Last week I rejoiced at the news that Poker Stars had forced data mining site PokerTableRatings.com (PTR) to cease tracking hand histories from their tables. But the celebration of the death of PTR might be a little premature. The PTR site does still operate – just without Poker Stars data any more – and despite Poker Stars’ success I suspect PTR has no intention of shutting up shop just yet.
I learned that what Pokerstars initially did was persuade PTR’s internet provider that PTR was breaching intellectual property rights law and they were complicit in this. The persuasion worked and they ceased providing internet services to PTR– but within no time at all PTR was up and running with a new ISP.
The “Cease and Desist” legal threat is what actually got PTR to stop and this was no mean feat, because many have speculated that Poker Stars would not even win a case if it ever got a court hearing. The issue is complicated. For example, in which jurisdiction would a hearing take place? Surely not America, where online poker is still a legal grey area? Complicating matters further is the fact PTR is based inLondon, Poker Stars in the Isle of Man and the servers (not to mention the players) could be anywhere.
And are hand histories even the intellectual property of Poker Stars, or any other site? If anything I could argue that how I choose to play my hand is my own intellectual property, not the poker sites’. From that perspective the online poker sites are mere platforms facilitating the expression of our poker playing abilities and continuing with that thought, when PTR sells information about my skills (or lack of) – they are selling MY intellectual property, not Poker Stars’.
In which case, hang on, I’d better take PTR to court myself!
Then again – perhaps poker platforms state in their terms and conditions somewhere that players’ hand histories belong exclusively to them – like Facebook do with photos that you upload. Does a mere click on a Terms and Conditions page actually achieve this?
So the issue is not 100% clear cut. Perhaps PTR just crumbled under the gravity of a legal threat which could potentially take up all their management time and financial resources. And much as I don’t approve of legal strong-arming where the big bully the weak, I’m still pleased with the result.
What I think we can agree on – and 90% of you who responded to last week’s poll seem to be with me on this – is that we are “not OK” with PTR’s activities. It seems the biggest gripe was that players do not want, without permission, to have our own hand histories provided to my opponents by an entity for a fee out of which we are not seeing one penny.
Personally my biggest grievance is that it enables and Tom, Dick or Harry with a big mouth to shout the odds in the chat box. Just the other day I had some toolbox telling the whole table that I had a minus 21% return on investment and that I was the site’s benefactor. Minus 21%!!
“I’ve been playing these games for years” I told him. “And I’ve only just seen you about in the last week”. “Man can’t play for years losing 21% ROI.”
Then he tells me he’s played 30,000 sit n gos on iPoker. So clearly he’s a fantasist – but PTR is very often wrong so it doesn’t even give people the edge they thought they were getting. But the point is that if PTR didn’t exist he wouldn’t be able to say nonsense like this at all. (Sometimes I think it would be handy if they just banned the chat box as well!)
“We’re just providing a service” they will bleat. Yeah, just like every pimp and drug dealer in history. I just hope all the other sites follow Star’s lead and serve up legal threats of their own until these destructive ponces are drummed out of existence.
A final thought on the usefulness or otherwise or PTR. Just how much of an advantage does it actually give the people who use it?
PTR could find this out if they wanted. They know exactly who bought their products and they can track their results before and after. Perhaps they have done this already? Well I would have if I were them. And don’t you think that if PTR’s products actually helped their customers win more and they could demonstrate this with the numbers, that they would be screaming it from the rooftops? I don’t hear anything.
You might say that makes me – and all the other owners of tracking software like Holdem Manager or PokerTracker – a hypocrite. I myself record data in Holdem Manager so I can review my play and that of my opponents later on. So what’s the difference?
Well, as mentioned above – the hands I play are my own property. I played those hands and I deserve the rights to them. It’s people buying 500k hands from games they weren’t involved it that’s out of order and the sites would agree with me here – making explicit reference to personal ownership of hand that players were dealt in to.
But I will concede a little bit of ground here. Although I sat in these hands and played them, and although I can make my own notes on hands that I have played, it’s not as if I would actually remember them all. There is no way in the world I could take notes when I’m playing 2000 hands over 10 tables in 3 hours – let alone compile them into a handy database and draw statistics from them.
So I do agree that the owners of tracking software packages also have an edge, albeit a “less dishonest” one.