Decentralized poker is an amazing technological advance that the players of today poker game are faced with having to witness and accept. With it comes much needed understanding lest we let irrational thoughts and fear get the better of us. Collusion seems to be one of those feared aspects that players seem to want to form an opinion on based on irrationality and fear. I mean to sort this out first by writing about what collusion means to these players, what it REALLY is, and how decentralized poker ‘solves’ it.
The Byzantine general problem that was ‘recently’ solved that lead the way for the creation of ‘bitcoin’ is something we have been trying hard to solve for a very long time and for very good reasons. The solution and implementation of it dramatically changed the world and every single technology and system we have and use within it. But the solution is very special. I like to explain it much like the letter Nash wrote the nsa in 1955 explaining his ‘revelation’ in cryptology.
The idea is much like creating locks for your treasure chest in which your lock picking villain is going to start picking. This villain can pick ANY lock, however it takes a certain amount of time. We can create locks on locks, and so cause the time for villain to pick the treasure open to be longer, however we cannot create a lock so good that villain can’t pick it. What can be done? Well if we happen to want to protect our treasure we just need enough lock power to keep villain out for the given amount of time needed (perhaps a lifetime?).
And so we solve the ‘problem’ perfectly, however we don’t actually create an unpickable lock! This is much like the solution to the two generals problem that ‘satoshi’ proposed. And this is how the players are able to solve collusion!
To understand the solution we must understand what collusion is. Collusion to the average player, especially in terms of decentralized poker, is that very scary thing that happens when you let everyone run rampant with no 3rd party to regulate such cheating. Collusion to these players take all of the fun money from the game and it goes to the mass cheaters that would arise from such an environment. SOME of this is true, but lets get a little more rational and REALLY look at what collusion is.
Its true that cheaters do take our money, unfairly. But we must start to ask how much? And in doing so we can start to see that collusion is really just a ‘cost’ to the fair play players. What is important about this is that an over raked game can actually be worse for ‘fairness’ than an overcolluded game. So when dealing with the cost of collusion its important to understand, to value centralized poker over decentralized poker because of collusion, is really a matter of weighing the overall net profitability of the game. And let the author tell you, the overraked cost of centralized poker will NEVER allow decentralized collusion create a less profitable game. Unraked poker will ALWAYS be more profitable than raked poker REGARDLESS of collusion.
A certain post of an email from poker stars shows how they view and ‘combat’ collusion. The first thing to point out is that everything poker stars does the players can do for their own decentralized game. Another thing to note is that for poker stars collusion is not necessarily something they try to eliminate, but rather is something they MANAGE. And what exactly are they managing? Are they managing the costs? Or are they managing the players and their fears and complaints on it? These are completely different approaches. Sites true intent is to keep their customers, and if they can do that without eliminating collusion then they won’t even need to. So in this light its quite interesting to me to hear players suggested that a 3rd party model is safer than a decentralized one.
We can see this ‘management’ process in the ‘official PS mttsng suggestion thread’ in which players shout out complaints and wants about the game and poker stars reps simply respond with seemingly random changes to the game. None of the players are ever happy, and they never get ‘heard’, however since its a certain outlet for this discussion, nobody is really the wiser to the fact that its really just a management technique. To me the setup for that thread (and every poker section has its own version) is itself a form of collusion between PS and the forum that sets up the (bad/rigged) process for discussion. Especially since recently an idea/solution has been proposed that would give the players more bargaining power for the changes they really want (and the discussion explaining the solution was shortly thereafter deleted).
We also have incidences of players rooms being hacked at live poker stars tournaments and events. In one such discussion the poker stars rep assured the players they had called the police and are working with the hotel to ‘solve’ such matters. Not long after the same person admitted that the cops weren’t actually called yet, but not to worry because its being handled. I can’t find the thread at the moment but I honestly think I remember that it happened a 3rd time, in which the same stars rep said they didn’t call the police the 2nd time either! This is simply because they are NOT trying to solve the case, but rather manage the embarrassment and image of both the company and the hotel. The hotel no doubt was doing the same image managing. For them it was really a process of damage control, and the best way to do it is to stall. THIS is collusion!!! And the forum format with which they use to address the players adds to the mess and the unfairness of the whole process.
When we think about centralized and decentralized models, sometimes its helpful to trace the money to understand the economy of it. On today’s private yet public forum it might be interesting to note that poker stars pays ad revenue in order to place ad banners on the site. The players are not privy to such information, but it might be quite interesting to understand the deals that are going on behind the curtains. It might be interesting to see for example where the money really comes from for certain forum events and promotions, and whether or not its really a sponsored by Stars event (whether openly or not).
Black friday might be a related topic as well, since the US government effectively shut down the coke and pepsi of poker, one which was owned by the players and one which was owned by a company on the isle of man. When poker came back the US ‘forced’ Coke to buy Pepsi, Stars to buy full tilt and thus simultaneously created a monopoly while plugging a giant economic leak for the States (remember money leaving the country for nothing is a huge leak!). This cause the game to get harder, and eventually lead to an obvious dramatic increase in effective rake. THAT is collusion.
Since then the players have been wanting to discuss decentralized poker on the biggest poker forum they all meet on. Its been quite difficult over the years as its been a taboo subject for mods and some players. We have also been showing that small tweaks to the forum can prove to be massively +ev for the community, but to no avail.
One such poster has been repeatedly banned for bringing such obvious unfairness and unfavourableness to the attention of the players, mods, and owners.
So the REAL solution to the REAL collusion is really actually the decentralization of the game, that will cause the players to ACTUALLY start managing the cost of it, and by simply starting the project we will begin to work together to implement all of the tangible solutions we ALREADY have to keep it to an acceptable level. In the future we expect collusion to be a thing of the past, however for now, collusion isn’t something whatsoever that is lacking a needed solution for the decentralization of the game.
Rather the truth of the matter is, poker badly NEEDS decentralization in order to put an end to the rampant collusion in today’s economy of it.
(can’t find one link but ill get to it eventually)