PokerStars Reduces Time to Act and Bans Seating Scripts
In ongoing efforts to bring more new players to the online poker tables and improve the overall experience for all players, PokerStars has been making changes over the past several years. Not all of them have been popular with the regulars and pros, but all have been focused on the same goal and moving in the same general direction: to make the tables more welcoming to recreational players.
Two of the latest moves have been in the works for some time, with small steps leading to bigger ones. The reduction of time to act on a hand in ring games is one of those actions, and the erasure of seating scripts is one that most other poker sites have already implemented.
PokerStars knows there will be some pushback, especially with the time reductions, but the operator has not wavered in its mission to open the site to a wider range of players.
Time is Precious
Players in cash games, including Zoom fast-fold cash games, will soon find they have less time to act when making hand decisions. And the reduction in time will take effect on February 5 at all stakes and in all regions of the world where PokerStars operates.
— PokerStarsBlog (@PokerStarsBlog) January 30, 2019
The “time to act” settings are already in place for tables from $0.01/$0.02 through $0.10/$0.25, but higher stakes will be affected from February 5 going forward. The changes will be as follows:
–Pre-flop, not facing a raise: reduced from 18 seconds to 10 seconds
–Pre-flop, facing a raise: reduced from 25 seconds to 15 seconds
–Post-flop: reduced from 25 seconds to 15 seconds
It should be noted that pre-flop reductions apply to third street only in stud, with post-flop reductions applicable to fourth street and beyond. In single-draw and triple-draw games, pre-flop applies only to the first draw, with post-flop put on all subsequent action.
PokerStars conducted testing and research on times, and they found that many players took more time to act when multi-tabling, which frustrated players at the tables in question. Considering most recreational players compete at only one or two tables at a time, that time delay had a negative effect. But when the reduction was implemented on a trial basis, dot-com players saw 9% more hands per hour.
— PokerStarsBlog (@PokerStarsBlog) January 3, 2018
With regard to time banks, which are currently set at 30 seconds with a maximum of 600 seconds, the following changes will be implemented on February 5:
–Pre-flop: reduced to 15 seconds to start, increasing by 5 every 10 hands to a max of 30 seconds
–Post-flop: reduced to 15 seconds to start, increasing by 5 every 10 hands to a max of 60 seconds
PokerStars Director of Poker Innovation and Operations Severin Rasset remains confident that these time reductions still give players enough time to consider their decisions before acting, which is an integral part of poker. He noted, “The poker economy is complex, to say the least. There are a vast number of factors to weigh when considering a change and we are confident that the changes will be beneficial for the long-term health of the game.”
Scripts No More
Seating scripts have been a point of debate for poker operators for many years. These programs were developed during the poker boom for experienced players to be able to search online poker lobbies for players with low or weak statistics. Pro players could then select seats at their tables and target their chip stacks, all while avoiding skilled players with impressive statistics. Some viewed it as a form of cheating, but most in the industry agreed that seating scripts were a detriment to the strength and longevity of the online poker environment.
Pokerfuse is reporting that PokerStars confirmed a full ban on seating scripts that will go into effect on March 1. A PokerStars representative said, “In order to continue to protect our players and enhance the overall experience, in the coming months we will be introducing a range of changes to our Third Party Tools & Services policy, which we will communicate ahead of time.” And that person added, “One such change is we will be prohibiting any tool or service for table selection efficiency that filters or sorts available games, or automates/semi-automates the process of joining available games based on opponent gameplay statistics or notes.”
In a statement to @pokerindpro , @PokerStars has confirmed that its Third Party Tools & Services policy will undergo changes and seating scripts that use opponent profiling will be banned. https://t.co/YoVxexDkHi
— pokerfuse (@pokerfuse) January 30, 2019
In response, Pokerfuse confirms that companies like NEED4SEAT will be adjusting their seat-selection software to avoid the prohibitions but still be usable.
The changes at PokerStars have been in the works for years, and many who have been advocating for sites to make online poker more welcoming to recreational players encouraged the move.
Happy to see this finally becoming a reality. The banning of automated seating scripts online: https://t.co/30MitmygqU
— Daniel Negreanu (@RealKidPoker) January 30, 2019
PokerStars did implement the Seat Me system in some markets and expanded that rollout in 2018, and its primary goal was to discourage and disable seating scripts. Any further rollout of Seat Me is unclear and hasn’t been confirmed, though the changes to the site’s terms and conditions policies might be enough to rid the tables of the majority of seating script programs.
New sites that are preparing to launch, namely the highly-anticipated Run It Once site under development by poker pro Phil Galfond, are implementing automatic seating from the start to prohibit the use of seating scripts in all forms.
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