on the company’s blog one week ahead of the implementation. In his blog post, Rasset focused mainly on two categories of chages: seating scripts and hand-range reference material.
“A level playing field is one of the most important qualities of a well-functioning online poker eco-system,” wrote Rasset in a blog post titled: Making Changes to our Third Party Tools Policy.
“For PokerStars, my vision is to limit as much as possible the use of tools that artificially enhance the process of sitting down to play, and play itself [including] [t]ools that can give players an edge over others and which detract from the journey of developing the skills necessary to become a better poker player,” added Rasset.
As a result, PokerStars has prohibited all kinds of tools or software programs that enhance table selection based on opponent profiling such as gameplay statistics or notes. These types of seating scripts have existed in the online poker world for many years and have often been criticized for their “predatory” behavior, as they give an unfair advantage to those who use them to hunt weaker players.
The room has also put limitations on the use of starting hand charts and the use of automated or semi-automated reference material while the PokerStars client is open. Besides, software that randomizes the size of bets, software that implements delays before clicking buttons, and the use of dynamic HUDs that update based on current stack sizes or table position have also been prohibited by the room.
These changes have been implemented across all games, stakes, and jurisdictions including the New Jersey and India markets with the goal of improving player’s overall gaming experience by providing them with a safe and fair environment.
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Developers Comply But Look for New Ways to Please Their Customers
A number of software developers started preparing for the upcoming changes in an effort to remain complaint with PokerStars’ rules. Some of these developers were notified of the upcoming changes almost two months ago.
Seating Script developers such as HirokuScript, Need4Seat, and Seat Mojo, as well as poker utility tool providers like StarsCaption and Stars Helper have adhered to the new policy by updating their software and making changes to their programs.
As per the new rules, seating scripts are now prohibited from sorting or joining a table based on player statistics. The new policy is already starting to have an effect on these automated seating tools.
“[A] large percentage of my clients are distraught and frustrated,” Seat Mojo developer, Michael Lehrer told pokerfuse. “Clients are frustrated because they are being sat on tables they don’t want to play on, causing them to spend previously eliminated time on the table selection process.”
“[These] new rules are indeed affecting PokerStars regulars [ability] to find soft tables,” Martin Solovey, a representative of HirokuScript told pokerfuse. “We’re still investigating ways to improve table selection without using any gameplay statistics or notes, and [we] already have some ideas on the table so we’ll be announcing something soon.”
While many of these seating script tools have been affected by the new ruling, tool designers seeking to reduce the impact to their customers have begun configuring their software to find a table only when a certain number of players are already seated at a table.
“SeatMojo has eliminated the ability to sit based on note colors and now will sit based on the user’s set minimum number of players at the tables,” said Lehrer. “This will not always lead the player to sitting at a desirable table, but it is better than doing the whole process manually.”
HirokuScript and Need4Seat have also implemented similar basic seating criteria. However, both of them have added an additional feature to keep their tools useful to their customers. For instance, Need4Seat’s script seats players whenever a new player joins the table or once a minimum number of players are seated at a table. It also supports an additional seating mechanism that finds a seat for the script user as soon as the table starts to fill up quickly.
“Both seating modes exploit knowledge about how players, in general, choose their tables. For example, regulars rarely join each other. Therefore if a new player joins a table with one player seated, then it’s likely that he may be a recreational player,” Johannes Stricker, developer of Need4Seat, told pokerfuse.
“This is how it’s been working on PartyPoker for a while and people are still using it there. I therefore think that seating scripts can still be helpful for table selection on PokerStars,” Stricker added.
HirkouScript, on the other hand, has added a “blacklist” function that avoids opening tables for a set amount of time after they were already closed by the user.
“Hiroku offers a blacklist so when you close up a table that was offered to you, Hiroku will avoid opening that table for the configured amount of minutes,” said Solovey, “avoiding the reg-fest and allowing the user to keep this aspect of the session automated, even though the rate of soft tables decreased.”
Multi-purpose poker utility software applications such as StarsCaption and StarsHelper have also complied with the new rules and have made changes to their software. Functions such as delayed action buttons, randomized bet sizing and other minor features of the HUDs have been removed.
All the above third-party tools are now approved by PokerStars provided that the users are using the latest version of their programs.