Saturday, September 29, 2007

Posting? Did Someone Say Posting?

Truth of the matter, I've been working too hard this week to even think about doing much here on the ol' personal blog, finally playing catch-up on a project or two delayed by that nasty 'ol cold. I was informed it was a ten-day bug, and it actually had me struggling for 11... I never could keep count that way.

There are still some pieces percolatin' betwixt and between my synapses, however, so don't give up hope. I just have to take care of the paid stuff first before I worry about personal proclivities and all that.

Which means I don't have a lot of personal poker news to report, either. I picked up a second in a late-night donkament the other night, but I haven't even had the chance to do that much lately, either; this was more of a shot at making sure I had enough points to qualify for the end-of-month freeroll on the site, and I ended up sliding first into the money, then into a decent finish. Funny how my better finishes are -never- where I start out way ahead. I am a lousy front-runner, but seem to be tenacious on a short stack.

Speaking of being too busy to think, I managed to even forget this past Wednesday that it was in fact Wednesday night, and that there was a KAP tourney going on at Bodog, same as I forgot on Tuesday night that there was the blogger freeroll going on at the same site. Someone reserve me a room on the Alzheimer's wing, 'k?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sharkscope Punted from Stars' Good Graces, Part the Second

Before I decided to acquire a nasty late-summer virus that still has my decrepit body in a weakened state, I began a bit of a tale about the expulsion of SNG (sit-'n'-go) results database Sharkscope from the good graces of PokerStars. The listing of SS in Stars' list of programa non grata was the culmination of an effort on Stars' part to rein in the overly public publication of its customers' profit/loss data.

One of the questions I left for the followup was this: Why was Sharkscope singled out when it is not the only site to offer such information? One need look no further than the site at to see another example of ROI (Return on Investment) numbers being publicized for Stars players, this in open contradiction of Stars' publicized plan to force these sites to curtail the practice.

Regardless of exactly how Stars plans to enforce the ban (a still undetermined but crucial fact at this point), it's odd to see that Sharkscope appears on Stars' banned list but OPR does not. I can't for the life of me figure that one out. Perhaps it's because Sharkscope's president, Steve, was openly defiant toward Stars in several posts made on poker forums following the Stars announcement. Perhaps not. But it seems to me that if Stars is serious about making such a change, it has to do so in a uniform, across-the-board manner.

Or is it already? It seems that a lot of Stars tournaments are no longer being included in the OPR database. My own player profile on that site includes nothing played after September 10th, and my search of random player names turns up nothing after the 13th for those I've checked to date. It seems that Stars may well have turned off the results spigot here as well, even if it's been a bit less publicized. OPR does not appear on the banned program list at Stars; nor, however, does it appear on the approved one.

Perhaps most cryptic is this line, which appears in the data at OPR any time a search is done on a Stars player: "PokerStars tournaments are currently delayed. Missing tournaments will be added ASAP."

As soon as possible sounds expedient, of course, even if it is indeterminate.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Just a Bit Delayed...

Have lots to post, all, but between WSOPE duties and a good cold I've been otherwise occupied with work or sleep. Hang in there!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

God Save Me from Stupid People

Poker content: 0%, but still....

The new people in the apartment above mine, a 60-ish woman and a 30-something man who I take to be her son, have now called the fire department four times in six weeks. Not only do I get to enjoy between 20 minutes and an hour of a smoke detector chirping away every time, the fire trucks also block in several dozen cars in the communal parking lot outside.

It seems every time she cooks something and burns it, the alarm goes off. Mine goes off with roughly the same frequency when I burn something myself, but I at least have the sense to turn off whatever it was that was burning, turn on the over-stove smoke intake, and grab a piece of cardboard to fan whatever itty bit of smoke set off the detector.

This woman, she calls the fire department. Every time. I asked her about it, today, and her response was, "That wuz they told me ta do."

People can so not think for themselves these days. My fear is that there'll be a real fire in this place from the shitty cross-wired outlets and no one will pay attention from having been bothered by this crap time and again.

Sharkscope Punted from Stars' Good Graces, Part the First

The battle between what's right for a small percentage of players and what's right for online poker as a whole couldn't have a more perfect illustration than the standoff between PokerStars and online database service SharkScope, which specializes in SNG and MTT tournament results. SharkScope is just one of a handful of sites that offer information that, in a sense, can be used to skew the balance and sense of fair play that is necessary to maintain the integrity of poker.

These recent flareups can be traced back in some sense to a post former Stars room manager Lee Jones made over at the blog a couple of months back. Jones prefaced his post about why anonymous user ID's may well be the next evolution in the online game with the following: "What I’m writing here is my opinion, and not necessarily PokerStars’ opinion. Please don’t confuse the two." And in a similar note I'd like to add that these are my opinions, here, not those of my employer or employers.

