It is an arms race. You are battling against some very motivated people out there who try and implement software that can help them make more money. PokerStars said it considers any software that helps an online poker player make a decision as real-time assistance and is, therefore, illegal during match play.
The company has the technological capability of detecting when a player is trying to use real-time assistance and can shut down such illegal activity quickly, according to Chris Straghalis, Director of Online Poker Experience at PokerStars.
“Basically, we don’t allow anything that helps you make a decision,” Straghalis said in a recent podcast on pokerfuse. “You’re not allowed to use any software that’s helping you make a decision that’s not wholly your own.
“You cannot use charts, you cannot use anything that gives you advice, you can’t even use randomized timer software that lets you randomize how you make your betting decisions. From our standpoint, all of those things constitute some level of real-time assistance.
“If you want to use a solver after your session is done to check your hands and see whether you made the right decision or not, you’re free to do that,” Straghalis said. “But don’t have our client open. We’ll detect it, and we’ll send you an email, tell you it’s not allowed, and take further action. We’re very strong about that.”
We’re very motivated to keep our games incredibly safe. It is more difficult, but we’re up to the challenge, and I’m confident in our abilities to continue to proactively detect these things. Straghalis said that, despite the proliferation — and lower cost — of tools that online poker players could potentially use to cheat, PokerStars hasn’t been idle and is prepared to prevent such incidents.
“Those tools are improving, but so are ours,” he said. “We have incredible tools on our backend that help us detect these things. We’re always improving them. We’ve made huge improvements and expanded the range of things that we can detect alongside.
“It is an arms race. You are battling against some very motivated people out there who try and implement software that can help them make more money. But we’re also very motivated to keep our games incredibly safe. It is more difficult, but we’re up to the challenge, and I’m confident in our abilities to continue to proactively detect these things.”
He added that players can’t evade being detected by memorizing what their next move should be.
“We look for decisions that are being made at what we call 'superhuman level’ — levels of perfection that are just not achievable, no matter what level of memorization you might have. The way you have to look at it is — you might be good in a spot, but you’re not making those decisions with 99.9% accuracy all of the time. Nobody can.”
Another tech challenge — bots — are still around but not as prevalent these days, according to Straghalis.
“I wouldn’t say [bots] are a thing of the past, but they’re dramatically lowered on our platform,” he said, adding that it was important to note that for most people, a bot is considered a program that will play poker for a human player and make all of the decisions in a match. “Those are largely a thing of the past because they are very easy to detect with our systems.”
But Straghalis conceded that PokerStars has seen an increase in the use of so-called push-button, or human bots, which he said was “more akin to real-time assistance.”
“Those [types of bots] we still see, and we still prevent,” Straghalis said. “One of our measures internally on how we test our effectiveness is how proactively we detect cases versus player reporting. It’s in the high 90th percentile — we proactively detect these things versus player reporting.
“We scour the internet…because bot manufacturers have to get their information out there somewhere. What you’ll see from almost every single site is they’ll say, “Don’t play this on PokerStars.” That’s something we’re very proud of because it shows that we are [actively looking]. Even the bot makers say, “Don’t try it. It’s not going to work.”