Forced player-name changes
One of the largest online poker sites in the world, partypoker.com, has announced that it will force virtually all players on its global dotcom site to change their screennames (known as “aliases”) in conjunction with a major software client update that goes live on June 17, 2019.
According to partypoker, the move is a direct response to the increasing threats posed by HUDs (heads-up displays) and other forms of third-party software that have proliferated throughout the online-poker world in recent years. Such software has caused increasing disparities between full-time online players and newer or more casual players who are less likely to use such add-ons.
Partypoker’s finalized plans to combat HUDs’ effectiveness were announced via the prominent partypoker blog on Thursday, May 30, and broadcast further via social media.
The GVC Holdings-owned site had previously leaked details of its plans earlier in May but had retracted that information, including some videos, citing some incorrect specifics including an official launch date. The forced name changes will also affect players on party’s sister site, bwin Poker.
The move represents what is likely the online poker industry’s boldest counterattack yet against such third-party software offerings, some of which violate the terms of service (ToS) of various online sites. HUDs have been generally allowed in the past, though their use has already been banned in some highly-regulated jurisdictions.
However, the negative effects of HUDs and many other third-party software offerings has come under increased scrutiny in recent years. Research from several major industry operators shows that such software allows its users to bust newer players in often rapid fashion, often discouraging those newer players from redepositing.
In an effort to upsell the change, partypoker has also announced a $500,000 promotion, called the $500K Race to Alias Giveaway. The promotion runs for only 24 hours after the updated user client containing the forced name-change goes live the morning of June 17.
Players cannot choose their existing screenames, and all previous screennames will be made unavailable for six months. New names are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Though not yet confirmed, it is believed the forced changes to player names will be a recurring feature at partypoker.
HUDs skew player environments
HUDs are real-time overlays that provide information on all previous hands its user has played against all other opponents at any given online poker table. The more hands played, the larger the database the HUD user can access.
The typical HUD display offers several different statistics that provide a general profile on each of a player’s opponents, instantly identifying not only which are experienced foes, but how they are likely to play in certain situations.
The hidden advantage HUDs provide is magnified by the wide availability of huge hand-history databases sold on the black market. Such databases can then be merged with a player’s own histories, often providing that player with information on opponents he’s never even played before.
Even for sites that allow HUD usage, such purchased hand histories are strictly against those sites’ terms of service. However, declaring those purchased databases to be illegal and properly policing the activity has proven to be difficult.
Such illicit use can normally only be detected by “sniffing” the user’s computer to determine what other software is running in addition to the poker client. In many jurisdictions, though, particularly in Europe, such sniffing can be seen as an invasion of users’ privacy and data rights.
Partypoker’s announced solution is far better on several fronts. Rather than banning HUDs and other third-party programs outright, forcing all players to change their aliases with regularity greatly reduces those programs’ effectiveness, since all those old hand histories contain information on players who no longer exist once player names have been changed.
The old hand histories still have some value within software programs that analyze a player’s own actions and serve as learning tools.
“Safe environment” promised
Partypoker’s move to protect newer and more casual players from such predatory software practices was made amply clear in its statement.
Patrick Leonard, a member of partypoker’s Player Panel, said: “I am excited at all the changes partypoker has scheduled as part of the company’s next software update, and I encourage everyone to log in and update their player name on June 17 to take advantage of the huge $500,000 giveaway!”
Partypoker’s managing director, Tom Waters, commented: “This client update is one of a number of initiatives that we are working on in order to provide players with a safe environment where they can play online poker.
“With this release, we will be making changes to our software that will prevent third-party tracking tools from working. We want our players to have a fresh start and therefore we are asking all players to select a new alias so that all third-party tool tracking is lost for all our players.”
Some minor exceptions to the sweeping changes apply. Players in the Czech Republic and Sweden will retain their existing screen names for now, and the forced alias changes apply only to the global site and not several firewalled jurisdictions.
Some end-user software formats, such as Mac-based smart devices, also won’t be ready for the forced change by the June 17 client upgrade, but will be handled at a later date.