Feb 01, 2018
Daniel Negreanu on Seating Scrips - "I’m the Sucker in that Game"
By RTR Dennis
Daniel Negreanu was recently in the Bahamas for the 2018 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. And while he was there, he played online poker to help sharpen his skills.
Normally this wouldn't be a big story. But it became a story when Negreanu noticed that his opponents were using seating scripts to gain an advantage.
Let's quickly discuss what seating scripts are if you don't already know, why Negreanu hates them, and what PokerStars is doing to combat the problem.
What are Seating Scripts?
Seating scripts are computer programs that monitor online poker lobbies and automatically seat players. Going further, these programs also help users finds soft tables. Ideally, the seating script user wants to be seated to the left of a losing player.
But the obvious problem here is that seating scripts go against the spirit of fair competition. Without these programs, winning players wouldn’t be able to hunt recreational players so easily.
The end result is that amateurs are forced to compete against skilled competition on a regular basis. They usually lose their money quicker this way and eventually quit poker.
Negreanu was being Hunted by Seating Scripts
Negreanu recently explained his story through a YouTube video (begins 18:40). And it starts with him sitting down to a $50/$100 no-limit hold'em table.
"I thought maybe if I sit down, some of the regs might give me some action," he said. "Yeah, I didn't have to worry about that. As soon as I sat down, the table filled immediately.”
It didn't take Negreanu long to realize that the tables were quickly filling up due to seating scripts.
"Obviously with me, these guys have a big advantage. Or at least a perceived big advantage in that this is their regular game and I'm not, you know, strong at those, because I don't play."
Negreanu Still Won a Lot of Money
Despite the fact that he was competing against regulars at $50/$100 online no-limit hold'em, Kid Poker had a really good session.
"I'd been learning some things from my coaches that, I was doing differently from my opponents ... It was only two sessions, about 500 hands total," Negreanu described. "The first one, I won about $30,000. And I came back the next session, and I won about $10,000."
Regardless of his short-term success, it was pretty obvious that the action was centered on Negreanu's participation.
"And both sessions, as soon as I hit the sit-out button, or 'leave table' button, oddly enough, everybody else seemed to have to quit at the exact same time. What are the odds, right?
"Clearly they were playing because of me, and they quit instantly once I leave, because I'm the sucker in that game, if you will."
PokerStars' Latest Move to Halt Seating Scripts
Seating scripts first became a problem in 2014. And online poker sites like PokerStars have been working to address the issue ever since. According to Negreanu, their latest effort involves changing the lobby seating process.
"It's something that PokerStars has taken very seriously in terms of how to address it," said Negreanu. "Like, how do we fix this bumhunting problem?
"One of the ways that they're doing that is a new system for seating tables. So right now, you can go into the lobby and see what games are going. 'Oh, 5/10, I wanna play in that game, with that guy.’ That won't be the case anymore."
Negreanu explained why this needs to change by comparing it to how land-based poker rooms are run.
"Now that's not the case if you go to the casino. You go to the Bellagio and say you wanna play 40/80 limit hold'em, you sign up, and when a seat opens up, you get that seat. You can't table select – you just sign up, and you go on a waiting list."
Kid Poker added, "Moving to that format [on PokerStars] will no longer make seat scripting a viable tool, because you'll no longer be able to just sit with a 'fun player.'"
Additional Layers to PokerStars' Seating Script Fix
Negreanu admits that this system isn't perfect. But he says that PokerStars has added layers to their plan to stop seating scripts.
"What if these guys sit down to a table, they see who the player is, they don't like it, and they just leave the table. Well, part of the way the system is going to work is it'll incur penalties for that," he said.
"So if you do that, maybe you'll have a 15-minute wait. You do it again, it's 30, an hour, or what not. I don't know exactly what the numbers will look like, but I'm all for them being as drastic as need be."
It sounds like PokerStars is still working out the details of their plan. But from what Negreanu describes, this will be a welcome move for the majority of players.
After all, most cash game players don't use seating scripts. Therefore, they'll be happy to see skilled players lose this advantage.