Full Tilt has always had a reputation of being the more outlandish little brother to the straight-laced PokerStars, often launching unique features and offbeat game formats well before they appear at more traditional poker sites.
But few moves in Full Tilt’s history have been as dramatic as the changes made this week to the site’s cash game selection.
On Tuesday, players found that they needed to update their software in order to log into Full Tilt, and once they did, they found a lobby for ring games that was nothing like the one they were used to.
In the new client, there is no individual table selection and no heads-up tables, a radical shift in how Full Tilt is presenting its room to players.
The lack of table selection may seem strange, but it really isn’t anything out of the ordinary for poker players, at least those familiar with live play.
Rather than pick an individual seat, players now choose a type of table they want to play at (including the game, the stakes, and so on), and are then assigned a random open seat for them to play in.
“When a player arrives at a live card room, they tell the poker room manager what game they want to play and the poker room manager will take them to a table with a free seat so that they can start playing straight away,” wrote Full Tilt Managing Director Dominic Mansour on the Full Tilt Blog. “Full Tilt is introducing a very similar system for our online play…an online system that will make it as easy as possible for you to load up the software, choose your game, and start playing immediately.”
The idea here may be part of a general trend in the online poker world to improve the overall ecology of Internet poker rooms.
By removing direct seat selection, Full Tilt will be making it harder for professionals and other strong players to target weaker opponents, instead moving them to whatever table happens to be open.
The other major change in the new software update was also related to making the room friendlier to recreational players.
All heads-up games were removed from the cash game selection, a drastic move that seems designed to stop predatory behavior by some strong players.
“Heads Up games were being adversely impacted by the minority of experienced players who targeted ‘weaker’ opponents rather than take on all challengers,” Mansour wrote. “Secondly, new players who tried out the Heads Up games found it intimidating and confusing. Ultimately, [the new] table selection changes didn’t fix this problem so in Heads Up we had no choice but to remove them altogether, as we know the more new players that play it, the less likely they are to return and keep playing.”
Other minor changes were also made to the available tables, including eliminating some of the highest stakes games in Stud, Draw, and Mixed games.
Over at the Two Plus Two forums, many Full Tilt Poker Room Manager Shyam Markus also spoke to the changes, responding to skepticism from players by admitting that event Full Tilt itself wasn’t sure how the decision to remove heads-up games in their entirety.
“For sure it’s not going to be a super popular decision, and it’s absolutely possible we’ve made a mistake,” Markus wrote. “But for now it’s the decision we feel has the best chance of helping to turn around some of the biggest problems we face and return to growing the site.”