PokerStars’ – and to be fair, the rest of the online poker industry’s – yeoman-like effort when it comes to cracking down on the use of illegal third party software has gone largely overlooked, thanks in large part to the contentious and often unnecessarily noisy debate over the controversial VIP changes.
The arguments over the VIP changes have more or less drowned out the second part of the November announcement, the company’s assertion that it would continue to clamp down on the use of third party software throughout 2016, something it began in October.
The new restrictions saw PokerStars shift some previously allowed programs into the prohibited category, as the first round of changes meant the elimination of reference charts and certain HUD features, as well as any AI programs.
The November follow-up, which coincided with the VIP changes, took it a step further, letting players know that future software restrictions were likely. In the post on its corporate blog that detailed the VIP changes, PokerStars announced:
“The new restrictions on third-party software will extend recent changes to our third-party software policy. Last month, we reduced data mining in Zoom!, restricted the use of heads-up displays, and limited the use of Spin & Go seating scripts.
Our intention is to expand these restrictions through major changes within our own software that we will communicate in more detail through 2016. PokerStars wants to offer fun, fair and competitive games of poker globally. These changes aim to help us achieve that goal.”
The addition of software restrictions to the blog post announcing the VIP changes made a lot of people point to the software crackdown as being a red herring, a means by which PokerStars could distract people from the more controversial VIP changes:
Or worse, some posited that the software restrictions would be ineffectual, and to borrow the gun advocates’ arguments, would only put law abiding online poker players at the mercy of those willing to cheat the system:
However, PokerStars has been following through on this front, and by all accounts, the company is doing a pretty good job of implementing these anti-third-party-software policies.
Let’s go to the videotape
The latest evidence demonstrating PokerStars’ resolve to restrict third-party software comes in the form of emails purportedly (later confirmed) from PokerStars to high stakes players asking the recipients to video tape sessions so PokerStars can have a baseline to compare their previous play with. Players receiving the email must comply with this condition, and they must do so precisely as PokerStars details.
The following excerpt of the email was posted at the twoplustwo.com forums:
However, we require a video recording of you playing. This recording has a few mandatory requirements:
– At the beginning of the recording, we must be able to clearly see your face in order to confirm your identity
– Before starting to play, you must rotate your camera 360 degrees to show us all of your surroundings
– You must start your playing session from an empty computer desktop, whereby you initiate the PokerStars client and log into your account
– After logging in, you must play a regular session of yours
– Your playing session at the tables must be for a minimum of 70 active minutes
– During your play at the tables, the recording must be of sufficient quality to see and track the activities that are taking place on your desktop. In addition, the recording must capture your surrounding environment including your monitor, keyboard, mouse and the movement of your hands
– Audio must be included in the recording
– You must minimise the amount of individual video files. Longer, continual recordings are preferred
– You have 10 days to complete this task
It is important that your playing session is conducted in the same manner as one of your typical sessions as your tendencies will be contrasted with your regular play.
You must supply the resulting recording to us via email. In the likely event the files exceed attachment limits, please utilise file sharing services such as Dropbox, Google Drive or whichever service you prefer. We’ll largely leave this option up to you.
Failure to follow these instructions or if the video is of sub-par quality, will result in this task needing to be repeated.
A PokerStars spokesperson has confirmed that the emails being posted are real, and that they were sent to a small number of players whose play raised some type of red flag. Again, the emails were not random, nor are they a new thing, and they were only sent to players whose play has triggered some reason for suspicion – such as bot use or other forms of prohibited software.
As noted in the below statement from PokerStars, if a player receives such an email they are not considered guilty.
That being said, it’s important to note that (to my knowledge) none of the players who received the emails have posted them or been publicly identified.
“PokerStars takes the enforcement of our Terms of Service very seriously. That’s why we routinely seek additional information from players who are under suspicion of breaking our rules. We conduct thousands of proactive reviews of accounts every year and some of these reviews are completed for players who we discover during the course of our investigation have done nothing wrong. We understand it is inconvenient for players to comply with additional requests, but where we have reason to believe that a player may have broken our rules and possibly won money fraudulently from other players we are obliged to investigate as fully as possible in order to come to the correct decision.
PokerStars has used such investigatory techniques for more than five years now, and will continue to do so in the future. A complete and comprehensive investigation is the fairest way for PokerStars to enforce our rules.”