Back in January when I started with PokerSchoolOnline, I installed trials of Poker Tracker and Holdem Manager. I couldn't get either of them to work straight away and kind of gave up as I didn't really need them.

Recently, thanks to generosity of Pokerstars, your friendliness, and the medium of Twitter, I now have a bankroll. As some people mentioned, it's a 'bad career move' to not have tracking software. There are many choices though, and with the price of the software being around 100 USD, I didn't want to make the decision lightly. 

So I made a concerted effort to try all the options again. I tried out some of the 'big ones' and a couple of smaller ones that I found on the Pokerstars approved list. This is my thoughts on what I've tried. They may not match up your idea of what is good, but remember that even with all this newfound 'wealth', I'm actually a beginning player, so I might be entirely wrong!

Tournament Indicator

One of the first HUDs I tried was Tournament Indicator. I actually really liked this software for my purposes. It doesn't have a HUD per se, but it has a window that sits alongside with your table window and tells you your chances of making a decent hand. It also works out pot odds and outs, and what chances everyone else might have and something called M zone that I haven't actually learned much about. 

It also tracks the other palyers' betting patterns and classifies them into types, such as 'calling station' or 'rock', and shows their win/loss history, and stack sizes.

The biggest limitation of this software is that it must have Dealer Messages set to "Everything". This means a LOT of spam on your table. Normally this doesn't matter, but in more social games, where you might actually chat with other players, it's hard to keep up. 

The other drawback is that this software is not really a post-game analysis or tracker. It's there just to help you play the current game as far as I can tell. There aren't past hands history or profit analysis charts. 

I do have to commend the makers on the videos section of their website though, as I found them invaluable and still go back to them now and again, especially "Understanding pot odds and win odds". 

Overall I really liked Tournament Indicator, but felt it was not quite the full featured application I was going to spend a $100 on.

Poker Wingman

The biggest draw to this application was that it was free. Unfortunately, it didn't work. I tried it with dealer messages on, dealer messages off, four colour deck, normal deck, default table size, but nope, it'd connect but show nothing. I tried. 

Poker Sharpener

I enjoyed this application, in many ways it was similar to Tournament Indicator, but it also had post-hand analysis and graphs. The best part was that you could set up your own hand ranges from which it would give you suggestions. What I did here was load up the hand categories from the STT and from the MTT sections of the PSO coursework and it told me whether my hand was in Category 2 or 3, for example, so I could make better decisions without sneaking a peak at my Excel spreadsheet. 

The negative part was that it seems this software has an annual subscription fee. That's probably a bit too rich for my tastes.

Holdem Manager 2

I tried really hard to make this application work. I really did. First of all it required some Windows Services that I'd disabled to be re-enabled, then it created a hidden separate Windows Logon that I found a bit creepy, then it installed a SQL application and a service; and it all kind of felt like it was taking over my PC. 

After all that, when I first tried it in January, it didn't work. When I tried again two weeks ago, it wouldn't start up. It told me my free trial expired. Some people suggested I uninstall it and remove all the registry entries, but it still didn't work. I emailed Support admitting I'd tried it before but didn't succeed and what could I do to try it properly. 

Support responded saying I needed to create another Windows user and reinstall the software using that user. I did that, but it still didn't work. I told support this, and they replied saying I needed to create another Windows user and reinstall the software using that user. Right, um, ok. I'm probably in part to blame here because when I tried it the first time I didn't put in a real email address so there was no licence they could reset for me. But it seems ridiculous that the software cannot be eliminated from my PC now. It's forever embedded into the depths of my registry. To annoy me. Forever.

At the end of the day, time is money, and money I don't have much of in the first place. I had other options to try still and really it was all a bit too much effort. It's quite a shame, because the software incorporates Leak Buster and Notecaddy, both of which I was looking forward to to trying.

Poker Tracker 4

I had exactly the same problem with Poker Tracker as I did with Holdem Manager. This is likely because they both use Postgre SQL. Fortunately, when I first tried this application, I registered with my email address and the support staff simply reset my licence and gave me a month of trial. Very kind. 

I mostly enjoyed Poker Tracker but it does require some research, set up, and 'figuring things out' to get any value from it. 

There were a couple of things that annoyed me about PT4. First of all, the Postgre thing really bugs me; the separate user and database service just feel so so intrusive. 

PT4 has all the HUD stats in the world but can't tell me pot odds or outs or win odds for anything but the mucked hands. The software only reviews hands after they happen (from the history folder). It's not very helpful for me to make decisions on the fly, but it is very good at evaluating gameplay. 

