Prima Poker, perhaps now more currently known as the Microgaming Poker Network, has just launched one of the most bizarre software upgrades in recent times. While many Prima players are already exasperated with the Anonymous Tables which arrived late last year, this latest step, the launch of an autofold system known as the Pocket Card Manager (PCM) or ‘Bring Your Own Bot’ as we prefer to call it, could be the last straw for a great number of those who are still loyal to this network.
Controversy has never been a stranger to Microgaming Poker which makes this development all the more unfathomable. With not one but two multi million dollar scandals to their name, leaving thousands of players out of pocket with still no sign of recompense, Microgaming have been lucky that Cereus, consisting of Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet, have somehow managed to eclipse them in the ‘rogue’ stakes, as have Full Tilt more recently. This latest development, which we’ll go into more detail on shortly, could well be the online poker equivalent of suicide via auto-erotic asphyxiation.
The industry as a whole is aware of the issue of bots in poker and every forward thinking network or standalone poker operator is fighting to identify, combat and remove them. As should be completely obvious to all right thinking players bots are a cancer of the online poker game, a method for cheats to illegally suck money out of the poker ecosystem, preventing law abiding and honest players from either winning as much as they should or, even more damaging, mopping up the deposits of smaller players, ‘fish’ in other words. These part-time players in turn are deprived of their odd, occasional morale boosting, win and the fun in the game is removed. They then seek another form of entertainment and above average players lose their revenue stream and seek alternative forms of either fun or income themselves. Cliff notes: poker BOTS are BAD!
Concerns about Bots on Prima have been voiced ever since Anonymous Tables went live. Devised as a means of protecting fish they do have their plus points: Poker Tracker, Poker Office and other such programmes are of no use on these tables as the players are simply seen as Player 1, Player 2 and so on. Notes cannot be taken and no stats are ever recorded. Anyone who wants to play incognito can do so from micro stakes up to €2 – €4 without fear of their opponents being able to predict their every move.
However the anonymity works both ways. As said above bots are an industry problem and are improving all the time but there are key indicators that help to spot them. Reaction times, chat, session times and playing styles are very distinct and in lots of cases predictable. Bots tend to be very beatable once they’ve been rumbled but they have the advantage of never tiring and never tillting. When you no longer have an alias to tie these indicators to though the bots will be next to impossible to spot and any number could be lurking in the seclusion that Microgaming provide. One thing botters have always struggled with is creating random response times, with response times probably being THE key indicator initially, but now they don’t need to, as you can see Microgaming have done the work for them! Note the ‘fold delay time’ options in the shots below.
It is extremely easy to select what hands you no longer want to play and recommendations are already pre-configured for the Small Blind as well as Early, Middle and Late position. At first glance this might seem great and it’s certainly been well developed and not dissimilar to the ‘quick fold’ option that used to exist in Rush Poker. Having tried it we cannot deny that it plays well but the concern is clear, if bad players suddenly become good then an initial increase in rake will be followed by the situation mentioned above. Win rates will diminish and, again like Rush Poker, premium hands will only be met with other premium hands leading to full rake taken each time and everybody losing, including the network as players cash out while they still can.
Rush Poker was at least limited to a specific number of tables and was not in danger of damaging Full Tilt, they were quite good enough at self harming in other ways, but as a network wide upgrade, working on all tournament and cash tables, this could spell disaster. Pokerstars have already made clear that they would never touch a concept such as Rush Poker due to the inherent dangers involved. Bad players simply lose much too quickly to pay any rake and their enjoyment, and therefore their desire to keep playing, is curtailed. Will we be watching this robot fiddle as Prima Poker burns?