Chewing the Hud

Chewing the Hud

Monday, 23 September 2013

Just how important is poker software. We ask the pros.

Some say that poker software tools have ruined the online game; some can’t grind without them. But just how important are they to the serious player and which specific programmes are the pros using? Let’s find out…

Jeff Kimber

I held firm against poker software for a number of years but now I couldn’t be without HEM2 when playing PLO cash. I can take or leave my HUD when playing online MTTs, but for cash I really think it’s an essential tool.

It’s true, if you’re concentrating fully on one table, you can pick up most if not all of the information without a HUD, but having played over 10,000 hands against some regs, the historical data can be crucial when making marginal decisions. Add to that the fact that it’s not always possible to give 100% concentration to one table – hopefully because you’re playing more than one rather than watching EastEnders.

I know some really good PLO players who win plenty and never use a HUD, which is fine, but I think the more information I have the better. I can still ignore it and go with the kind of natural reads these guys use, should I choose to.

I’m pretty sure I don’t fully use HEM2 – it’s such a vast and complex bit of kit, but I continually try to find new things to see if they help me. I also like to keep on top of what stats I have on my HUD. I think it’s important to design your own HUD rather than using one of the standard ones, so it looks aesthetically pleasing and it gives you all the info that you regularly require, but no more.

I’ve recently added a new line into mine to spell out opponents’ VPIP by position – UTG, mid-position, cut-off, button, SB, BB – so I can see whether they are positionally aware or just playing their cards.

In MTTs I’m a little less keen to rely on historical data, as there’s no way of knowing whether the 200 hands I have on a guy are around the bubble of the $100 freezeout or the early stages of a $10 comp. I still have a HUD up, though, because if my table has been the same for 100 hands in the middle of a comp and an opponent three-bets for the first time, I can bin A-Q, whereas if the three-bettor has a three-bet percentage of 20%, I’ll be high-fiving the dealer and getting it in!

CTH Kimber

Paul 'BadPab' Foltyn

I don’t use a HUD but have the old Hold’Em Manager that has something called “Active Players Window”. It's on my other monitor and has everyone who is currently on one of my tables. If I need to double check a spot – usually a re-shove spot – then can I pull it up easily enough.

In a full session I probably refer to it five or six times, usually when I'm at my peak number of tables. I think more tournament players use them than don't, but I've tried using conventional HUDs and just can’t get on with them.

I can't remember who said this to me but I believe it: “It’s way more detrimental to have a HUD and not know how to use it than not have a HUD at all.”

I don't think its imperative for high stakes MTTs since the player pool is relatively small, but in mid/low stakes you might have 500 hands on a guy but have no idea who he is.

CTH Foltyn

Luke “LFmagic” Fields

I don't use anything anymore. I used a HUD for a few months a few years ago and found it tilted me up beyond control when I went against my gut instincts because of the information I had available in a particular spot. So I guess I sacrificed what could be a very useful edge in favour of making copious notes on everyone and stripping my game down to building good board-reading and instincts – as suspect as that may sound.

A lot of other people will find it ridiculous that you can play without one these days but it's important to feel 100% comfortable with your decisions, regardless of outcome, and I find that to be so important in improving my mentality. There are obviously benefits to being more reliant on your own thought processes when it comes to live poker and when you build up certain dynamics with different regulars you play against every day.

CTH Fields

Dan 'Raziel2689' Morgan

I use a Hold 'em Manager HUD that gives me stats to profile my opponents faster, and to profile more opponents in a shorter period of time than I would be able to by watching hands alone. For me, as a heads up SNG player, the information about my opponents’ pre-flop and flop tendencies is invaluable since it implies so much about their general approach to the game and how they might proceed with different parts of their range on different board textures. For example, an opponent with really aggressive pre-flop numbers is likely to continue his aggression through the streets, so I need to be on the lookout for good spots to bluff-catch.

PokerStove and the Universal Hand Replayer are also really helpful for reviewing your sessions. Plugging scenarios into PokerStove and checking your equity against different ranges can give you a better idea of what you should be doing in a tough spot where you aren’t sure if you are ahead of your opponents range or not. Playing whole games of sessions in the Universal Replayer is a lot better than just picking out the biggest pots that you won or lost, in my opinion, because you can get a reminder of what the gameflow was like and how that may have impacted your decision either way.

A lot of hands will play out differently with no reads but it’s important to know and adjust accordingly when your opponent has just taken a big beat or has been winning a ton of pots in the previous orbit.

CTH Morgan

Stuart Rutter

The online NLHE grind would feel bare nowadays if I didn't have a HUD showing for each player. I actually made the decision to have a very complex HUD, with 20 numbers on the display. It takes some practice, but it is surprising how quickly you can learn to recognise each number at a glance.

However, I would say this definitely isn't necessary at all. In my opinion, the true key stats would be button steal, 3-bet, fold to 3-bet, 4-bet and fold to 4-bet, so a HUD comprising those five numbers might be a very good start.

I love to use PokerStove and Flopzilla after the session, as a great way to review the hands.

PokerStove is the best tool to analyse all-in equities, and Flopzilla can randomly create any flop, and show you what kind of shape your range is in against your opponent's range.

CTH Rutter

Tags: Poker Winners, software, technology, Jeff Kimber, Stuart Rutter, Paul Foltyn, Dan Morgan, Luke Fields