PokerStars’ planned release of the much talked about Anti-ratholing system with ‘buy-in obligations‘ was halted on 3rd March 2014 due to technical reasons. As a pilot, it was rolled out on $1/$2 Ring game tables across the site on monday and the full launch across all stakes and games was to follow in two weeks. But some technical problems which didn’t happen during the testing phase cropped up which made the online poker site to roll it back.
The goal of this new ‘buy-in obligations’ system was to curb ratholing, the act of leaving one table then returning to a similar table with less chips. The new system is expected to track a player’s stacks across tables and, once a certain threshold is met, force a player to return with the same stack size that they previously left with, even if joining a new table. The system tracks stack sizes across all stakes with the same stack depth.
For starters it is important to understand WHAT is RATHOLING? Ratholing is simply a practise by some players to leave a table once they have made a chip stack higher than their buy-in and then join a similar table with lesser money. Most international poker rooms allow players to join back the same table with the same chips that they left with but currently there was no system in place to prevent them from joining a similar table. This leads to players hopping around tables and disturbing game play.
What is the BUY-IN OBLIGATION SYSTEM? Consider a scenario- A player joins a table which requires him to sit within 40BB-100BB. He sits with 40BB and once he has 60BB he leaves that table and joins another table of the same stake with 40BB. While the current systems would disallow him to join the table he left but it won’t stop him from joining another table with 40BB. The new ‘buy-in obligations’ system looks to solve this problem where it will track the players stack sizes. A player leaving with a bigger stack and joining back with smaller stack on a similar table will be allowed to do so upto 8 times over a 20 hour rolling period. After this if a player tries to sit with a smaller stack than he got up with on a similar stakes table, the ‘buy-in obligation’ system will kick in and will prompt him. His minimum buy-in will now be set to the stack size he got up with the 8th time.
These 8 obligations will be the same regardless of the stake and all games will count towards it. But it will be tracked differently with respect to the depth of table. The aim of this system is to stop players from going across tables and ensure fair game play for all. It will prevent table hopping and make way for deep-poker based on skill. Players will be discouraged to move tables lesser and thus table breaking will also decrease. This problem of table breaking is quite acute across PokerStars which has multiple tables across each stakes and buy-ins.
While the online poker world has been abuzz with this discussion for long, PokerStars had first announced this an year back. Then in February 2014 it was announced by the poker room that March 3rd will be the first phase of this rollout. While for now, the system has been delayed, but it is definitely something which will be implemented soon. PokerStars hasn’t given any official response on when it will released again.
The INDIAN VERSION
Adda52.com, India’s first online poker site also has a similar structure in place to curb ratholing. They, in fact prevent a player from joining in with a lesser chip stack than he left with for n minutes(It is currently 20, according to information gathered by OPN). This system was started by Adda52 few months back and has prevented table hopping to a huge extent. The online poker room also has this feature on ‘same‘ table and is looking for a feature for ‘similar‘ tables also.