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Why PokerStars legal action against PTRs data mining is good news for online poker

April 22, 2012

As most of you probably already know, PokerStars threatened to sue PTR regarding the intellectual property rights that PokerStars believe PTR infringes. PTR essentially data mined millions of hands on the site everyday and sold services based on the information gathered from these hands; such as winnings and losses for specific players and even selling the actual hand histories to other players.

The use of PTRs services give „professional“ players a huge advantage and information about thousands of hands their opponents has played and that means that recreational and or soft players are targeted by the professional or good players, who will know how their opponents play and how much they are loosing, even before playing their first hand with them.

The threat of legal action from PokerStars ended with PTR accepting to remove PokerStars from their list of network, where their services can be purchased.

This is a really good move by PokerStars for online poker in general. It might cost little in rake in the beginning but it is a great message to send to the recreational players, who in my opinion is far more likely to deposit further funds and contribute to the online poker ecosystem than winning players who used PTR to target their opponents and withdraws money regularly. It might just be one of the things that will help increase online pokers sustainability. PTRs decision to remove PokerStars from their site following the legal threat will probably also see many other networks follow PokerStars’ example.

Protecting the „weaker“ players

It is important to protect the players, who bring money into the games and you don’t do that by placing them in the middle of other players cross-hair. The only worse thing is, if these players learn about it – and sooner or later they would. These things will sooner or later be publicly known – especially since online gambling is such a huge industry, which attracts ever more attention from the media – not only because of the big money involved, but also because more and more countries are implementing specific online gambling legislation, which increases the public attention.

As PokerStars Home Games Manager Lee Jones stated to, PokerStars stance on data mining is to protect new and weaker players: “New and/or weak players often don’t even know that they’re sitting in their opponents’ cross-hairs. So the most vulnerable players are unaware they’re being targeted”.

But he also states that he hopes the removal of PTRs service will result in a better environment at the tables, because players no longer can tell weaker players in the chat, how bad they are based on their PTR-ratings.

Other sites are also in the

Other sites have tried or is trying to protect the weaker player segment – Cake network used to not allow any sort of trackers and data mining of hands (not even your own), others (Bodog, Microgaming) have anonymous tables, so there is no doubt that the interest in protecting the weaker segment of players exists, but until recently it has appeared, that no one had the will to do more than just jab at the issue.

I think this is one of these things that will reveal which parties are really concerned about the continuous sustainability of online poker – and of course more long term revenue – and those who are just in it for the quick win and who we will probably hear less and less about.

What’s next?

However, some of the questions that remain are…

  • When will the rest of the networks and sites follow PokerStars example?

  • When will we see another site attempting to prosper because PTR wont sell or provide data from data mined hand histories anymore?

  • What will PTR do? They have already allowed PokerStars’ players to opt in and allow PTR to share their statistics, but that is quite a bit far from what people will pay to get access to.

As usual, time will tell. I for one hope, that the remaining networks will follow suit and that any new site attempting to prosper in PTRs demise, will be met with prompt action from all of the networks.

Please, feel free to pitch in with your comment.

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From → Online Poker

One Comment
  1. It is very interesting that Pokerstars has chosen to base their cease & desist letter on intellectual property infringment. As hand histories are computer generated records of the hands played, it is difficult to see, what intellectual property rights the data mining should be infringing.

    I think it is more interesting, if data mining could be considered a breach of data protection legislation. User names/nick names may considered personal information if it is at all possible to find out who the person behind the nick is. In this respect it does not matter if the average user cannot examine this himself. Whether data mining can be considered a processing of data is unclear. However, it could be interesting to get it tried in court. If PTR’s data mining could be considered processing of data, this could be the end to datamining all together, as the processing of personal data usual requires consent from the persons who the data regards.

    Just my 5 cents.

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