The “English only at the table” rule in poker has always been a sacrosanct law; a ruling tenet of poker etiquette, etched in stone perhaps by the poker gods themselves.”Thou shalt not collude against me in a strange tongue” is the commandment it enshrines.
In fact, the rule is reflective of what for many years has also been the standard in international business; but as with the latter, the times they are a’changin’, and the Microgaming Poker Network is changing right along with it.
With that in mind, it’s become the first Internet poker network to controversially axe the rule, labeling it outdated, bigoted and ultimately unnecessary.
“As far as I know, we are the first poker network to make this change, but I hope we are the first of many,” said Microgaming’s Head of Poker Alex Scott. “As of now, whatever language you speak, whether it be English, Georgian, Latin or High Valyrian, you are welcome on the MPN. We will still police grossly offensive or disruptive chat, regardless of the language, but if you just want to chat with your friends, you can speak (or type) any language you want.”
But what of the colluders? That’s always been one of the key arguments for having just one recognized table language in poker games, after all. But for online play, given the easy accessibility of Skype and other offline communications methods readily available to players, why would they brazenly collude together in the chat rooms in full view of moderators when they can do it privately? Moreover, according to Scott, collusion is actually pretty rare in online poker.
“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.Â “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.
And as fewer and fewer recreational players are sticking around in the game, perhaps more sites will start making it a priority to allow for easy conversation between countrymen. It’s also notable that with Americans mostly out of the international online poker loop, and the popularity of the game growing in South America, the average online poker player today is more probably a native Spanish speaker.
“In 2014, poker has grown so much in other parts of the world that for several years now,” argues Scott. “Not only have the majority of poker players not been American, they haven’t spoken English as their first language.
“Online, the English-only rule persists, and players who chat in other languages are actually penalized for doing so. 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.
“Let’s be honest — there’s also a little bit of bigotry baked into this rule. I delight in the possibility that by making this change I will be upsetting the world’s xenophobics… We will all be better off if poker players can have fun and socialize, regardless of the language they speak,” added Scott.
Well-played, MPN, or should we say, “Buena jugada”?