Gamblista’s Solution to Bum Hunting, Fish & Sharks

Increasingly poker rooms and networks are finding they need to consider the overall health of their player ecosystem. Each having different approaches of trying to balance the interests of new players, recreational players and the regular grinders and long term winning players.

Most of the solutions aim to keep the sharks completely away from the fish, however I have a much easier solution to the problem – and it comes from looking at how live casinos run their poker games … It’s simple and it would be easily effective against “bum hunting” and would make HUD’s a far less efficient tool.

Phil Galfond wrote a while ago about how the health of the poker eco system was vital to it’s long term viability – suggesting some changes highlighting a lot of problems many that recreation and even low stakes regulars would be unaware of.

To Segregate or Not

Most recently the Revolution network (Lock etc) have announced they will be segregating their players using “fair play technology” to separate players by ability. Party poker seem to be introduction similar segregated tables. For sometime many sites clearly feel this is an issue they want to address but likely it’s become apparent more for self interested reasons than anything else. Bodog network have gone with a completely anonymous approach – players joining the table with just a seat number which breaks the usefulness of the HUD’s but still enables some degree of game & table selection.

Other sites for example on the iPoker network make use of “beginner” tables for newbies only which are clearly marked, this makes perfect sense to give new players a chance to gain experience playing similarly inexperienced players and something that should be maintained.

But where do you draw the line ? When does a newbie become a consistent fish and how do you protect them from more savvy players ? or should you even try ?

Both Party and Revolution seem to be attempting to rank based on win rates or profitability to some degree or another but it’s still going to be a far from perfect system and it going to leave that feeling that somehow they’re tilting the odds of the game in favour of one type of player and against others.

Gamblista’s Solution – Wait List Only Cash Games

Don’t get me wrong I have no problem with players making player notes but online poker as it currently stands enables certain advantages that simply are not available in live games.

Use of HUD’s, data mining hand history sites & recently auto seating software all give an unfair and “un-earned” advantage to technically savvy players.

My solution is that online poker sites simply use the same first come first served “waiting list” process for seating players used in most poker rooms at live casinos.

You put your name on the list for the stakes / game you want to play and then you get seated at the discretion of the casino in the next available seat and table. As a player you are NOT able to determine or choose where you sit – Effectively it’s random.

This would solve ALL the problems currently faced by poker rooms:

  • No more bum hunting – sharks would be unable to pick out the fish
  • Reduced advantage of buying millions of hands into HUD’s
  • No more sitting out on HU tables waiting for naive victims
  • No more dipping in and out of games when juicier games appear in lobby
  • Less Need for anonymous tables
  • Renders Auto-Seat software pointless

The interesting thing about this very simple idea is that it would be so so easy to implement and would be so effective at solving so many problems at a stroke.

By taking the selection process completely out of the hands of the players, like a live casino this method removes all the controls that a player has to pre-select the players they will face. This would at a stroke level the playing field and with a much much bigger field of tables online for most stakes it would become very random. This would mean tables would generally have a better mix of fish to sharks at all tables.

HUD use would be far less effective because players wouldn’t be able to predetermine their table choice based on their HUD’s showing weak players. However the HUD’s advantage wouldn’t be total negated so while the Bodog anonymous tables has social limitations it’s understandable why they are trying it. Equally segregating players is understandable but IMHO just not necessary. The danger with segregation is the perception of fairness goes out the window, the perception of overprotecting the “weak” has a feeling of “cheating” to many of the recreational players and not just the ones that utilise all the software and statistical advantage.

Auto Seating Software Making Things Worse

The recent development of auto seating programs are making the problem of bum hunting even worse, previously old skool sensible players (not using HUD’s) could manually scour the lobby looking for juicier games (no real problem with that) and had time to click on seat – now most players are getting gazumpt by overly savvy players not only able to find the juiciest games automatically but able to auto seat before anyone else even has the chance to click. This is going to make the whole situation even worse by maintaining the system advantage but further reducing the majorities chance

RNG’s Clearly Not Rigged

All this IMHO points to yet more evidence that the RNG’s at online poker rooms are not rigged to give newbies / losing players an advantage over reg’s and “better” players – If that were they case then the poker rooms would juts crank up the bias a little more to keep the money down at the bottom with the “losers” and away from the “winners” that bit longer. The fact that they have recognised this problem of the money getting to the top and out of the system too quickly gives strong support that the RNG’s are legit.


The most important thing for online poker is fairness and that the fairness of the game is maintained above all else.

Good players must still feel they can maintain a skill advantage that they have earn’t by working hard – learning and apply better skills at playing poker.

Recreational players must feel they have a fair crack at winning, that the game is fair and that they’re not being mugged due to unfair advantage of more savvy players ie. HUD’s, auto seat software & sharks only prepared to play tanks of fish and avoiding each other.

My suggestion of a wait list only for cash games would solve all of these problems without the need to blatantly segregate players. Effectively sharks have been trying to self segregate themselves by avoiding other sharks at all costs. The trouble with segregation is that is not going to be long before it spreads a negative vibe around the regulars. Poker needs to be a diverse community of all types of players.

Levelling the playing field with the removal of top heavy rakeback (and VIP rewards) and introducing a more controlled waiting list system would go a long way towards restoring online poker to a more healthy “real world” poker environment.

There will always be winners and losers the key is to making the losers feel they have had value for money from they’re poker play and that the winners don’t win or earn more than their real actual poker skills really entitle them to … If you take away the tools and the advantages that can only be gain online and you would find there are a lot fewer real poker sharks.

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