PokerTracker Director Steve McLoughlin explains the true value of hand-tracking software and why heads-up displays (HUDs) are generally overvalued by poker players.
“I've talked to some of the most famous players in the world who insist that it's the HUD that gives them an edge so we sat down and talked to them and at the end of the conversation they actually understand that their edge doesn’t come from the HUD,” said PokerTracker Director Steve McLoughlin.
“It’s because they’re a superior player.”
It's obvious that using a heads-up display backed up by a database of hands will give you more information but according to McLoughlin having a HUD won't instantly transform you into a winning player.
The real power of tracking software, he says, comes from reviewing your game, identifying your strengths and weaknesses and combining that knowledge with what your HUD can tell you about your opponents.
“The HUD is so overvalued by poker players,” says McLoughlin. “It’s actually not as important as reviewing your game after it’s done.”
As it turns out relying only on a HUD can actually lead to mistakes in your game.
Ranges Just One Example of How HUDs are Misleading
McLoughlin ran through a few scenarios where the data you're seeing on your heads-up display can be misleading, and keyed in on how a HUD helps you put your opponent on a range of hands.
“Just last night I had a dinner conference with Mason Malmuth, the owner of 2+2,” McLoughlin said. “We were laughing about ranges, how they are misunderstood by most people.
“I pulled up the Hold'em hand range visualizer and I filtered to just 3-bet pots. The 3-bet pot percentage was 9.6%, so we know that the opponent is 3-betting 9.6% of the time, so what’s his range?
“And Malmuth looked at me and said, 'Well most players will think it’s 9.6% but that is a self-weighted range and it’s not true. In reality, the range is a wider, non-weighted range.'
“And he’s absolutely right. So I pulled it up and actually over 43% of all hands were possible in the range.”
To help deal with problems like this, PokerTracker's latest release allows you to custom-tweak your opponents' ranges based on what you know about their play.
Other problems with data include players deviating from their standard style for a variety of reasons.
“Mind you, you might be playing against an opponent who is drunk and you don’t know it,” warned McLoughlin.
“Maybe your opponent is changing their normal playing style because they’ve been taking advantage of a loose and/or passive player. The stats don’t tell the whole story.”
The Best Poker Players Work the Hardest
McLoughlin doesn't buy into the idea that a HUD is a quick shortcut to becoming a winning poker player. He points at the best poker players in the world to explain what it takes to become great.
“See it as owning an encyclopedia. Just because you own it, doesn’t mean it’ll make you smarter.
“With PokerTracker, to become a great player, sit down after your game and review your play, this is what the greatest players do.
“After the game is done, they’re running reports, creating filters, and learning more about their game and learning more about their opponents. They do the homework.
“It's just like going to college. If you’re going to college it doesn’t mean you become smart. It takes time and effort. Same goes for poker.”