Online poker star PokerStars is testing new random seating software on its ring games to curb bumhunting by sharp players.
On Wednesday, PokerStars’ blog announced the introduction of Seat Me, which will automatically assign players a seat at a random table after they’ve selected game and stake options. The new software will make its debut on Spanish site PokerStars.es, after which Stars will review the results and consider rolling out the change in other markets.
Stars says Seat Me will make its ring game seating process “smoother, quicker and fairer” by mimicking “the live poker experience of random table and seat selection.” Stars believes Seat Me could represent “a major milestone” in ensuring that its ring games are “being played on an even footing.”
Seat Me eliminates players’ ability to pick and choose their seat and table choices, prevents the use of seating scripts and introduces “potential time penalties to reduce game disruption” by players who constantly switch tables, steal blinds or refuse to take on certain players.
Stars acknowledges that Seat Me will bar players from observing ring game table action, but says railbirds will still have access to “rolling highlights of key hands,” with preference given to activity by Team PokerStars Pros.
Stars’ Spanish site is also testing random player matching via a Heads-Up Sit & Go lobby that prevents players from viewing their opponents’ names before starting the game. Should this test prove conclusive, Stars says its intention is to propose “something similar” for its cash games “in the coming months.”
Reaction to Seat Me’s introduction has been mixed, with recreational players feeling like a giant target has been taken off their backs, while the grinders whose bumhunting antics necessitated Seat Me’s arrival are more prone to suggesting Stars introduce a new feature called Blow Me, or hiring Chris ‘why don’t you take a seat’ Hansen to star in a new promo series titled To Catch A Bumhunter.
Stars has taken a while to arrive at this step, having made token anti-bumhunting gestures as far back as 2013. In December 2014, six months or so after Canada’s Amaya Gaming acquired Stars and began tinkering with the product, the site began limiting the number of seats a script could reserve.
Stars is far from the only major poker site to have belatedly realized that bumhunting was destroying its poker ecology. Last September, PartyPoker banned seating scripts and anonymized player hand histories. All of which are good, yet fall short of the measures truly needed to ensure a sustainable poker ecosystem.