“English only at the tables, please!”
It’s been a central tenet of poker rules at live games in English-speaking countries for years, but is it still relevant in the global, polyglot online market? The Microgaming Poker Network thinks not, and has become the first online poker network to dispense with the rule, which thinks it has become outdated and irrelevant.
It’s a controversial step; the rule was put into force to prevent players from colluding with one another over the virtual felt, using a shared language to conspire against other players at the table. English, as the international language of business and the most commonly shared tongue across the online poker market, was seen as the fairest way of making sure we were all on the same page.
But that was then, argues MPN, and they may have a point. In this day and age, a determined group of colluders would find it much easier and more effective to communicate using a personal message service, such as Skype. Why do it in full view of the online poker rooms’ moderators, when you can just as easily keep it under wraps?
Collusion an Illusion?
But before you break into a cold sweat and vow never to play another hand of online poker, rest assured. According to Microgaming’s Head of Poker Alex Scott, online poker collusion is actually rarer than we think.
“I have spent a long time working in this industry, and have been involved in Game Integrity for most of that time. I honestly can’t remember a single case where colluders used the chat box as part of their scheme,” says Scott. “The fear of collusion is understandable in theory, but it just doesn’t happen much in reality. In addition, our methods for preventing and detecting collusion have come a long way in the last 10 years. There is no point keeping a rule simply to appease fear.”
Putting the Fun Back In
What is perhaps more of a concern to us poker players these days is the fact that fewer new players are coming into the game and sticking around – be they English or Belgian or Venezuelan – and that hurts poker’s bottom line and the industry as a whole. Some people think that the “fun” has been drained from modern online poker, due to too many players playing multiple tables using poker tracking software. It means there’s no chat and no community, and that detracts from the recreational player’s overall experience of the game. Surely forcing them to speaking in a foreign language only adds to their misery, potentially driving from playing online at all.
“Online, the English only rule persists, and players who chat in other languages are actually penalised for doing so,” says Scott. “They are warned, or their ability to chat is revoked. Since most players don’t speak English, this leads to an environment where nobody chats at all … We will all be better off if poker players can have fun and socialize, regardless of the language they speak… As of now, whatever language you speak, whether it be English, Georgian, Latin or High Valyrian, you are welcome on the MPN.”
He makes a valid point in a changing universe. What we want is more interaction at the tables, and rules that reflect the true global nature of our game. MPN may in fact be the first of many sites to move in this direction. Now bring on those High Valyrians!