While it's true enough that Jones is no longer, technically, a Stars employee (having moved over to the EPT), it's also apparent that the impact of certain online software aids has been a topic of concern to the higher-ups at Stars, Jones or otherwise. With good reason, too: As previously mentioned here, the real and/or perceived imbalance caused by some of these live-assist programs has dire implications for the flourishing of the online poker world as a whole.

Knowing that Stars is thinking about these things, it wasn't then that surprising to see Stars take a first step towards limiting the amount of information about online players. At issue was the publication of "ROI" [Return On Investment] data for players at various sites, which is, over a lengthy period of time, a reasonable top-line indicator of a player's general skills. (Subjectively, I'd say it's of questionable worth on results of a thousand tournaments or less, due to the extreme fluctuations caused by short-term variance. I have the data to support that, too.)

Be that as it may, here's what the original notice from Stars, posted on several forums, decreed:

PokerStars’ Policy Regarding “Rankings / Ratings” Services

Distribution: Operators of Online Poker Player Ranking Sites

To ensure player privacy regarding certain player statistics and financial information gathered by websites (hereinafter “Service Operator”) that collect and organize PokerStars players’ results by various means, PokerStars has devised the following rules with which such Service Operators must comply:

1. No player profitability data (i.e. ROI, net profit, etc) may be displayed on any player unless the player has explicitly opted into such display by transferring $0.03 to a prominently published PokerStars account owned by the Service Operator. This request must be acknowledged by the Service Operator by sending the $0.03 back to the player as confirmation within a reasonable time frame not to exceed 5 days.

2. Any player may choose to completely opt out of having any information about them displayed on the Service. To do so, player will transfer $0.01 to the service operator’s PokerStars account. This request must be acknowledged by the Service Operator by sending the $0.01 back to the player as confirmation within a reasonable time frame not to exceed 5 days. Note that the amount here is different, in order to distinguish an opt-out request from an opt-in request.

3. The use of the “transfer from user to Service and back again” method for opt-in and opt-out is required. This method permits these requests to be handled privately and securely without the disclosure of the player’s Email, real name, or other private information. Only the player’s PokerStars User ID is required.

4. Both the opt-in and opt-out options must be prominently displayed on the main / front page of the Service (at minimum, a normal-sized link on the front page to a more complete description elsewhere).

5. If the service’s operation pre-dates the establishment of these guidelines, there shall be no “grandfather clause” for existing data. 100% of historical profitability data must be removed from view until such time as a player explicitly opts in as above.

Any Service Operator found to be in violation of these rules risks having their access to PokerStars’ game client restricted and/or the service impeded, including but not limited to the warning of players who access the Service while the PokerStars client is open.

Basically, Stars said that displaying "player profitability data" (ROI) about its customers was allowable if and only if those players chose to be so listed, by specifically opting in to those services offering that information. I find this to be a totally reasonable, even welcome development, for reasons I'll come back to in a bit. Nat Arem, head honcho at thepokerdb, recently acquired/assimilated into Bluff Magazine's online offerings, quickly implemented the new requirements into the pokerdb site, as did the folks over at (StarTracker), another such site.

A couple of other sites gave Stars the virtual finger, perhaps none more so than SharkScope, whose owner, Steve, posted the following in response to the PokerStars decree:

at SharkScope we are currently evaluating Pokerstars' proposed policy and considering its impact. We will make another statement in due course.

At the present time we have no plans to degrade our functionality with respect to searching data on PokerStars players as on initial reading we consider the policy unfeasible to adhere to.

In the past we have been the only site to offer any kind of user self blocking and this has been entirely voluntary on our part. We consider this system to be the perfect balance between those who want as much data as possible to increase their profitability and those that wish to have privacy.

(posted 8/2, 2+2)

Stars security then fired back with an ultimatum that basically said, if certain sites choose not to comply voluntarily, then Stars would begin exploring ways to block them.

SharkScope basically said "pfffffft" to that, and went on with business as usual. Nor was that much of a surprise, really, since SharkScope offers little of top-level value besides ROI numbers, and getting rid of that would put a dent into SharkScope's own subscription sales and revenue stream.

Well, Stars kept its word, and has now added SharkScope to its list of banned sites and software programs for its refusal to implement an opt-out program. Since SharkScope is not a live-time process, but a website, this implies that Stars has implemented 'sniffer' technology to determine if someone is visiting the SharkScope site while logged in to Stars, in which case it's likely that the Stars site will flash a initial warning to the offending user, and then lock down the Stars client if the user persists in trying to use it while also playing at the site.

More next time.