In my next couple blogs I’d like to talk about stat tracking software and HUDs.  For those unfamiliar with this term, HUD stands for “Heads Up Display”… essentially how it works is like this:  The poker client writes a hand history to file once the hand is complete, which you can set to save on your hard drive.   The stat tracking software imports this hand history, allowing it to produce statistical data on each player based on actions they took (voluntarily put chips in the pot, preflop raise, etc. etc.).   The HUD then produces a visual table overlay for each player with this statistical data.

Most people tend to fall into one of two camps, the pro-HUD camp and the anti-HUD camp.   In today’s blog I would like to address some of the complaints the anti-HUD camp makes for why they are against HUDs, and share my views on them.   If you are an anti-HUDder, I would ask you to read on with an open mind… you should know that I am pro-HUD and use a HUD while grinding online, but I was not always so.  I got my start in poker playing live cash games in Las Vegas, and played thousands of hours of live poker before ever playing for real money online.  When I first transitioned into online poker, I didn’t use a HUD, and went HUDless for a long time.  I had reasons similar to the ones I hear today.  I now think some of these reasons were flawed, and there’s some myths in play here as well which I will address.  So bear with me anti-HUDders…  I am a pro-HUDder now but was not always so, and thus I do understand well where you’re coming from.

So with that preface in place, let’s talk about some of the common anti-HUD arguments, and why I think you should consider investing in a stat tracking program.

1.  HUD’s are cheating, giving the user an unfair advantage.

This is a myth that’s easily dispelled.  The software is available to anyone to purchase.   If everyone has the option to use one, then those that chose not to can’t claim unfair advantage.   PokerStars would seem to agree on this point.  In their TOS they provide a list of acceptable and not acceptable software that you can use on the site, and all the stat trackers are deemed acceptable.  If Stars thought this myth were true, this type of software wouldn’t be allowed.

2.  Using HUD stats to make your reads isn’t “real poker”.  Real poker involves observing your opponents to make your reads.

Ahhhh, yes… I call this the “live player” argument, and while I think this is a flawed idea now, when I first transitioned to online poker from live play this was exactly the way I felt. 

It’s true that observing your opponents to gather information on them is an integral part of poker, and that stat tracking software can do so to levels that aren’t humanly impossible, and provide this statistical data on a HUD layout.  Does this make using a HUD not “real poker”?   In my opinion, it does not.   Poker is a game of incomplete information.  Isn’t the point of playing good poker to use all the information available to you within the rules to make the best decisions possible?   And we’ve already established in #1 above HUDS are allowed within the rules.  So I believe choosing not to make use of them, when they can provide more information gathering than you can humanly provide yourself, is a bit short sited. 

Online and live poker have many similarities and also many differences.  Yes, you can’t use a HUD live in the casino like you do at home online.  You also can’t play in just your under ware at the casino like you can do at home online.  And you can’t play 5, 10, or even more tables at the same time in a casino either.   The two have differences.  But one thing that’s the same in any venue where poker is being dealt, is that it’s your job as the player to use all the information available to you to make the best decisions you know how.   Intentionally denying yourself readily available information, in whatever venue, doesn’t seem to me like a best practice towards good poker.

Now, I want to tell you why I recommend you have a look at the stat tracking software.  The ability for self-analysis with these tools is simply amazing.   I use PokerTracker4.  With it, I can review my own play, looking for leaks or addressing specific areas of concern I may have. 

-Want to review a tournament you played, but not have to look through every single hand?  No problem… you can filter the software to show you only hands you voluntarily put chips in with, or filter for a specific group of hands. 

-Are you making a profit on your play of small pairs?  Filter for starting hands 22-66 to see your results with specifically those hands and review your play in them.

-Do you feel like you struggle against 3-bets out of the blinds when open raising from the button?  No problem, filter for this exact scenario and have a look.

The ability to self-analyze your game is taken to new depths with the power of these tools.   Self-analysis is an essential component to poker growth, so I think it behooves you to consider this.  And, if you really, really, REALLY don’t want to start using a HUD, that’s ok… you can track your own stats and do all the self-analysis without ever even turning the HUD feature on.

If you’re not currently using a tracking software, and I’ve piqued your interest, give it a try.   PokerTracker4 and HoldemManager 2 are the big ones and both offer a free trial period.  They both also offer a small stakes version, which does everything the full stakes version does, but simply only imports hand histories up to certain cash game and MTT stake levels (set easily high enough to cover all micro-stakes players).   The first thing to do is make sure you are having the poker client save the HH’s to your hard drive.  Then accumulate as many as you can, so when you download the tracking software to start a free trial period, you’ve got some immediate data to import and play around with.

Now, if you’ve made it this far, thank you for that.    I have one last myth I’d like to dispel for you.   This myth actually comes from a statement I made in #1 at the beginning:   That they give the user an unfair advantage.   I’ve already addressed the “unfair” part, it’s available to everyone so it’s simply not unfair.  Now I’d like to address the “advantage” part.   Just like how many live players don’t know what to look for or how to interpret things they observe at the tables, so goes it with many HUD users.   Mis-reading, misapplying, and just flat out not understanding the statistical data these tools provide is commonplace.   Your opponent at the table may be using a HUD, but they may not be garnering quite the “advantage” you think.

In my next blog, I’m going to give you some tips and pointers on using the statistical data in the proper ways at the tables, so you’re making good use of the information and not misinterpreting things, leading to bad decisions.