Should You Say No To The HUD?

Should You Say No To The HUD?

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Reasons to go without.

After the eternal debate over HUDs has led to new sites such as Unibet Poker banning them completely, Bluff Europe takes a look at all the reasons to go au naturel.

Unless you've been living under a rock, you'll probably know about the existence of Heads Up Displays (HUDs). In case you don't, then HUDs are specialised computer programs that are designed to help your online poker game by displaying your opponents' statistics on-screen, including how often they play pots, the percentage of time they put in a three-bet, and much, much more. If you've been living under an even bigger rock (and we're talking canyon-like proportions, here), then you also might not know that HUDs have long been the subject of one of poker's most controversial arguments. It's a debate almost as old as time itself: do HUDs give an unfair advantage to those who use them?

“No!” cry the 24-tabling, graph-loving grinders. “Yes!” shout, well, pretty much everyone else. Whatever side you fall on, though, it can't be denied that HUDs make online poker a helluva lot less accessible to the average player. It's understandable, really. Think about it – why would you want to enter a game where you're essentially playing blind compared to your opponent, who has the tools to analyse your every move down to the last decimal point?

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Above - A cash table on Unibet Poker, the latest site to ban HUDs.

Unibet Poker has become the latest online poker site to put their foot down. While other sites have been reluctant to alienate software-using players, Unibet have banned HUDs entirely, eliminating the 'hand grabber' that is necessary for such programs to work. They're not about to apologise for it, either – Unibet explicitly states that HUDs and tracking software are not allowed on Unibet Poker, and that any efforts to build custom versions will be investigated and shut down.

It's a hard line, but what's the reasoning behind it? Unibet's Head of Poker, Martin Stalros, spoke up.

“We wanted to help put the fun back into poker, and one way of doing this was to level the playing field. We would never segregate players or punish players for doing well, but we want new players to have just as much information about their opponents as established players.” - Martin Stalros, Head of Poker at Unibet.

HUD-defenders seem to always be the ones that shout the loudest. In light of Unibet's interesting stance, however, we decided to take a look at some of the possible reasons you might want to consider going au naturel – and not in the same way that our great-Aunt Betsy sometimes does when she's had a few too many sweet sherries. Here are 5 Reasons Why You Might Want To Say No to the HUD.

1. Data Mining

If you're currently playing HUD-less on a site which allows them to be used, it is highly likely that you will be at one stonking disadvantage compared to others. Your opponents could have thousands of hands on you, and be using the information to exploit obscure tendencies that you didn't even know you had. The worst part is, anyone you play against could be using a HUD – but you won't know who.

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2. Paying more attention = better play

A lot of people who use HUDs do so because it requires them to pay less attention. But if you're using the numbers to tell you what's what while you watch TV and surf the net at the same time, you're missing out on tons of useful information to do with game flow and table dynamics. Maybe you're playing too many tables, and can't keep tabs on them all simultaneously. Sound familiar? Then scale it down a bit, ya big doofus. More tables does not necessarily equal a higher win-rate. In fact, playing more tables than you have enough attention for – which leads into the territory where using a HUD starts to become necessary – can eat into your profits. Unibet allows you to play as many tables as you like without a HUD, and this is a great way to find your 'sweet spot'. Because honestly? Playing your A-game on two tables is a lot better than playing your C-game on six tables, as well as being a whole lot more fun.

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3. Data sample sizes can be misleading

The statistics your HUD shows you about your opponent are calculated over all the hands you've ever played with them, but it's an extremely slippery slope to assume that this average number represents how your opponent plays all the time. In fact, your sample size will usually be small, and as a result the statistics will often be out of context. For example, if you have hands on someone from the early stages of a multi-table tournament, it's likely that they'll be playing very differently if you meet them again in the late stages of short-handed final table play. Their statistics will not be relevant, as the game is TOTALLY different. Making too many assumptions from the limited picture your HUD shows you? A sure-fire way to end up with egg on your face.

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4. Because you want to play poker, not prepare for a Statistics degree

Remember when poker was a battle of instincts and reads, rather than a vain attempt to decode a rabble of multicoloured numbers on a screen? Let's be honest, trawling blankly through the barrage of statistics next to your opponent's screenname for so long that you end up timing out is not how you pictured your poker career when you first got into the game. It's exactly because of this that Unibet are now on a rampaging mission to bring the fun back to poker. Changes that are leading the charge on the Unibet client include bonkers avatars, identity changes, and wacky achievements – but most importantly, a freedom from the less-than-exhilarating reign of HUDs.

5. You'd rather beat someone on a level playing field

This is one of the biggest reasons Unibet cites for the heavy ban-hammer they wield on HUDs: the right of every player to have a fair and equal chance to win, without having to compete against the hidden edge of an opponent's software. This one is pretty much a no-brainer. Even if you have used HUDs in the past and found them useful, we're betting that a victory without one is a whole lot sweeter when it comes to that good, old-fashioned winner's pride. Equally, if you aren't using one, it's reassuring to know that your opponents aren't going to be, either.

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So there you have it – an ample set of reasons you might want to say no to the HUD. Of course, we don't doubt that the debate for them will continue to rage on more fiercely than Phil Hellmuth after a monster suck out, but it seems that more and more people are now seeing the benefits of going bare. Still not convinced? If the thought of going HUD-less makes you feel naked, then take the plunge and go skinny-dipping – have a play around on Unibet, re-learn the skills you've forgotten, and brave it on your own. You never know – you might just like it.

Tags: Unibet, HUDs, strategy, software