8 Ideas for improvements to PokerStars...

20 October 2011

I recently had the chance to go and meet up with the PokerStars VIP representative for the UK & Ireland, Johnny C. I actually travelled down to London soley to go out for lunch with him whilst he was covering EPT London. It's pretty sweet that it only takes 2 and a half hours to get from my house to the middle of London, given that it's 150 miles away from me in little old Lincoln. Drive to Newark, train to Kings Cross, tube to wherever. Bink.

He ended up taking me to this Lebanese restaurant. The availability of Lebanese cuisine in Lincoln is rather limited (there is none), so it wasn't something I had tried before but turned out to be really good food and I had a really good time effectively talking about poker for two hours. Anyone who knows me know I could blab on about poker all day! Yes, I'm one of those annoying people! I actually remember him from his Dusk Till Dawn days, and we got on well.

I was kind of pleased to be given the opportunity to speak to someone from PokerStars in the flesh. I'm not sure I gave the best impression of myself earlier in the year when the SNG-changes and rake-changes were implemented. I was rather opinionated on the subject at the time, and although I think we helped iron out the situation out at the time a reasonable amount, it may not have been in the most gracious manner. Anyway, it was good to be able to show at least one PokerStars employee that I'm actually not a dick :)

He gave me the opportunity to talk about things that I would like to see on PokerStars, so I thought I'd explore some of the things I said that I might like to see, some of which I discussed of at the time, some  came to mind afterwards, and some were hijacked from the "PokerStars software improvement thread" on 2+2.


Filter Bookmarks
I'm not claiming this suggestion as my own, as it has come up a lot in the 2+2 thread, but I do think this one is a no-brainer for Stars and imagine they will incorporate it in a future update.

At the current time there is no way to save searches you make through either the Cash Game, MTT or SNG filters. You have to manually click everything. So say I want to play 18-man Turbo SNGs in my session, as well as $74 Hyper-turbo satellites, I'd have to keep making multiple changes to the filter each time.

A feature such as one illustrated in the picture below from this post would do just the trick:


TableNinja
I suggested they could add some (or all) of the functionality of TableNinja. From a selfish perspective I already own TableNinja, and should perhaps want to keep my advantage over those who don't know about it or can't afford it. But meh, if PokerStars introduced some of it's functionality I imagine it would be much less buggy. Also, the recent reaction of the TableNinja guys to a multitude of requests to support the recently introduced Nova Themes leaves little to be desired.

Ironically, when I checked the aforementioned 2+2 thread shortly after going to London, I noticed that such a feature was already in development, and has since been released in beta mode in the new client as announced here.


I would like to see them add as much of the functionality of TableNinja as possible, such as SNG betting and auto-timebank (if this specific feature could be automatically disabled during sync breaks, even better!).


Battle of the Planets
The Battle of the Planets leaderboard is a long established promotion on PokerStars, but it is also one that hasn't had been altered for a very long time.

I suggested perhaps some separation between the types of game that are offered, such as a different leaderboard for 6-max SNGs, 9-mans, Fifty50s, 18-mans, 45-mans and 180-mans. Currently 45-man and 180-man tournaments aren't rewarded by this promotion, and given their popularity, and the fact this is where much of the 9-man traffic have defected to, I think it would be reasonable to include them in some manner.

There would be lots of things to consider, such as how the whole prize-pool would be distributed, how the low-orbit and high-orbit would work, how points would be awarded across the different formats, as well as how different buy-in levels would be considered. Although I have no real problem with BoP as it is at the moment, I think there is potential room for improvement. (Of course, they could just quadruple the prizes =)

Easier background changes
Because I play mulitple formats of SNG, I like to be able to differentiate between them as much as possible. It would be handy if it was easier to change the background colour of a table. Currently it takes 8 clicks to do this (View Options --> Table Themes --> Background --> Enable Custom Background --> Select it --> Ok --> Apply --> Apply to current tournament), and it would be great if it was just one.

Perhaps some sort of automatic different background for Final Tables would also be a good option (similar to what Full Tilt had). Being able to automatically detect/set different backgrounds for different games would also be pretty cool.

Sync Breaks
It was mentioned to me that Stars were considering bringing Sync-Breaks into 18-man SNGs. All I can say is YES PLEASE!! I would not be opposed to sync breaks being incorporated into any kind of SNG. I've been a big fan of them ever since they were introduced. Playing intense 5 hour sessions with no breaks, as playing non-sync-break SNGs basically require, isn't all that healthy. A five minute break every hour is the nuts, and in my experience allows me to play more games as I can put in longer sessions.

