Microgaming Poker Network Reverses Plans, Allows Resumption of Hand-History Requests

Updated: June 19th, 2019 by Haley Hintze

The Microgaming Poker Network, or MPN, has been one of the leading forces in online poker in seeking ways to combat the proliferation of various third-party software programs that are widely known to increase the edge experienced online grinders have over newer and lesser-skilled online players. Yet in a reversal of plans laid out to the public last year, Microgaming has reversed itself on the issue of heads-up displays, or HUDs, which are one of the primary ways in which tech-savvy grinders can build a profile of their table opponents.

The effects of HUDs and other such programs have caused an increasing skill imbalance across all of online poker, and in 2018, Microgaming announced that it would limit the information available upon request by its players, allowing them to obtain historic info only on hands in which the players had actively wagered. Later, when MPN rolled out its new “Prima” platform, the ability to request hand histories was removed in its entirety.

The problem with the hand histories and HUDs is that large numbers of less-than-ethical online players had swapped or sold large collections of hands that they themselves never played, building huge hands-played databases that gave the owners of these databases — widely sold on online poker’s black market — a profile on most of their opponents at any given online table. Yet the immense pressure placed on MPN over the complete lack of hand histories led the network to reconsider,

In a post published yesterday on the MPN blog, Managing Director Alex Scott explained the reversal. According to Scott, “After reviewing all of the feedback we have received since the launch of our new software, and considering the ongoing debate, we have come to the conclusion that our current policy on hand histories is not right. With the best of intentions, we made a mistake, and so now we’re going to make changes.”

A lack of transparency regarding played hands and players’ general mistrust of allowing the sites themselves to have sole insight into whether some online cheating or other collusion may be taking place may have factored into MPN’s switcheroo, but there’s also a whiff of something that might have been a legal threat from one or more companies who market some third-party software programs. Scott offered the following as to what would best fit players’ needs:

The general principles behind these changes are that:

  • Players should be able to track their own game, learn, and improve.
  • We want to be more transparent, and allow players to verify that we are doing a good job of keeping the games free of cheating. (We are, but you shouldn’t have to trust us).
  • We want to comply with the law around data portability.
  • We wish to discourage players from using hand history data in a way that gives them an unfair advantage over other players. This includes the use of HUDs, seat or table selection software, and real-time advisory tools which use hand history data.

Discouraging the dark-market sale and massing of hand histories has been one of those intractable issues facing online-poker operators for several years. While it increasingly appears that an outright ban might never be truly workable, the alternative is to find ways to make them ineffective and not worth the investment.

To that end, Scott also wrote that Microgaming will increasingly promote how frequently players may change their screen names, known as aliases, and advise them to do so as often as possible to foil the actions of those who illicitly gather hand histories. Scott wrote, “Currently, players on the MPN can change their poker alias every 30 days, or 1,000 hands (whichever comes soonest). At some point in the future, we will make these changes easier and more prominent.” HUDs themselves won’t be banned directly at Microgaming sites, but it’s clear that MPN still plans to combat their prevalence and seeks to make the online-poker experience better for more players overall.


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