An explanation regarding PokerStars’ proposed solution to the problem of “ratholing” formed part of a Two Plus Two Report of a recently convened meeting between PokerStars players and management.
Many online poker players consider ratholing to be unethical. “Ratholing” refers to the practice of leaving a table after winning money only to return to it later with a smaller stack of chips, thus reducing losers’ chances of winning their money back. Unfortunately, an effective definition for the term “ratholing” does not exist, making it difficult to find a proper solution to the problem.
Players who double their bets and then leave the table because of lack of bankroll or confidence can be said to be ratholing. Simultaneously, if he has an unfavorable table position and is next to a very aggressive player, the best option for him would be to leave the table. While PokerStars does not actually want to prevent players from leaving the table, it does want to deal with the issue of ratholing as it could alienate other players.
Day said: “We have not succeeded in finding such a definition that both met our normal standards of simplicity and would properly isolate the problematic behavior. At some point earlier this year, we resigned ourselves to considering more complex solutions.”
The poker players who took part in the recent meeting were presented a “complex solution,” which requires PokerStars to track the chip stack size of players who leave the tables and then charge them with a minimum buy-in when they choose to return to the table.
Accordingly, a “stack identity” is given to players leaving and joining tables. For instance, if a player joins a table with 40bb and leaves it at 60bb is assigned a stack identity of 60bb. If this player chooses to get back to a 40bb – 100bb table within a limited time frame, he will have to buy into the game for 60bb. Players who play at multiple tables will have several stack identities, so their lowest stack identities will be considered while fixing buy-ins for them.
PokerStars is yet to decide the time frame within which to reset stack identities. Admitting that configuring this time frame is difficult, a PokerStars spokesperson said that ratholing can be prevented more effectively if the time frame is larger. But it will also prevent player behavior that the online poker room wants to permit. Day said that PokerStars is now testing this solution for efficacy.