The argument against sync-breaks largely stems from them being unappealing to recreational players who don't want a 5 minute break in the one 50 minute long SNG they are playing (for example). I think this could be at least partially avoided by incorporating my next suggestion...

I'm Ready
An "I'm Ready" button for when sync breaks come into play, but you want to continue would be a great addition. It can be pretty annoying when you're playing heads up in your last game of the session, you have one big blind left and boom, there's a sync break and you have to wait 5 minutes to be put out of your misery.

Again, we saw these utilized on Full Tilt, and although it would probably be wise not to use too many of Full Tilt's ideas(!), I think this one is a clear winner.


Improved hand histories
Currently rebuys and knockouts aren't correctly counted in Hold 'em Manager, as the hand histories PokerStars produced don't allow it (afaik). There is a fairly long winded workaround (posted here) to allow accurate records to be kept, but it would be great if this was unnecessary and the information was available through HEM.

180-man Rebuy
It would be great if more 180-man turbo rebuy tournaments were offered. Since being featured in the "Tourney" tab as well as the "SNG" tab, the $3.50 Rebuy 180-mans have proven to be really popular...even more so than the $8 and $15 turbo freezeouts . It would be excellent if we could see a higher buy-in offered (~$10), and I think perhaps even a smaller buy-in (~$1) would prove to be popular.

Auto-Rebuy (for tournaments)
Most good players will always choose to play with a full stack in a rebuy tournament, and thereby always auto-rebuy before the tournament starts. This requires pressing a couple of buttons, which might not seem all that difficult, but when playing a lot of tables, you can often not notice you haven't re-bought until you are dealt a good hand, when it is too late. If there were an option in the client to always auto-rebuy when a rebuy tournament starts, that would be fantastic. An option to always rebuy / double rebuy when you lose your stack would also be very helpful.

This idea doesn't come without a couple of issues. For example, whereas I always double rebuy in $3.50 180s when I bust, I often choose not to in  2x Turbo or 3x Turbo tournaments, where a double rebuy might only represent a couple of big blinds. Also, what about the $2 Rebuy grinder who decides to take a shot at the $100 Rebuy for one buy-in, but forgets he has made these preset options. He auto-rebuys when the tournament starts and spends $100 he didn't mean to. He then busts, and spends $200 that he wasn't intending to auto-double rebuying!

A potential way around this would be to create detailed options, detailing what buy-ins and speed of tournaments the settings apply to, but of course this makes it more difficult to program. Nevertheless I still think it's a really good idea, and one that is quite often demanded in the 2+2 thread.

Dual Colour Notes
This was actually suggested to me by Jonny, the VIP rep, a few months ago and I think it is a really good idea. It would be great if you could mark people as 2 different colours. This throws out so many more options for colour coding people. I tend to mark terrible players bright green. With this option I could mark them as "Terrible, tight", "Terrible, loose" etc. Half the circle would display one colour, and the other half would display the other.

"Rush Poker"
This isn't really a suggestion, but I thought it was worth mentioning...

Last month PokerStars announced that it is "developing a fast moving ring games product" which they "expect to be available for public beta testing in a few months".

Personally, I'd prefer not to see Rush poker, or a similar product, released on PokerStars. I think it teaches the fish to play tight, which can't be a good thing. (the Rush Poker tables on Full Tilt were renowned for being nit-fests). Also, I think I'd be unlikely to play this, so I'd prefer not to see any traffic being taken away from the SNGs I do play.

But that's just my personal opinion, we'll have to wait and see what happens.

16:9 Tables
Personally, I'm not hugely fussed about this new feature, as 9 tables fit perfectly onto my 30" monitor, but it seems like a reasonable option. Some regs are calling for 16:9 tables as well as 4:3 (as they are currently). It might allow more HUD space which could potentially be a good thing, and would allow for tables to be a better fit on certain monitor configurations.


Run it Twice
Being a SNG player, this doesn't affect me, but it seems like a good idea, and allows those who want to reduce variance to do it. Adding a Run it Twice feature (which you can enable/disable dependant upon your personal choice). The illustration below points out in how it could be done without it having any affect on the speed of the game (see this post for more).



So lots of things for the guys on the Isle of Man to be getting on with :)

To be fair, PokerStars is clearly the market leader when it comes to improving their software. Every couple of months they seem to add new features. To keep up with the updates, you can always check the PokerStars software improvement thread on 2+2 for announcements, and you can see what changes have been made on the PokerStars Software News page.

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