Online poker giant PokerStars has moved to put an end the use of all automated seating scripts in its continued attempt to level the playing field for all its players.
Seating scripts are third-party software programs that scan the lobbies of ring games and seek to automatically seat a player at a table filled with weaker players. The use of such automated scripts is often seen as predatory behavior, as they allow stronger players to use the software to “hunt” weaker players.
As of April 11, all seating script software that automates the process of finding a seat at PokerStars’ cash game tables has been prohibited, including the ones that merely help players join tables without considering the profiles of players already seated at the tables.
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“In response to player feedback, we have made changes that prohibit players using seating scripts, effective immediately and for ring games only,” said a PokerStars spokesperson to Poker Industry PRO, our premium news and data analytics platform for poker industry insiders.
The decision comes following changes to the seating scripts policy last month that caused an “undesirable effect” on the playing experience, according to the operator.
In March, the operator implemented significant changes to its third-party tools policy, making seating script tools less powerful by restricting those programs that helped players find a seat based on opponent profiling such as gameplay statistics or notes. The then new prohibition forced developers of these tools to either stop supporting PokerStars or make changes to their programs.
Prior to implementation, PokerStars informed many of these seating script developers, including HirokuScript, Need4Seat, Seat Mojo, TableScan Turbo and others, about their planned changes to restrict the use of player profiling. As a result, tool designers started looking for new ways to please their customers.
Some of these developers configured their software to find a table only when a certain number of players sat at a table, while some implemented a seating mechanism that found a seat as soon as the table started to fill up quickly. Technically these tools did not violate PokerStars’ third-party tools policy.
However, what was supposed to improve the playing experience for players turned out to have a negative impact, as within the first week of implementation of the new policy, players on poker forums reported finding it difficult to join a table. With multiple high-volume players using the allowed scripts with new the seating mechanisms, a cascade of seat reservations flooded the lobby causing seats at new tables to fill up with an “R” (the seat reservation sign) as soon as a new player sat down.
“I thought they were banning scripts but they seem as rampant as ever,” a user wrote on the Two Plus Two forums. “[Sometimes it is] hard to even get sat down at regular tables due to this.”
One of the players even started a petition on Two Plus Two requesting the room to ban all types of seating scripts. Soon, a representative from The Stars Group Game Integrity Team responded in the thread stating that “[due] to ring game seating scripts inherently causing this 'table blocking’, we are making changes starting from today to prohibit players using these seating scripts. This change is effective immediately.”
HirokuScript, one of the seating scripts affected by this latest ruling is “unhappy” with this move. The software was earlier blacklisted by the operator but the developer has shared communication with pokerfuse from PokerStars assuring that players will be allowed to run the program while the PokerStars client is open because HirokuScript no longer supports PokerStars.
“We were in personal contact with the team for previous changes in their policies, but this [recent] news came out of nowhere and with no preamble,” said Mat from the HirokuScript team to pokerfuse.
HirokuScript believes that this move will lead players to look for “underground” scripts which would make it harder for the room to detect when prohibited tools are being used. Instead, the operator should have implemented the “Seat Me” functionality that is being trialed in the European segregated rooms, rather than ban these tools unexpectedly, Mat told pokerfuse.
Seat Me is a blind lobby feature that removes the ability of a player to choose a specific table and seat in cash games and hence nullifies the effectiveness of seating script programs. When Seat Me is in place, players are presented with a choice of buy-in size and table stake. The system then automatically puts the player in an available seat matching their choices.
PokerStars introduced this functionality in the Spanish market in January 2017 on a trial basis. Following its success, the room rolled out Seat Me in France, Portugal, and Italy.
In 2018, the operator said it would look to expand Seat Me to the dot-com market “towards the end of the year” if the “[Italian] market reacts as expected.” All new game releases, like Power Up and Six Plus Hold’em are deployed under the blind lobby system.
However, for some reason, the operator has yet to adopt this functionality across its international player pool.
“We are currently conducting a full review of the impact Seat Me has had so far on the poker ecosystem, and will be collating player feedback in the coming months, a PokerStars representative told PRO earlier this year. “This will determine what happens next with Seat Me.”