No More High Stakes Railing at PokerStars??

In a move which promises some serious ramifications for online poker as we know it, PokerStars have announced that they are trialling a new function they've named "Seat Me", aimed, they say, at "Protecting the game of poker that we all love." There seem to be plenty of folk, however, who disagree - and you can count HighstakesDB among them.

"Seat Me", according to PokerStars will, "eliminate the ability of players to pick their tables and seats at the tables, and will instead get them straight into the action automatically once a game and stake has been chosen."

The key issues PokerStars say they believe this will address will be to reduce bumhunting and to prevent the use of seating scripts which allows  players "to unfairly prey on less experienced players". We'll come to those points in a moment

However, we at HighstakesDB believe that the move, if implemented wholesale, will only be of detriment to the popularity and widespread appeal of poker. A by-product of the change will mean that it will no longer be possible for fans to rail the high stakes games thus removing one of the most entertaining aspects of online poker.

We believe that stories sell poker, and young hotshots playing across the virtual felt for big bucks create those stories. These stories, played out in real time inspire new players - showing them that it is possible if you work hard enough to live the poker dream.

How many times have we heard some of today's most feared players talk about watching the likes of Prahlad "mahatma/Spirit Rock" Friedman, Brian "sbrugby/aba20" Townsend, Tom "durrrr" Dwan, Ilari "Ziigmund" Sahamies or Viktor "Isildur1" Blom in the early to middle days of online high stakes - and how seeing their success made them hungry for success of their own?

What created the poker boom in the first place? It was TV showing an "everyman" winning $2.5m in the Main Event - it was about the average guy playing a game he loved and winning a ton of money. What have been the most popular poker shows ever? High Stakes Poker, Poker After Dark, and Late Night Poker - where poker fans were able to live out every hand and every big pot - watching the best in the business do battle for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

We at HighstakeDB like to think we've helped continue that tradition online over the years by allowing people to get a glimpse inside the crazy swings, the million dollar pots, the battles of wills, and the great online rivalries by reporting on the games, showing you the biggest pots, and interviewing the best in the business on a regular basis. If PokerStars decide to roll out "Seat Me" across the board, you'll be unlikely to see any of this again - at least not at PokerStars.

Will "Seat Me" really solve the problems it purports to be addressing? There are mixed feelings to say the least. First off it's worth noting that the changes seem to largely mirror those made by Amaya at Full Tilt  - a move which had the net effect of greatly reducing the traffic, certainly at the mid stakes (it was thankfully never rolled out at high stakes).

Also, the move claims to be aimed at stopping better players being able to "unfairly prey on less experienced players." Most clued up observers know this simply won't happen. As has been seen in both the Full Tilt incarnation and the current anonymous tables at Party Poker -  if a game is full of regs with no fish it just breaks, it's not as though suddenly the problem of bum-hunting is eradicated.

As poster "Mixgrill" says on 2+2 - "They still don't realize that bum hunting will never disappear. You can seat players with better players and the game will just not run. Especially when charging insane amounts of rake. Pros play to make money, not for the experience. Should they hand out penalties for not playing? This creates even more hostility for both regs and fish. Zoom only? A lot of fish don't like Zoom, so you'll push more players away."

Poster ishipkq (a high stakes pro and seat scripting developer) addresses the "seat scripting" issue saying "the objective of this is not to get rid of scripts, but to get rid of people that make a living out of poker. If the objective of this is to get rid of seating scripts they will fail miserably. I guarantee that automatic seating solutions will be available fast, probably from day 1. Most people say "make all zoom so you cant script" yeah well, you can also script zoom quite efficiently. It just isnt done because there is not much money in it."

ishipkq goes on to say. "oh btw: stars allows my script and has allowed it for years. If they wanted to stop scripters they could have just asked me not to distribute it. Do you now see what i tried to say? Amayas agenda is not the one the claim. It makes me a bit sick that people on 2+2 still haven't realized that amaya is actively trying to get rid of them even though this has been going on for years already."

Not everybody commenting was againts the changes however. Podcast supremo Joe "ChicagoJoey" Ingram tweeted "I think the new Pokerstars cash game changes they are rolling out for .ES is actually a GOOD (wtf) change for mid stakes+"

However, although Ingram said he could see the benefit for mid-stakes he was less enthusiastic elsewhere;


Joey also addressed our main concern:


We couldn't agree more Joe, we couldn't agree more.

So, is "Seat Me" purely a cynical way for PokerStars to get rid of the pro players and make their poker offering even more skewed towards the recreation players? or is it a genuine attempt to deal with bum-hunting and seat scripting?

Whatever the truth, not being able to rail high stakes will be a sad day for all true online poker fans, and we can only hope Stars leave the high stakes tables well enough alone...

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