How SharkScope and Other Poker Databases Get Their Data
Along with the rise in popularity of poker-playing sites, databases have grown up containing information on tournament histories—the number of tournaments played, stakes and winnings for each player on the site(s) tracked by the database. One of the best-known of these is SharkScope, which monitors many popular poker-playing sites. SharkScope sells subscriptions to its database for unlimited access; it allows non-paying users to make up to five queries per day.
Where the Data Comes From
Many poker players are surprised to learn that SharkScope, and other tracking databases like it, are allowed to gather and market their data. Knowing your opponent’s tendencies is one of the keys to good poker playing, so players who access SharkScope’s data may gain an advantage over players who are ignorant of it.
But all of SharkScope’s data is public information. It only knows, for each tournament, the buy-in, the players involved, the prize structure and the final standings—all it needs to compute a player’s return on investment (ROI). This is no more data than you could collect if you observed every tournament.
Of course, a human being can’t observe every single tournament that’s played on a poker site, but a computer program can. By scanning the poker-playing program as it runs in the computer’s memory, SharkScope’s data-gathering program learns what tournaments are going on or have ended, what the stakes and prize structures are, and who is playing. When each tournament ends, it learns who earned money and who didn’t. All of this info is incorporated into the central database.
Some poker games allow observation of tables without logging in. In that case, the poker game’s managers have no way to trace suspicious activity, should they ever want to. Poker sites cite the need for transparency and accountability to justify making tournament results public.
These sites often forbid the use of programs or websites that give an unfair advantage. But enforcement of this rule can be tricky, and SharkScope maintains that its service is not unfair, because anyone can perform up to five free searches per day.
So, where does all this leave the player who would prefer to hide his or her tournament stats? SharkScope allows users to block their stats from public view; however, the data will still be accessible to subscribers. Aside from this, online poker players may simply have to get used to the fact that their winnings are public information. They can take some comfort knowing that at least their hands aren’t shown on TV, as they are for celebrity players.