A major shift in the way partypoker relays its hand history data has resulted in the departure of some of the site’s longtime customers. Is partypoker “justified” in restricting player access to hand histories? Will partypoker’s new policies make the games “safer” for all players?
This article contains thoughts, commentary, and analysis on what’s going on at partypoker, its new #fairplay initiative that removed the ability for players to locally download their own hand histories, and whether controversial policies established by Rob Yong could further spread throughout the regulated online poker industry.
partypoker Major Changes 2019 Commentary (Introduction)
On June 17th, 2019, real money online poker site partypoker updated a number of its policies:
- partypoker no longer allows players to locally download their complete real money hand history data,
- partypoker now outright prohibits the use of third-party Heads-Up Display (HUD) software tools PokerTracker and Hold’em Manager, programs that have been commonly used and socially accepted for years by thousands (but not all, nor the majority of) online poker players,
- partypoker has mandated that all players must change their “screen name” at least once — effective June 17th, 2019,
- partypoker has restricted “observer” access to real money cash games while announcing a #fairplay initiative — which the site believes will help crack down on bots, collusion, and data privacy concerns related to prohibited software use along with blatant cheating — practices that have gradually tarnished the image of real money internet poker games for more than a decade.
such data can now only be analyzed temporarily via partypoker’s MyGame feature,
In an unprecedented gesture of online peer-to-peer gambling industry public outreach and corporate communication, partypoker shot-caller and Dusk Till Dawn Casino owner Rob Yong granted several interviews to poker media outlets during the month of June 2019, and has been extremely active in responding to customer/observer feedback via Twitter, YouTube, and the site’s proprietary public relations infrastructure.
At the very least, Yong has spent hours helping provide authoritative audio-visual content for public consumption that has given viewers, listeners, and readers unique insight into some of the main challenges that the licensed online poker industry currently faces.
Rob Yong “Captain’s Logs” Public Communication
— Rob Yong (@rob_yong_) June 16, 2019
Editorial Critique of Rob Yong’s/partypoker’s New Policies
partypoker “Protecting Players” by Removing Hand Histories? (TwoPlusTwo NVG Forum Discussion)
partypoker Hand History Restrictions Will “Harm Honest Players” (PTP – Jun 11, 2019)
Editorial Support of Rob Yong’s/partypoker’s New Policies
partypoker Policy Changes Are Long Overdue (Haley Hintze – FlushDraw – Jun 11, 2019)
Supplementary Rob Yong/partypoker Coverage
Rob Yong partypoker “Cash Game Ecology” Interview Timestamps (Video – Jun 9, 2019 – 68 minutes)
partypoker Removes Option to Use HUDs (PokerNews – Jun 19, 2019)
partypoker Major Changes 2019 Commentary and Analysis
* The following FAQ commentary belongs solely to the author, and does not necessarily reflect the views of partypoker, online poker operators, the online poker industry, players, media, fans, or representatives of this website. Furthermore, the analysis below does not qualify as legal advice.
Q: In terms of player data privacy, did partypoker become a safer or more vulnerable site to play real money online poker games following the mandatory June 17th “screen name” change and restriction of locally-downloadable hand histories?
Precisely on June 17th? The moment x-player made a screen name change and began participating in real money games? partypoker became a safer place to play on that date because it means that black hat, third-party hand history data sharing services (such as PokerTableRatings, HH Dealer, etc.) no longer hold a legacy, statistical, or “personally identifiable information” profile on real money online poker wagering that x-player has made over the course of his/her career at partypoker.
No more HUDs. No more third-party software. No more unfair targeting of players, just fun, fair #poker for all. #Fairplay https://t.co/ypAuszDnBO 18+. Play responsibly. begambleaware pic.twitter.com/HLig5kxjvU
— partypoker (@partypoker) July 13, 2019
The forced “alias” change along with the outright ban on downloadable hand histories resulted in — at the very least — a temporary burden on unauthorized services that amalgamate and share massive amounts of player hand histories for commercial purposes.
Such practices arguably do serve as public/private watchdog efforts in verifying one’s historical, profit-based performance/expectation on partypoker and other sites. However, through goodwill, semi-private distribution of an inferior imprint of proprietary data which contains real money online poker hand history information (“inferior imprint” referring to hand histories not containing all data points that poker sites possess on player activity), partypoker and other sites could be unintentionally and indirectly facilitating the widespread availability of privileged hand history data.