I have found it quite a hard slog to figure out what all the stats mean, but have learned quite a lot!

When the licence expires, you can't open Poker Tracker, which is the same problem as what I  had with Holdem Manager. I think that even though it isn't accepting new information, I should at least be able to open it and look at the previously-collected data.

Poker Tracker does have one really cool feature that I think cash game players would enjoy, and it's Table Tracker. It scans all the tables on Pokerstars, looks in your database, and figures out the most profitable tables for you to go play on. Unfortunately it does require an additional monthly subscription fee, but it'd probably be quite +EV for a cash table grinder.

Poker Office 5

I didn't give this software much of a chance initially because it didn't really have a free trial. However, when I revisited the site in my recent attempts I noticed they now have a two-part trial - first you get a free trial for the first 300 hands, and then you can also get a two-day trial via their Facebook page. It doesn't seem like much, but I don't play all that many games in any given day, so my trial lasted about two weeks.

Poker Office 5 combines the tracking and HUD stats features of Poker Tracker with the on-the-fly odds and outs information of Tournament Indicator. It's also by far the best looking of all the ones I've tried.

I also liked its actual HUD look better than Poker Tracker. Poker Tracker HUD feels more intrusive, it takes up a lot of screen real estate and doesn't work without a background. What I mean here is I tried to make the background transparent, but then all the fonts became hard to see and fuzzy, so I ended up having a box around each stats box, which took up a lot of space. It's the little things.

On the other hand, Poker Office HUD looks much more streamlined straight off the bat. 

The HUD automatically assigns icons to different players similar to Tournament Indicator, but they're kind of random, like left and right hand arrows. I found an article that says red are tight, green are loose, and blue are semi-loose players. I replaced a couple of them with icons I recognised, like dice for gambler and phone for calling station. But the best part is TAG players default icon is a wizard hat. I always think to myself "And those people are wizards" and think of Eddie Izzard (love that guy!). 

I set up some colour ranges to let me know when I'm not doing enough of something (blue), when I'm doing too much of it (red), and when it's just right (green). 

This was easy to set up in Poker Office, but the hard part is knowing what to choose as your range. Fortunately, they provide a small article to get you started. When I did a more extensive search on Poker Tracker site, I found similar articles, but thought Poker Office was just more user-friendly for that kind of content. There was also this one that is focused on post-flop stats. Turns out those are for six-handed games, so I asked on the forums, and Arty sent me a spreadsheet that includes full-ring stats. They are quite similar, but a bit looser at six-handed. And apparently they're different again for tournament play, so there's a lot of learning ahead for me to figure out the perfect ranges!

Similar to the Tournament Indicator, Poker Office adds another window under the table that shows you the track of your opponents on the fly and the value of your hand with pot odds. Good point: It doesn't require dealer messages set to Everything for this to work.

Here you can see that the pot adds have changed to 1.7 to 1 and the win odds turned red, indicating that I'm probably priced out of calling here. We can also see that the guy raising is quite loose. 

What I especially liked about Poker Office is that after my trial expired and I couldn't import any more hands, I could still open the software and play around with all the options, allowing me to learn. There is an option to set up different graphs and tables. But there's also a quick option that just shows you all the stats without adding them to special graphs first.

There's also a way to set up a "leak buster", described in this article. Mine said that I was losing too much aggression on the river. 

Two downsides so far to Poker Office is that it doesn't accept Pokerstars "center me here" feature (though support tells me it's on the 'to do' list) and it doesn't take automatic notes like Poker Tracker. 

On the upside, it automatically starts the HUD if you start a new table. In Poker Tracker, you have to press "play poker". Once again, it's the little things!


It's hard to say whether the HUDs are helping me play better so far. I think I am not quite getting the full value from them as I don't yet know what all the stats mean. 

I did, however, get a few cashes in the 25 c SNGs and got a cash in the Women's 10 c tournament yesterday, so maybe something is sinking in.

For a while, I've been a little bit torn between Poker Tracker 4 and Poker Office 5. Their support seems equally good, they both have about the same price and include both Omaha and Holdem, but Poker Office is probably a little more aesthetically pleasing for me. It also doesn't  complain about running out of memory (really, Poker Tracker? my computer is pretty good!) and doesn't require Postgre (I think?).

I think in the end I'm going to get Poker Office 5 and hopefully it pays off with some winning results. What software, if any, do you use? If you guys know of any stats articles out there, especially for tournament full ring play, let me know!