PokerStars anonymous tables have been deployed in its Spanish and French online poker rooms. Dubbed Stealth, the anonymous tables are only available for micro stakes cash games. The European trial run is the first time that the world-leading online poker website has allowed users to play without their screen names visible to opponents at the table.
The move reverses PokerStars’ policy of always showing a player’s permanent screen name at the tables.
“We’re always working on new products and features, and we have a lot more coming up that we plan to test and get player feedback on,” commented Severin Rasset, Director of PokerStars Innovation and Operations. “That includes testing anonymous tables in upcoming months, which we’ll monitor closely. The overall health of our poker ecosystem and the player experience is a top priority for us.”
How PokerStars Anonymous Tables Work
First of all, anonymous tables will be optional, clearly marked with a “stealth” icon displayed in the lobby for tables that allow anonymous play.
It’s been reported that a large display at the table will show whether a player is in “stealth mode.” It’s also possible that a player could go in and out of stealth mode at the table.
Hand History Will Not be Anonymous
To make sure players can track their own and their opponents’ play, screen names will still show in hand histories the day after they’re played. Players will still be able to import hands into third-party tracking software.
“The Stealth feature has been developed with the integrity of the game at its core. To ensure the security of our players, they’ll have access to hand histories with their opponents UserID 24 hours after the hand has been played,” Rasset said.
Anonymous Tables are Not New in the Poker Industry
Most online poker websites offer the option of anonymous tables, allow users to regularly change their screen names, or even implement random screen names as a default.
On the other hand, PokerStars has always only offered tables using regular screen names. Upon sign-up, players choose a unique screen name, and that name can never be changed, and always shows at all cash game and tournament tables.
This is because PokerStars has stood by the belief that it’s important to know your opponent, and that the more you play, you’ll better learn the style of other players and how to respond. Moreover, if a player changes their user ID, other players will think it’s a new player, putting them at a disadvantage at the tables.
Stealth Poker Play Has Become the Norm
Overseas online poker operators have experimented with forced or optional anonymity for a long time. Offshore operator Bovada, part of the PaiWangLuo network, has long held anonymous-only tables. Unibet, based in Malta, brought anonymous tables to Europe in 2014, also allowing its players to create new profiles at any time.
However, like PokerStars, other large, reputable operators have rejected an anonymous-only approach to poker. Rather, they offer the option of special, anonymous tables or the ability to change a screen name on a limited basis.
For example, iPoker has had optional anonymous tables for quite some time, but does not allow screen name changes. On the other hand, Winamax, a French market leader, allows screen name changes every six months, and also offered anonymous tables.
Partypoker Embraces Anonymity
Top operator partypoker has made a notable move towards both increased anonymity and more accountability.
The company forced every player on its platform to reset their screen names in an attempt to “level the playing field.” However, that was a one time deal, and the new screen names were locked in as permanent.
At the same time, Partypoker did a trial run of an unusual “real names only” policy at the heads-up and high stakes games. Partypoker has since made real name high stakes and heads-up tables optional. It also offers anonymous tables.