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No download (flash) online poker clients

It has become a more or less general trend lately that online poker rooms feature a no-download, simplified version of their software accessible at the click of a mouse right off their homepages.

The marketing idea behind the concept is obvious: people get fuss free and very fast access to the games, playable from just about anywhere and on any platform. All this is supposed to yield extra revenue for the poker operator, by offering players the possibility to play under circumstances they wouldn’t normally be able to play poker in.

Until not so long ago, playing poker on anything but a windows platform meant that users of other operating systems had to settle with sub par quality software or play-money games. Flash clients make it possible for everyone to join the real action no matter what operating system he/she is using.

Is the rakeback sign up process complicated? By no means… All you have to do is go to a rakeback provider and sign up to a poker room through his site. Once you set up your rakeback account, you have to check back with your user name and you’re ready to start getting part of your rake back.

The number of poker rooms offering Mac and Linux compatible software is on the rise. Not all these poker rooms aim for the flash/Java solution though, some of them (like PartyPoker) offer downloadable versions of software which are compatible with Macs and Linux-based platforms as well. Obviously, the potential of the Java programming language is not just interesting from the point of view of cross-platform solutions. The technology might soon take online gaming over (and that includes online poker) thus completely eliminating the need for downloadable client-side programs.

What the implications of that will be for the online poker industry remains anyone’s guess, but the fact is, that currently anti-fraud and anti-botting solutions largely depend on files the user downloads to his/her system. How poker rooms will be able to track programs running in the background and install mouse and keyboard hooks will be interesting to see. The most telltale sign of collusion or botting, the betting-pattern record will still be available though.

Anyway, let’s take a closer look at what makes these Java clients tick, and the difficulties the technology is presently confronted with. The main problem with Java is, that it’s not exactly the language best fit for programming games. It is almost there, but not quite. One can’t create an entire game in Java, that is not without making use of the JNI (Java Native Interface) to integrate it with code-segments written in C++ or C. The JNI makes this possible, the downside is, it causes a decrease in speed.

The other issue plaguing Java gaming applications is that many of the APIs used in their development do not make use of hardware resources when they should. An example in this sense would be JavaSound. This is what most developers use for 3D audio in their gaming applications, even though it fails to involve audio hardware. Fortunately there are new APIs surfacing all the time and with every Java platform release, more and more of the problems get sorted out. The dependency on the JNI is gradually severed, and solutions like JOAL (which does support hardware acceleration for sound) are gradually taking over.

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For 3D graphics, Java 3D has been the right choice for quite a while now, although its limitations are slowly rearing their heads. Java OpenGL comes to the rescue though, making sure the GPU gets its fair share in handling the 3D graphics, thus eliminating one of the biggest shortcomings of current-generation Java games.

As far as networking goes for Java gaming, the good–old TCP/IP, despite its latency-sensitivity, still proves to be the optimum solution. It sends small packages, updates often and it’s very secure.

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