In recent years, a growing number of online poker sites offer anonymous poker tables, where a player can sit during a session without ever revealing his identity or having a regular pseudonym that tracking services can monitor.
Bovada is one of the flagship sites of anonymous poker, making the game accessible to US players (Bovada only accepts players based in the United States). Party Poker and Ignition Casino (US players only) also offer anonymous tables; their large player base makes it an ideal game for players around the world.
The anonymous option means that if you are a long-term winner of the game or a long-term loser, no one at the table will know. For some, the introduction of these tables was a controversial issue, claiming that it was removing some skills from the game of poker, while other players welcomed the introduction of the anonymous games.
Here I look at the pros and cons of anonymous poker tables. I start by looking at the games from the point of view of a good regular winner at the poker tables. I then watch the games from the point of view of a recreational player, who may well be a loser in the standings. I end by looking at anonymous poker from a general point of view and ask him if he is good for the game.
Anonymous Poker Tables – View of a Winning Player
A regular winner has three main weapons in his poker arsenal. In addition to being a good solid game at the tables, they will also be particularly good at selecting the table and will use a “Head-Up Display” that tells them a wide range of statistics about each opponent at the table. These Head-Up Display will show players information about each session they have already played with the player. The anonymous tables actually eliminate two of these weapons, because they allow both the selection of the table and the use of the redundant Head-Up Display.
However, is this really bad news for the usual winner? They will always be the best players at the table, will always be able to read their opponents at a table and take advantage of them. A good player will take money from a bad player, anonymous or not. However, a problem arises for players who like to play a large number of tables at the same time: multi-spreadsheets are very dependent on their Head-Up Display for reading. It is, therefore, the players who will be the hardest hit. The lack of selection of the table will also mean that good player will not be able to guarantee that they are sitting at a “shady” table – which means they will have to play at a table to find out!
Overall, this means that good players will still make money at the tables, but it will take them more work and time.
Anonymous poker tables – view of a recreational player
Many recreational players will notice virtually no difference when playing an anonymous table. They will be happy to play their cards against the other players at the table. A heavily losing recreational player will probably have no idea that he may have been targeted by a number of good players at standard tables and therefore did not realize he was sitting with a group of sharks. When playing at an anonymous table, the same player who loses weight still does not know if he is sitting with a bunch of fish or a group of sharks, he is just trying to make money, playing poker.
However, this player may notice that he does not lose so much when playing anonymous tables. They might attribute this to the fact that their game has improved or they might think that their game is “more suited” to anonymous poker – it’s actually neither of them, it’s just that the best players have trouble to meet these bad players and it will take a lot more hands to realize that the player is bad (where with a Head-Up Display, they would know the moment they sat).
Anonymous poker tables – General point of view
If you wonder if the anonymous tables are good for the game, you will probably get a different answer depending on the quality of the player. Seen from the outside with a long-term view, it’s probably not a bad thing for the game that bad players take longer to lose their money. This means they will be more likely to come back and reload their poker accounts – while a series of fast losing sessions might see them quitting the game completely. If many people quit the game completely, it can only be a bad thing for the game.
However, another question can be asked. Is anonymous poker really poker? One of the joys of the game for many players is the fact that you can read the opponent players and develop a plan to beat those players. Anonymous poker eliminates this aspect of the game. In real poker, if you go to a casino regularly, you will not be anonymous – should the game be different online?