In a move made with no advance warning, the current largest online-poker site on the planet, GGPoker, effectively disabled all results tracking on Monday. The move infuriated users of what is generally regarded as the largest such third-party site for results tracking, Sharkscope, and quickly reignited debate over the merits of such sites and their positive or negative impact on the online community.
Sharkscope itself broke the news on Monday, likely as it received reports that GGPoker’s tourney and cash-game results were suddenly not available for recent play:
That in turn led to widespread complaints from Sharkscope customers, both on social media and in threads on popular poker-discussion forums. A self-identified SharkScope support employee even started one of the more visible threads, on the 2+2 forum.
A fierce debate renewed
While Sharkscope and many of its most vocal users focused on one of the benefits of sites such as Sharkscope, its value in helping identify cheaters, those complaints about GGPoker’s disabling the ability of third parties to view results and scrape data necessarily ignore the corresponding negative impact of tracking software.
Sharkscope can be used to identify certain forms of online cheating, but its larger use has always been for its users to quickly ascertain which players at a given table are skilled, and which players are fish. Sharkscope allows a very tiny number of free searches, but it generates its income from its “50K+ players” by selling subscriptions to what is in essence a massive database of scraped results.
As Sharkscope was quick to point out, most sites tolerate the result-scraping, despite the fact that there are legitimate reasons supporting the opposite viewpoint as well. In the 2+2 thread, the Sharkscope representative asserted, “Every other one of the over 80 poker sites we monitor has determined in detail that our services are significantly positive for the poker ecosystem, improving player experience and allowing players to make more informed decisions through transparent assessment of their results.”
Such a claim merits further examination. Whatever benefits Sharkscope provides in terms of transparency are arguably countermanded by the reality that Sharkscope’s and other tracking sites’ existence increases the gap between knowledgable/skilled and unskilled players, which has been a bane of the online-poker ecosystem for years, despite Sharkscope’s assertion.
The worst Sharkscope users have long been maligned for not only searching for weaker online players, but for berating those players in the chat at the tables. When another 2+2 poster pointed that out, the Sharkscope support rep responded, in a self-serving manner, “Fish can always opt out of Sharkscope if they don’t want their results to be public.” While true in the narrow sense, that ignores the reality that the fish, especially many new players who are the lifeblood of online poker, are far more unlikely to know that tracking sites such as Sharkscope even exist.
War of words resumed
It’s a debate that’s raged for nearly 20 years, with no solution likely to please both sides. However, the reality is that GGPoker owns the data and ultimately can do as it chooses. Whether it’s popular or not, a third-party results service differs from vendors of hand-history databases only in that the data it sells access to is more pre-sorted for user consumption.
The situation is guaranteed to trigger more sniping, as the loss of GGPoker results significantly reduces the value of whatever Sharkscope sells to its customers. GGPoker, for its part, hasn’t backed down. When one presumed Sharkscope user and a brand rep for a rival site, 888Poker Stream Team member Aaron Barone, took a shot at GGPoker on Twitter/X, GGPoker fired right back, including using a photo Barone posted on his account. As one can see, the battle lines are sharply drawn: