PokerStars has been very active lately, introducing certain novelties that tend to create some controversy in the community. Like with all ideas ever, there are some who find them awesome and others who have slightly different feelings. The latest PokerStars Seat Me feature is no different in this regard.
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Creating fairer gaming environment
When it comes to online poker, it’s no secret that table selection plays a crucial role for professionals. If you have a choice of two tables: one with five fish seated and the other with five equally skilled opponents, which one do you think a pro will pick?
Hint: pros play for the money, not for the competition. Or, most of them, at least.
What PokerStars Seat Me feature will try to do is eliminate the table selection process altogether, forcing players to play the hand they are dealt. Of course, the hand here means the table they are seated at. Doing this should stop strong players from preying on weaker ones all the time, creating a better experience for casual players.
PokerStars Seat Me doing away with seating scripts
Over the past few years, seating scripts have been running rampant in online poker. A seating script is a piece of software that automatizes the table selection process. It checks open tables, compares the stats, and finds the best possible open seats at any given point in time.
Simply put, when a weak player sits down to play, hundreds of running scripts will try to squeeze in a bunch of pros at that table to play the fish.
Not without a good reason, many players have felt for a long time that seating scripts are ruining the game. As mentioned, pros don’t play pros if they don’t have to, so weaker players sometimes felt targeted, as games would start when they joined, and stop immediately after they left.
PokerStars Seat Me feature should make all this a thing of the past.
Equal chances for all?
With PokerStars Seat Me, all players should get the same chance to play against good and bad players alike. The feature, which has been so far introduced only for players in Spain, removes the ability of players to hand-pick the games, use scripts, or even observe the tables before jumping in.
Instead, you’re thrown straight into the action and you get seated at a random table of your chosen level where there is a seat open.
To avoid further unfair behavior, PokerStars is also toying with the idea of penalties for those who join a table and quit right away. These are still in the development phase, but it seems they’d encompass all higher levels (NL50 and up) and players would have to play a certain number of hands before quitting. Failing to do so would lead to time penalties, preventing them from joining new tables for a while.
PokerStars Seat Me: The good & the bad
Although the feature has only been introduced at PokerStars.es for now, PS officials announced that if this trial shows good results they’ll be moving to implement it across the network. The odds are, we’ll see PokerStars Seat Me introduced globally very soon.
The question is: is it good, is it bad, or is it somewhere in-between?
Fairer games for everyone
One thing that will happen is that players popularly known as “bumhunters” will have harder time finding their prey. Targeting weak players will become much harder as it will require a lot of game hopping and looking for favorable tables.
However, for this to be eliminated, PokerStars will also need to introduce harsh penalties. If excessive game-hopping can get you away from the tables for several hours it will no longer be a viable option. If the penalty is something symbolic and meaningless, games will still break all the time.
PokerStars claims they want to create a healthier ecosystem with these and other changes. It seems that players’ opinions on the matter are divided. Some believe that it will only benefit the room, while players will not get much out of it.
On the other hand, there are those who think this will get rid of many “bad” regs who make games worse for everyone. The fish will still lose, but they’ll enjoy the games more, and some might even become marginal winners if hundreds of these not-so-good regs are pushed out.
Although no one can say for sure at this point in time there are certain parallels that can be made. As some players pointed out, a similar idea didn’t work quite well for PartyPoker, for example. The biggest reason for this is the fact their penalties for leaving tables are too lenient.
Will it work?
PokerStars may be on the right path here, even if many are accusing them of going for another money grab. The truth is -and no one can deny this – online poker has turned into a battle of software: HUDs, seating scripts, equity calculators, etc.
Overall, there may be nothing wrong with this. Call it evolution or whatever else. However:
The evolution is making the games unappealing for many casual players. They are being turned away from the tables and look for their fun elsewhere. We can pitch all the “let them learn” arguments we want here, but the fact is, they won’t learn.
They won’t waste time learning how to use all that software. They’ll just move on.
So, it’s really hard to criticize PokerStars Seat Me, even if it’s not perfect and even if it is clear there’ll be many bumps along the road. If implemented properly, it could revive the games and bring some fun back into poker.
It could also fail due to various reasons, but as far as attempts to improve the fish-to-reg ratio go this seems like one that makes sense.