So tweeted @JuliusGoat yesterday, responding to Bodog’s sudden move to “anonymous tables” last week and the subsequent brouhaha. As the respected author of the award-avoiding Stupid/System, I trust Mr. Goat’s judgment here.
Because the man definitely knows stupid.
I’ve seen a number of comments over the last few days regarding the switch. The forum posters seem to hate-hate-HATE it. And if what they are saying is to be believed, many who played on the site are talking about withdrawing their funds and never going back. You know, like dedicated drinkers suddenly swearing off the stuff for good.
I also saw that the revelation yesterday over on the HH Smithy blog that the new Bodog tables aren’t in fact as anonymous as they seem. A site that sells hand histories, the hackersmiths over at HH Smithy have managed to show how it is still possible to identify individual players and in fact find out their Bodog account numbers, too.
Here’s the video, if you haven’t seen it:
Thus while Bodog advertises their new tables as completely anonymous, that’s apparently not exactly the case. Of course, even if they were anonymous, fears about cheating and especially collusion should remain high for anyone playing on the site.
Not only are there no usernames or avatars with which to identify opponents, player notes have been disabled, too. There is no way to see mucked cards anymore. And hand histories -- never simple to deal with on the site -- cannot be easily saved, either, which to me would be the biggest reason to steer clear.
When playing online poker -- or making any sort of real money transaction online -- one simply has to be able to have some sort of record of the transaction. There are many reasons why this is so, including being able to consult such records should any dispute arise. For example here, should one have suspicions of collusion, it would be difficult if not impossible to build a case without any concrete evidence from hands played.
In its press release last week announcing the move to “anonymous tables,” Bodog described the change as part of the effort to implement a “Recreational Poker Model” on Bodog -- i.e., a place to play poker for fun where one needn’t worry about opponents gathering data on your play, incorporating that data in Hold’em Manager or PokerTracker, and using HUDs against you.
As the press release says, the new model “offers all players of all abilities the fairest place to play.”
(Remember when Bodog used to be the site where players were invited to “play hard” -- that hypermasculine ad campaign that made playing poker on the site sound just a wee bit like dropping Viagra? What is the slogan now -- “play nice”?)
Obviously if some have the ability to identify players (as the HH Smithy guys can), the whole idea of leveling the playing field this way is no longer valid. But even if this weren’t the case, it seems like making the games anonymous would tend to diminish the skill element even further, making the games more like the “in-Client Blackjack” the site is also proud to list among the innovations introduced into the newly-refurbished tables.
Such is the position of Kid Dynamite who in a blog post recently argued why he believes anonymous poker is in fact a “skill mitigator.”
As KD points out, not allowing players to keep track of opponents’ play means the information one gathers from playing against an opponent in one session is no longer of use the next time you sit down with that player. Responding to the suggestion that Bodog is the “fairest” site on which to play, Kid Dynamite says “‘Fair’ is one way to put it. ‘Taking the skill out of the game’ is another.”
There’s also, of course, the utter erasure of whatever social element existed for online poker that occurs when usernames, avatars, and the ability to search for certain players are removed. This sort of thing is important to many, in particular the “recreational player” who isn’t necessarily playing the game primarily to grind out a profit.
Thinking back to Mr. Goat’s suggestion that if given a year he couldn’t come up with a worse idea for online poker, I can’t help but think he’s being damned provoking. Truth be told, I’m finding myself responding to that pronouncement in much the same way the HH Smithy guys did when Bodog claimed in their press release that “Anonymous tables make... player data impossible to collect.”
I mean, there has to be a worse idea for online poker out there, yes? Put on your thinking caps, people, and let me hear your ideas. We can’t sit back and let a goat get our... you know, get us upset and all.
All comments welcome. Even anonymous ones.