In the online poker world, you don’t know who your opponents are, unless of course they have somehow publicly been identified with their nickname. Furthermore, you cannot look an opponent straight in the eye or examine tiny physical gestures that will help you size-up your opponent or make a judgment call that will determine your next move. Some tools that online players traditionally rely on include: evaluating a player’s nickname, their avatar, game play, previous notes taken on a player, the size of a player’s bankroll, speed-of-play, reputation, and a player’s country.
The dreaded pause: sometimes, a pause by an opponent can throw you off. The reason for this is that while we think that a long pause during a game is a sign of the opponent being in deep state of thought regarding his next move, calculating in order to get that extra bit of assurance, what many of us may not know is that the reason for the pause may be simply because the same opponent may actually be playing on multiple tables on the same or on various poker sites at the same time and this may be the true cause for the delay, while we patiently stick to playing on our single table.
Online poker players also use tracking software that helps them to make more educated judgment calls on opponents. Such software is often used by more experienced poker players or sharks to gain an advantage over the more recreational players. There is nothing illegal about using such software but it doesn’t exist in the live poker world. In order for the tracking software to do its job, players need to be identifiable by a screen name.
Over the past year, we have seen poker networks such as Microgaming introduce the concept of anonymous poker tables, tables where no nickname is displayed, in an effort to balance any unfair advantages against casual or recreational poker players. In a bold move this past week, Bodog Poker has introduced full anonymous poker tables on their network. Bodog are one of the world’s largest sportsbetting sites founded by a Saskatchewan native, Calvin Ayre and although they have seen a big expansion internationally over the past couple of years, they are still one of the few internet gambling websites remaining that still cater to players from the United States. Since poker Black Friday which caused the removal from the U.S. poker market of PokerStars, Full Tilt and UB, Bodog has grown and is now ranked as the 11th largest poker network.
Bodog have also recently signed a three-year sponsorship deal with the Canadian Football League so expect more Canadians to play there.
By introducing fully anonymous tables, what they have done effectively is to remove any nicknames, avatars or player identifiers and making it relatively impossible for sharks to track individual players based on anything else but current game play. Each player is simply a seat number at the table from 1 to 10.
“The sharper players definitely are not going to like a system that levels the field and give these recreational players more value,” Bodog founder Calvin Ayre posted in response to a player’s post. “That’s the only real issue here; everything else is just window dressing.”
In an upcoming article on Canada Poker, we will be discussing the origin of fishy poker players, but it is a well-known fact that many hard core sports gamblers are considered recreational poker players at best and identified as “fish” by the experienced poker player. As a business whose primary focus is sportsbetting, poker represents a small fraction of the overall revenues of a company like Bodog that benefits more on their bottom line when players lose their money on sports wagers as opposed to losing it to other players in the poker room. The sharks have identified these guys as bad poker players with tidy sized bankrolls and hunt them down. This has been a common problem plaguing many online sportsbooks who have no choice but to offer online poker to their customers who demand it and this is surely the main motivation for Bodog’s latest product innovation.
There have been some outcries from players that the anonymous tables can allow players to cheat through collusion or through the use of poker bots because of the added difficulty of spotting collusion.
Ayre responded to this by saying, “I don’t think this is the issue since the recreational players this system is targeted at don’t think like this (about cheating) and the sharps are not really even wanted so they can just go play somewhere else, can they not?” So in effect, Bodog is politely telling the sharks to go and play somewhere else.
One of the challenges in the poker industry has been the ability to attract more recreational players into a poker network and various attempts have been made by various networks, but the challenge still remains unresolved as we see the majority of online poker traffic on the decline over the past couple of years.
It will be very interesting to see if other poker networks follow Bodog but it is very unlikely to be a game changer in the industry because having a totally anonymous poker population would remove any of the remaining fun associated with this social game.
If you haven’t tried this new feature, sign up to Bodog and give it a try and let us know what you think in our forum.