Beginner's Guide to Poker Tracking Software

poker tracker big2
Cardrunners coach Matthew Janda introduces us to tracking.

Cardrunners coach Matthew Janda is here to give the beginners out there an introduction to poker tracking software and why it's so important.

Matthew Janda is a professional poker player/coach who specializes in Game Theory.  

He is known for his analytical and theory-optimal approach to poker, and has released videos at CardRunners specifically focused on playing optimally preflop, post-flop, and in 3-bet pots.  He has also published an extensive series on utilizing softwares like Holdem Manager.

Take it away Matthew.

The ability to use tracking software might be the biggest difference between online and live play. Tracking software allows you to record every hand of poker you play on the virtual felt, which in turn makes it possible to discover your own leaks and your opponents' tendencies.

Yet players new to online poker are often reluctant to invest in Hold'Em Manager or PokerTracker, since a $60-$100 investment might cost them as much as several buyins. These players often aren’t even sure if they’ll enjoy online poker and want to keep playing it.

I would not recommend using tracking software until you’ve played at least a thousand hands, whatever your preferred game type. The pace of online poker is very different from live play, and the extra software might distract or confuse you given that you're not already comfortable.

Nevertheless, even before you get the software it's a good idea to keep your eye out for promotions. Many Internet poker companies have responded to competition by offering deals in which you can get the software cheaply or free. You can also see which software suits you best by trying free trial versions.

The most useful aspect of tracking software for starting players is you can use recorded hands to see if your statistics look “normal.”

Viktor Blom
Viktor Blom knows how important tracking stats can be.

Are you playing too many hands, or raising too much or too little? By comparing your statistics with those of other winning players, you can get a general idea of where your leaks might be. Of course, many different playing styles can be effective, but seeing where you deviate from most players, and especially from winners, is a great way to begin inspecting your game.

This process is made trickier by the fact that winning players often have very different statistics. For example, some players might 3-bet very frequently, while others use a more narrow range.

Therefore, not every respect in which you differ statistically form winning players will necessarily be a leak. If you’re struggling to win online, however, this process is one of the best ways to start improving your game.

Of course, your newfound potential to analyze huge data sets will not be useful to you before you have even played ten thousand hands. Luckily, tracking software has many other useful features.

You will also be able to record isolated hands to post on poker websites for other players to view.  When I’m playing, I constantly mark tough hands to ask my friends about later. Time banks are unforgiving, and I know I learn the most when I revisit difficult hands later to think through them carefully without time pressure. Good tracking software makes the marking-and-reviewing process very easy.

Finally, tracking software allows you to get a better sense of how your opponents play, so you can exploit them. You can study their game when you’re not playing by looking over hands they’ve played; you can also examine their statistics to see if any leaks stick out.

If you use a heads-up display (or ‘HUD’), you can see all of these statistics while you’re playing, and use the reads you’ve previously developed to exploit them. This is of course no excuse for not taking extensive notes, as your most useful information will be more specific and informative than raw statistics. 

Although not every successful player uses tracking (though most use it at least for tax purposes), the vast majority realize it is an extremely important and useful tool for beating online games today.

The more information you have in poker, the better decisions you’ll be able to make and the more money that will follow. The best players will use every weapon in their arsenal to beat their opponents, and tracking tools are powerful weapons you should utilize to their full potential.

Find videos from Matthew Janda exclusively at CardRunners, the world's largest poker training website.

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