Should online players have anonymity?

Do we have a right to know the real name of the person behind the screen name like we would at a live card room?

anonymnous poker player
Do we have a right to know who we are playing against?

Recently a known high stakes online poker player had his real name revealed publicly (or at least what the person assumed was his real name). I won’t mention who mostly out of respect for his privacy but also because as it is not confirmed, it could be wrong.

Anonymity is not just a touchy subject for online poker players, it is a much debated topic for the Internet in general. Some believe we should be allowed to be completely anonymous online, others think that the web would be a lot more civil if everyone were transparent with who they are in real life. We are all guilty of being a little bit ruder when we are just a screen name, as well as being a bit more careful about what information we share (and what photos we use) on social portals where we are known.

There are numerous anonymity debates in the world of poker. Should the results of poker tournaments and cash games be public, for example? With the recent news that PokerStars would be clamping down on datamining expect that debate to be a frequent one this year. There is also the debate about whether we should be able to change screen names or even have anonymous tables to avoid predatory behaviour online?

The privacy debate

Phil Ivey playing poker
We know when we are up against a shark in live poker, we don't necessarily online

Revealing a poker player's real life identity, however, is a completely different debate. This is where ‘poker relevant’ information crosses a line into personal information which is arguably irrelevant, and sensitive. Revealing someone’s personal information is known as ‘doxxing’ online and most consider it to be an infringement of one’s privacy.

In the wider reaches of the internet the problem with doxxing usually revolves around harassment and pestering people when they switch their computer off. Where online poker is concerned the consequences are potentially much more damaging. Outing a high stakes online player leaves them much more vulnerable to hackers trying to access their player funds. Once you know their name you can start to dig around for other personal information, all of which would help a would be scammer.

A lot of players also like to keep their identity secret for tax reasons, which is not something I personally condone but don’t think it is the responsibility of poker railbirds to expose either. Then some players simply prefer the anonymity, either for personal reasons or for table image reasons.

Helping the game?

Viktor Blom
Viktor Blom was 'outed' by the poker community

I don’t buy the argument that it is ok to reveal a personal identity because it makes it more fun for the railbirds or that poker players owe it to the game to make it entertaining. I do think poker would be a much better place if everyone had this attitude, but ultimately a poker player is a customer of the industry and it is their choice.

Many years ago now one of the big stories was the revelation of the identity of Viktor ‘Isildur1’ Blom, who seemingly wanted to stay anonymous but there was so much attention on him, and ultimately a lot of marketing dollars, that the poker industry and community managed to collectively ‘out’ him. It was such a big story it seemingly transcended his right to anonymity, and I probably was just as guilty as anyone else trying to crack who he was because it was such a compelling story.

The best argument for making identities available online is for the integrity of the game. If I was playing for a lot of money I would like to know if I was sat across the table from Phil Ivey, which is something I would be able to do live, but not necessarily online. While obviously hard to police, it could only help to prevent against cheating methods like shared accounting and multiaccounting.

My own poker utopia would have everyone playing transparently as themselves much in the way that we are ‘ourselves’ on Facebook. I’d also love everyone to have the attitude that they should be promoting the game as much as they can. But I appreciate that not everybody shares my view and as long as the poker rooms offer anonymity, we should respect it.

Should poker names be private or should everyone know who they are playing against? Let us know in the comments:

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Comments (5)

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  • arttuzulu


    Privasy policy is of course important thing, but knowing names help scamming i think. difficult explain in english.
  • jeramaya


    privacy is most inportant in online poker
  • rvnikauj


    I dunno, mustn't be mandatory to reveal your identity. Some people see poker players as gamblers others as gamers.
  • 1mad1bad


    If You want,yes.
  • mariale1990


    Privacy is very important, I find many people who see what you are, what you do in the game, only to get a profit from you