Jonas Odman: Anonymous Poker 18 Months Later

TAGs: Bill Beatty, Bodog Poker Network, DDoS attacks, Interviews, Jonas Odman, Microgaming, Party Poker, PokerStars

jonas-odman-anonymous-poker-18-months-later-postIt’s been 18 months since Bodog introduced their controversial and much maligned anonymous poker tables as the cornerstone of their Bodog Recreational Poker Model.  If you went by the initial reactions from the poker community, you would have believed it meant the end of the Bodog Poker Network but 18 months later the network is strong and its chief architect is a happy man.

Jonas Odman had been planning his recreational poker model since 2009; long before he found a home for it on the Bodog Poker Network but when he found a group willing and crazy enough to implement the dramatic changes, he knew he was home.

Once in control of the Bodog Poker Network, Odman made changes to how rake was doled out to affiliates and operators on the network. He eliminated rake back programs and, of course, launched the network-wide anonymous poker tables.

We knew Party Poker had tried it and Microgaming had tried it but only on a small scale. Players avoided those tables like a disease. The players didn’t even want to try it and we’re going to launch anonymous tables network wide.

The initial response from the poker community was venomous; Odman was called every name in the book with most of them questioning either a) his intelligence or b) his sanity, but Odman wasn’t deterred. “Looking at it objectively, players showed they didn’t want it but we felt it was the right thing for the ecosystem,” Odman said.

The network initially lost players with many players following through on threats to cash out and quit the site but it wasn’t to last.  Odman says, “They come back, we lost some people and I don’t want to talk too much about numbers but players came back and we’re very happy with where we are right now.

We can see the model is working, the recreational player is getting more bang for his buck. Winning players are still winning albeit not as fast but they are still winning.”

The groups least happy with the change to anonymous poker were the multi-table grinders and players using HUDs. Their software that analyzed opponents, hands and situations no longer worked on the network taking away a major advantage these players had over their opponents.

Some winning players are enjoying things more because they aren’t having trouble finding games. It’s different now, player can’t use their huds to make decisions, players need to make their own choices now,” Odman said.

The switch to completely anonymous poker has had some unintended benefits, as there has been a rash of targeted DDoS attacks on players playing in heads-up poker tournaments on PokerStars.

The targeted DDoS Attacks were something we didn’t dream about happening but it was a lucky side benefit of the anonymous tables. They are protecting the players from things we didn’t even know could be a threat.

When the Recreational Poker Model was conceived back in 2009 and again when it was launched, Odman was convinced other poker network operators would follow suit and adopt his poker model. There have been some changes from other operators and networks in the industry but to date no other poker network has followed suit with network wide anonymous tables.  It’s surprising to Odman, “I’m surprised we don’t have more followers but I’m confident someone will (follow).

When asked if any more changes were in the works, Odman said they were always working on improving fraud detection and a few other things to protect the players but those are all in the back end, players won’t see any large scale changes.

We have enough protections in place now we can focus on fun and entertainment. Like a circus, we have a good safety net, now lets see what kind of performance we can put on.”

As part of the fun and entertainment, the Bodog Poker Network is sending 100 players to the WSOP and they are encouraging players to dress as Zorro to help promote their anonymous poker series. As a bonus for people willing to dress as Zorro at the WSOP, Bodog will send two players, including flights and accommodations to Manila for the final of their $100,000 Anonymous Poker Series.

Given that the network is doing better than ever and the anger has long since subsided it’s fair to ask if Odman feels vindicated, “We are definitely getting more praise now, I was confident all along but it’s nice to see the poker media coming around too.

We even have some defenders in the poker forums. We were always open with why we made the changes that we did to implement the Recreational Model.We did it to protect the players.  They don’t all agree with the changes but at least now most respect our decisions.”


views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of