Opinion: A fair deal for social poker

Link to original article – http://www.socialcasinointelligence.com/tag/jeff-hyman/

Idle Games CEO Jeff Hyman explains the reasons why the industry should do more to protect consumers

One of the biggest and most persistent customer complaints about free-to-play poker is that the game is ‘rigged’. You need only a cursory review of customer comments in the iTunes or Google Play app stores to see the number of users who share this concern.

The most common comment is that the deals of cards are not truly random … and there’s a good reason for this concern. If an unscrupulous company wanted to maximise profits, a very simple (and unfortunately legal) strategy is to simply alter the logic or algorithm of how cards are dealt. By doing nothing more than dealing players better starting hands (or hole cards) a poker operator:

a) increases action (or the number of times a player plays a hand vs. folds) which,

b) increases the amount and frequency of bets, and therefore

c) increases the frequency and likelihood of players’ losing and running out of chips.

Make no mistake, running out of chips or ‘busting out’ is the single largest driver for monetisation in free-to-play poker. It would surprise no-one to learn that some social and mobile casino operators are at worst ’cheating’ and at best misleading customers.

In regulated real-money poker, the only acceptable methodology for ‘dealing cards’ is via a random number generator. Furthermore, any random number generator must be validated and certified by independent third parties. We find it troubling there is not a single operator of another free-to-play social or mobile poker game who thinks it necessary to use and then get their random number generators certified. This raises additional questions and concerns, for example:

1) Are users of these games even playing ‘poker’?

2) Are these companies fit to go into real-money poker?

3) What happens when players of these games migrate to regulated, real-money poker?

The answers to questions one and two should be a resounding ‘no’. I believe the answers to question three has deeper repercussions for the industry.

At best, free-to-play users will ‘try’ real-money poker products, however it’s unlikely these players will retain or monetise well. A truly random poker game won’t look, feel or behave like the free-to-play games these players have grown accustomed to. At worst, the consumer is going to end up getting ‘fleeced’ since they erroneously believe they have: skill, experience and/or luck in a game that follows a very different set of rules.

Currently Idle Games’ Fresh Deck Poker is the only free-to-play social/mobile poker game to use a random number generator, let alone a RNG that has received third party certification (Fresh Deck Poker’s certification is from the GLI Group). Additionally, Fresh Deck Poker will soon be making all table hand histories readily available for analysis by any interested third party.

Surprisingly (or perhaps not), there is no regulatory body governing free-to-play social and mobile casino games, even though the revenue generated is non-trivial. Make no mistake, there is very ‘real-money’ in the free-to-play space (approximately 25% of the Top 25 grossing games on iTunes and Google Play are free-to-play casino games).

Given the number of free-to-play casino games, their revenues, and the fact social casino companies are actively moving into real-money gaming, the need to protect the consumer is both timely and needed. The whole social casino industry is tainted by the consumers’ valid concerns and this only causes the consumer to become increasingly suspicious of all social and mobile casino games.

As profits continue to grow and legalisation of online gaming continues to spread, the call for regulation will come. It is up to us to decide if it will come from within or outside. To that effect, Idle Games is announcing the launch of an industry working group named F.A.I.R (For Accountable, Impartial, Reputable) Deal. F.A.I.R Deal’s mission is to ensure social and mobile casino operators provide entertainment guaranteeing both fairness and security for everyone. We invite other like-minded social and mobile casino operators to join us in our commitment to ensure profits never come at the cost of taking advantage or breaching the trust of our players.

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