Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Sunday Million Show (Now With Hole Cards)

PokerStars Sunday MillionHeard an interesting item regarding PokerStars Sunday Million tourney over on Rounders, the Poker Show this week. For those of you who don’t know, Rounders has been producing a quality weekly poker podcast for well over two years now -- since April 2005. Their shows primarily focus on reporting news of the poker world, interviewing players and other prominent figures in poker, and (very) occasionally discussing strategy. Used to air originally on a Vancouver sports radio station, but recently the show became an independent production. Definitely worth checking out.

On the 11/4/07 show, the hosts reported that PokerStars was going to begin requiring all players who final table their Sunday Million tournament to allow their hole cards to be revealed for subsequent replays on the site. The agreement sounds similar to the one players who participate in televised tourneys (e.g., WSOP and WPT events) must make. The replays can be found in the PokerStars “lobby” by clicking on the “Tourneys” tab, then “Special.”

PokerStars has been showing such final table replays of big buy-in tournaments in the past, although they never required players to agree to allow their hole cards to be shown. In the past, PokerStars would email all final table players requesting their hole cards be revealed. Usually some would consent and others would not, meaning the replays often showed us some players’ cards, but not all.

After reporting the news, co-host Mike Johnson asked what I thought was a very good question regarding the new policy:

“How much of this decision, do you think, had to do with just making it more interesting for people to watch, so more people would come to their site and watch [the Sunday Million tourney], and how much of it had to do with also wanting to expose everybody’s hole cards because of some of the recent controversies there have been with multi-accounting, chip dumping, and some of the online scandals like the Absolute Poker case . . . and wanting to have a transparency there where [they] say, ‘Listen, our books are open, if you want to watch everything that happens when it gets down to the big money, you can see everybody’s hole cards, we got nothing to hide’?”

His partner, Adam Schwartz, replied he thought it was probably more for the entertainment value than for security purposes, although he admitted that making the hole cards public would lessen the likelihood of final table collusion and/or other untoward funny business.

I emailed PokerStars support to ask about the policy change. I also threw in a question about why the decision was made to require final tablists to allow their hole cards to be shown. The support person who wrote me back said nothing about security. In response to the question of why, he simply said “We believe having every player’s hole cards revealed will make these replays even more enjoyable and popular.”

Probably good form not to mention the recent troubles at other poker sites. But one has to think Mike Johnson is on to something regarding the desire for (at least some) transparency. Whatever the reason for the change, the question remains: Is the new policy fair to players who make the Sunday Million final tables?

After a bit of searching (and help from another poster), I found some discussion of the issue in a thread over in the “MTT Community” section of 2+2. Posters appear somewhat divided over the matter. A couple even indicated they would not be playing in the Sunday Million because of the policy.

Probably the most interesting part of the thread comes when Shane “Shaniac” Schleger weighs in to say he thinks “it’s kind of wrong to tack on this requirement without giving anything in return to the players.” He recognizes -- as the PokerStars support person’s response to me implies -- that “it’s a great marketing attraction for the site” to show the hole cards, “so it’d be nice if they gave us something in return.” Later, Shaniac adds that “the amount of information you wind up agreeing to reveal at an edited tv final table is absolutely trivial compared to the info you give up by being forced to show every move you make in an online FT.”

For most us, the prospect of making the final table of the Sunday Million is quite dim, and so the issue probably will seem mostly moot to the great majority of players. I know I’ll be watching some of those replays. (Whether or not I’m smart enough to pick up anything in the way of endgame strategy is another story.)

It does seem like having such a policy in place over at Absolute Poker might have made it less possible for Potripper to have pulled his stunt back in the 9/12/07 $100K Guarantee. Of course, if provisions to prevent that sort of “super user” account-style cheating are already in place -- as I assume they are over at the well-run, well-managed PokerStars (no matter what Mark Seif says) -- then there wouldn’t be a need for the extra measure.

My inclination is to take the PokerStars’ support person’s reply to me at face value. I do think the change has much more to do with marketing than with security. Regarding whether or not the new policy is fair to the players, I’m less certain. What do you think?

Once I make a Sunday Million final table and have to deal with this directly, I promise to get back to you on this one.



Blogger WillWonka said...

I listend to that show as well and had some of the same thoughts; but what I didn't really think of (as you mentioned or Shane did) that you only see a glimpse of what happened at the final table as compared to every hand.

In my opinion, I think it is great and you will more than likely catch me watching the replay of these. I do not think in the long run that it will cause too much problems.

11/09/2007 12:20 AM  
Blogger cheer_dad said...

Nice, informative post Shamus, seeing as I haven't gotten around to listening to the Rounders Podcast waiting patiently on my iPod! As for your comment, "I know I’ll be watching some of those replays. (Whether or not I’m smart enough to pick up anything in the way of endgame strategy is another story.)" --HEY, I resemble that remark!



11/09/2007 7:20 AM  
Blogger KajaPoker said...

Shamus, you're one of a kind. I love these posts.

I don't think the replays will do anything as far the security issues are concerned.

I do however agree with Shaniac here. Obviously the site is going to gain some traffic from this new feature. Being able to follow your opponents (at the high levels of poker) by watching every hand they play gives too much information away.

11/09/2007 12:11 PM  
Blogger loser64 said...

On a different note, You may know that Rounders left the radio station that had been carring them and they are only in podcast format. Well 2+2 online magazine writes...

"But we also have a lot of positive news. First off, we're happy to announce the addition of the 2 + 2 Pokercast radio show. Mike Johnson and Adam Schwartz of the very successful "Rounders the Poker Show," where they have almost three years of poker radio experience, will be the hosts. Strategy discussions will draw on the wealth of the 2 + 2 community including published authors and top players from both the forums and other places in the poker world. A special forum for the Pokercast will allow everyone to be involved with topics and questions for the show. Make sure to tune in and contribute in the forums and use it as another tool to make you a better poker player. We hope to have the show up and running within thirty days."

So we can expect some changes with the show.

11/10/2007 11:00 AM  

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