This is because the liability-based security, restriction, and/or control over such data could be interpreted as ultimately belonging to the proprietary, commercial originator of said data (i.e. the commercial entity that enjoys a direct deposit/withdrawal relationship with x-consumer, and therefore could be deemed by regulators/officials as responsible for implementing policies to ensure player protections against third-party use of partypoker’s hand history imprints).
Whether whole or partial, the unauthorized third-party capturing, distribution, or sale (via PokerTableRatings, HH Dealer, HH Smithy, and others) of online poker sites’ proprietary data containing players’ historical-based gameplay tendencies has resulted in pay-to-win online gambling products/services — mechanisms that ultimately serve small groups of players who gain an unfair competitive advantage through unauthorized access of opponents’ historical, real money gameplay tendencies.
These practices — through indirect association — have entangled established HUD programs such as PokerTracker/Hold’em Manager along with poker sites themselves within an environment in which “vulnerable” players could be considered as “targeted” by those who obtain real money gameplay information on opponents, for hands that x-privileged-player did not participate in.
RELATED: UKGC CEO Urges Licensees to Ensure “Fairest and Safest” Games (Nov 10, 2018)
Q: So if partypoker‘s decision to force “alias” changes and restrict hand history data to its in-house MyGame software tool made x-player “safer” on or following June 17th, why is so much emphasis being placed on partypoker being a “less safe” place to play for as long as it maintains its policy of not allowing players to download their full and complete hand histories?
Because partypoker’s actions are suspected to have resulted solely in a temporary inconvenience to these unauthorized third-party hand history sharing services. Whether that inconvenience lasts/lasted moments, days, weeks, or longer is unknown, yet online poker security analyst Michael Josem told Part Time Poker recently that the site’s hand history restrictions will result in “more colluders, more bots, and more cheaters” going “undetected” on partypoker.
This is due to black hat services finding a way around partypoker and other sites’ corporate data restrictions, even if poker sites’ Terms of Service explicitly prohibit these third-party actors from doing so.
“Blocking downloadable hand histories only harms the innocent and the law-abiding players,” claims Josem.
Q: So by not allowing players to access their full and complete hand histories, partypoker‘s ability to detect prohibited software use, “bots,” and other forms of unfair gameplay is theoretically hindered? Because player “monitoring,” “self-regulation,” and/or “policing” of unfair gameplay tendencies represent important elements of online poker game integrity and security?
Theoretically, yes. Online poker players have traditionally reported suspicious activity to online poker sites, which over time has proven to represent a supplemental yet vital service to the online poker playing community — which in select circumstances has provided high profile, public watchdog benefits to safeguarding consumers against what could — monetarily speaking — be construed as large-scale, organized, and imminently harmful criminal activities.
This player outreach can range from reporting suspicious gameplay that results in online poker sites taking action against specific real money accounts to detecting massive fraud perpetrated by privileged insiders and perpetuated by an online poker site’s lack of internal controls.
Although this public/private player collaboration with real money poker sites does result in enhanced security in cases that involve a player account confirmed to be engaging in prohibited software use, collusion, and/or cheating, said collaboration also results in inevitable misuse/abuse of an informal, goodwill, public watchdog partnership — often in the form of player reports that are unconfirmed, or even confirmed to be false upon subsequent operator investigation.
These accusation-based misfires occupy an unknown amount of poker sites’ human resources (who are ultimately tasked with manual data compilation for the purpose of making final determinations). These publicly-accessible unconfirmed, anti-competitive, or false accusations result in ill-will along with unavoidable friction between “online poker player” and “online poker industry” pursuits.
This brings into question the public benefit validity of providing full hand history data to players, when weighted against the public harm that is created via third-party reproduction of this data and widespread, over-zealous player/community diligence or enforcement (i.e. erroneous “public shaming”).
Q: Are there any “data protection” laws in place that might govern, oversee, restrict, enforce, and/or regulate how businesses (including online poker sites) share their proprietary, privileged data? Whether that be with players or with rival companies?
The EU General Data Protection Regulation (EU-GDPR) could apply to multiple industry facets related to real money online poker games, and whether operators may collaborate with players and/or rival sites with the overall aim of ensuring player protections.
With that said, there is no formal infrastructure in place that specifically outlines how or when third-party data obtained by players should be shared with colleagues privately, brought forth publicly, submitted to a licensed online poker site for official review, or escalated to regulators/authorities.
Likewise, there is no formal process recognized by online poker/gambling regulators or lawmakers that grants players the authority to collaborate using privileged, proprietary hand history data that — in numerous jurisdictions — poker sites themselves are liable for maintaining and safeguarding, in accordance with official laws, regulations, and guidelines that can vary drastically per geographical region.
* This article is directly funded by Part Time Poker.
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