Is Automated Decision Software Being Used at PokerStars SNG Games?

Date: 2015-05-23
Author: Jason Glatzer

A PokerStars player with the screen name Skier_5 has reportedly created a controversial aid that is creating waves among players.  This tool is believed to help players automate many of their decisions regardless of circumstances at heads-up sit and gos.
According to an article on, PokerStars has approved the use of this software since the aid isn't automatically making the decisions and is instead a guide a player can choose to follow.
Furthermore, it has been reported that this aid has been made available to players for a percentage of their profits.  Many players in the heads-up sit and go community believe this aid takes things too far and crosses the line of what fair play should be.
We caught up with HUSNG's Ryan Pachmeyer to understand more about this aid, how it helps the players using it, what the impact is on the games themselves.
PokerSoftware:  Can you tell us what this software does?
Ryan Pachmeyer:  From what I can tell, a player using this aid has to verbally talk about a situation pre-flop, whether it's their hand, their position, their effective stack size, or a strategically component of the game. I don't believe anyone is 100% sure of all of the components, however. After that, a chart shows up that is pre-programmed with the approximate GTO for that situation.
One example could potentially be "I have 87o and I'm OOP facing a min-raise at 12bbs" and a chart pops up for estimated GTO solutions for 12bb vs MR in BB.
There is also a randomized component to this. I believe a set of numbers pops up randomly at different times. Anyone who has messed with GTO calculators is familiar with solutions often containing frequencies of different actions for the same hand. You can easily make your play 85% call and 15% shove.
PokerSoftware:  As far as you know, does this software work on all streets of play?
Ryan Pachmeyer:  I believe it's only pre-flop; that's what most information indicates. A few people have said they believe it is post-flop, but their reasons, which include timing tells and actions in various situations, haven't been compelling.
PokerSoftware:  What do you feel the main similarities and differences are between this and a bot?
Ryan Pachmeyer:  A bot would be 100% automated. It would click for you. This may be a few variations away from a bot.
PokerSoftware:  What are your thoughts about PokerStars allowing the use of this aid?
Ryan Pachmeyer:  To me, it depends more about PokerStars clarifying what they are going to allow. If we can have pre-calculated charts up for every single situation we can calculate, well those situations are growing each year and it will make it pretty easy if Stars allows voice recognition or even a few clicks to access any chart at any part of the game.

It is worrisome to me and I'm someone who usually laughs at the negativity that people constantly preach about the game, such as every year games are dying, when history shows that many games actually got better at times in the last seven or eight years.  Heads-up sit and gos in particular were better in 2013 than ever before. 2014 was a dip, but still way stronger than 2007 to 2009.
PokerStars seems to have taken this situation very seriously. They are in a tough spot because when you talk about player aids like this, there are often going to be ways that people can get around bans. However, many rules that PokerStars and other poker rooms have can be broken almost risk-free if the cheaters are careful. So, I don't think "in theory, it might be able to be broken by some very smart, motivated, unethical, and careful people" is a reason not to ban something.
I can appreciate that it is hard for PokerStars to draw a line here.
My prediction is that PokerStars doesn't ban what skier is doing. My prediction is that they haven't seen enough impact yet to justify drawing the line in a more difficult place than they have already drawn it.

The nature of HUSNGs with many friends playing and many big staking groups present means that hundreds of players will eliminate a lot of their pre-flop stress and leaks, allowing them to play better poker for longer periods. At that point, I believe it's more likely that PokerStars takes action.
PokerSoftware:  How did you find out about this aid?
Ryan Pachmeyer:  Some of the people who use skier's aid talked about it a little more than they probably should have, although they were battling against many regs to get into divisions.

PokerSoftware:  What are the main differences between this aid and using charts?
Ryan Pachmeyer:  Two main differences in charts strike me as relevant here:
1: The sheer number of situation charts need to cover in order to get very similar pre-flop stats could be 50 or even 100 charts.
2) The difference is also being able to recall any chart in any situation quick enough to two-table. Look, if PokerStars said, "You can use any charts you print up, but you can't use anything on your computer in-game," then players would be forced to print charts. But, imagine yourself playing even one table and you have a book of 50 to 100 charts. How can you flip through, find the chart, find the action, randomize if necessary, and act every single time pre-flop? It would be too cumbersome.
PokerSoftware:  How bad do you think this aid could be for the game?
Ryan Pachmeyer:  I think it's potentially devastating to the game. At the very least, I expect it to have a big impact.

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