Here’s a tale from the “two wrongs don’t make a right” category, which is too often the case in online poker. This story centers on a site that’s currently the world’s largest but isn’t even available to American players, GGPoker. That “available” stuff is said with a nod and a wink, of course, as the company has for years turned as blind an eye as possible to the thousands of US-based medium- and high-stakes pros willing to set up a VPN connection to get on the site while appearing not to be playing from the States.
But that part of GGPoker’s existence isn’t the point of this feature. Instead, it’s about a couple of other pieces where the company’s policies and decision-msking practices are in the news. First, as of Monday, GGPoker infuriated tens of thousands of its players by removing most player-identify infomation from its tournament and cash-game lobbies.
Why did that infuriate certain players? Because it renders third-party data-scraping sites such as Sharkscope incapable of lifting the lists anf results of tournament participants and then compiling and selling that data to customers.
Sharkscope takes a value hit
Sharkscope and/or its employees went a tiny bit apeshit on social media and on selected poker forums earlier this week about the lockout. Here’s a Sharkscope support worker named Lori blasting away in a thread on 2+2:
Join Date: Aug 2020Posts: 15
Unfortunately, without prior notice, GG Poker decided to prevent us from tracking tournament results for reasons of “optimizing the player experience and increasing security”. This has disabled features cherished by tens of thousands of GG players every month and significantly worsened player safety. Throughout our 20-year history, SharkScope has been used countless times to detect fraudulent and dishonest behavior across various networks and serves as a significant deterrent against unfair practices. Every other one of the over 80 poker sites we monitor has determined in detail that our services are significantly positive for the poker ecosystem, improving player experience and allowing players to make more informed decisions through transparent assessment of their results.
We believe there might still be a chance they will change their mind, so if you value our service on GG, we strongly suggest you contact their support to explain how valuable you consider our services and how important they are to you when choosing which poker site to play on.
A lot of what the Sharkscope employee asserts is best taken with a grain of salt. The above is beyond self-serving verbiage. While Sharkscope’s scraped data can be used to help identify cheaters in certain circumstances, that’s a middling-size plus in the face of the massive minus that more accurately describes Sharkscope’s impact on the online-poker economy.
Identifying cheats not Sharkscope’s primary use
What Sharkscope is used for, far above and beyond all else, is to pinpoint the skill level of one’s opponents at a table. That especially means to identify whatever fishy and unskilled newbies might happen to be in other seats, the better to fillet them before anyone else has the chance.
Sharkscope apparently has more than 50,000 subscribers who play on GGPoker; way to disclose that business information, SS Lori, whoever you are. But that number gives insight into just how endemic and predatory a service such as Sharkscope is, and how skewed all of online poker is as well. That’s 50,000 people using just one of many dozens of available services that heighten the edge between skilled/experienced players and novices who don’t know as much about the game.
Add in, too, that Sharkscope doesn’t contract or pay with a site such as GGPoker for the data. Sharkscope and similar services use software to scrape the data from the tourney lobbies, then assimiliates that data into a super-large database for its customers, to whom it sells access via subscription.
GGPoker needs transparency, but Sharkscope’s not saintly
Whatever transparency issues GGPoker has — and it has plenty of them, gosh almighty — that still doesn’t make it okay for Sharkscope or similar companies to steal the data and then sell it on their own for profit. That’s misappropriation — theft, if you want a shorter word — and I don’t give a damn whether Sharkscope has been around for 20 years or not.
Sharkscope’s interests here are entirely profit-driven. The company’s no white knight, and by trying to stand atop the citadel of integrity it just exposes its hypocrisy.
As I’ve written elsewhere this week, there’s no fundamental difference at all between a player buying a database of hand histories on the dark web or buying a Sharkscope subscription. Both give the player access to hands and tourneys that the purchasing player didn’t play in himself.
Where the line has to be drawn is somewhere in the mass compilation of data, where the results are being assembled and sold expressely to create an unfair advantage. That’s what Sharkscope has always done. And in doing so, to online poker’s lasting damage, it has increased the gap between skilled and unskilled poker players, increasing the competitive imbalance.
Whatever use Sharkscope provides in identifying cheats doesn’t come close to the damage it causes in skinning new players too quickly and driving many of them right of the game. Say what you will about GGPoker, but Sharkscope shouldn’t be saying much at all.
Two wrongs don’t make a right.
Sharkscope users tappin’ on the glass
As for Sharkscope Lori, the hypocrisy didn’t end with the post above. One of the worst aspects of Sharkscope’s existence has long been a running joke in online poker. Not only are Sharkscope’s users proudly utilizing what I’ve always believed is an illicit advantage, innumerable Sharkscope users also berate players for poor play by posting something about thise players’ lousy Sharkscope results in table chat.
Yes, of course, that really wants those players want to invest more and more money in learning how to slowly improve. And those players typically don’t even know that Sharkscope exists until they’ve been mocked in that way at an online table.
SS Lori, mindful of her paycheck, ignored that when she wrote the following:
Fish can always opt out of Sharkscope if they don’t want their results to be public.
GG didn’t just “block Sharkscope”; they also removed all information from the lobby, which makes the games far less transparent.
Maybe they don’t want us to see all these new Chinese bots colluding with late reg stalling.
Two wrongs -still- don’t make a right. Wherever Sharkscope’s office is, you can guess that saying isn’t on display on the virtual walls. GGPoker has lots and lots of issues, and even though I have friends there, I’ll say that openly. Now about those Chinese bots. I’ll dive into that one too, the next time out. Sometimes history repeats itself, or at least historians repeat each other….