A while back I wrote a piece titled, The Elephant in the room: What the online poker sites need to do about it, outlining the problems online poker is faced with because of data-mining. After spending some more time thinking about the problem I decided to revisit the dilemma that is data-mining and expand on my original thought.
In the original piece I argued that data-mining software creates an unequal playing field, allowing experienced players to further exploit the blissfully ignorant –as if we don’t fleece them enough already. I actually don’t think I went far enough in my original analysis, as I placed the bulk of the blame on the poker sites –actually 100%– and none on the players. In my opinion, what the players that are 12-tabling with PokerTracker and a HUD running, while they look up a player on SharkScope.com on their laptop are doing is no better than a phony psychic who used Google to find info on you before you showed up.
The argument is that every player has access to these tools, but this is hyperbole at its best, since most players are completely unaware of the existence of many of these tools –go ahead type in the chat-box of any game with a buy-in under $200 how many people use PokerTracker, SharkScope, PokerTableRatings, and so on.
So, if the poker site’s policy is that it doesn’t create a competitive imbalance then why don’t they advertise all of the wonderful tools available to online poker players at their site?!?! Because this is online poker’s dirty little secret; not only are these winning, experienced, players better than you, they are also using unscrupulous means to beat you out of your money even faster. They are offsetting their losses with rakeback deals that you have no clue about, they are compiling empirical data about your play by purchasing your information, and they are using software to play more and more tables at once. And the online poker sites are complicit in this scheme.
This is no better than Facebook and other online companies selling your personal information and interests to advertisers –Here the online poker sites are allowing your data to be collected and sold off to people trying to take your money. They could stop it if they chose to, but it’s so far gone now that it would upset the poker balance, not to mention fighting the problem would be admitting there IS a problem in the first place! So the alternative is to keep it as hushed-up as possible, thereby making the imbalance all the more pronounced.
The real issue is what is being sold to the general public, and what is actually taking place. The general public is told they can play poker right in their home, safe, secure, and the same as a casino. But when I go to the casino I don’t go with the notion that all of my statistics for the past 10 years will be on display and available to anyone with $100. But this is precisely what is happening online. Just like the ads on the side of your Facebook that are almost always of things that interest you, the online poker sites are allowing your personal information to be collected for the benefit of others.
The more you think about it the more you realize that these Superstar Poker Players are really nothing more than a baseball player who is stealing a peek at the catcher’s signs –even if they are Barry Bonds and you’re just a bench-warmer on your high-school team, it’s still unscrupulous. Unfortunately, right now there is no recourse for them, or they will lose to players who will do this whether it’s legal or illegal, or they would be forced to play only 1 or 2 poker tables to compensate for their lack of data.