Heads-up displays and tracking software are divisive topics in the poker world.
Programs that allow you to track other players' behavior and access it in real time as statistics laid over their avatars can be intimidating to amateurs, but they're absolutely essential to making a living playing online poker.
Most online poker rooms allow tracking software, which gives players the ability to analyze their games and adjust to opponents on the fly.
Without that software far fewer players would able to succeed at a high enough level to make a living playing online poker.
HUDs Could Be Outlawed for US Online Poker
When Ultimate Poker dealt the first hand of legal online poker back in April I was quick to reprimand them for releasing their platform before it was ready just to be the first regulated online poker room in Nevada.
A 2+2 thread quickly filled up with requests for more functionality to be added to the UP software, including making it possible to use HUDs.
Now, a few months later, HUDs and tracking software compatibility is still absent from UP's list of features.
But it turns out the lack of HUDs on UP might not be a shortcoming of its software. It seems that HUDs may actually break Nevada state law.
NRS 465.075 Use of device for calculating probabilities.
It is unlawful for any person at a licensed gaming establishment to use, or possess with the intent to use, any device to assist:
- In projecting the outcome of the game;
- In keeping track of the cards played;
- In analyzing the probability of the occurrence of an event relating to the game or;
- In analyzing the strategy for playing or betting to be used in the game, except as permitted by the commission.
As you would expect with a legal ruling, it’s as clear as mustard. But I wouldn’t be surprised if this means zero HUD use in the state of Nevada.
If this is the case Delaware, New Jersey or any other state may well follow suit.
So it seems likely that even though online poker is on its way back in the great US of A, the pros will be running around like HUDless chickens.
But what does it mean to the US online poker scene in general? After all, there is a strong wave of support against the use of HUDs.
Many believe that HUDs aid the multi-tabling fiends, and drive the fish away in schools.
HUDs Like Coaching Staff for Poker Pros
I take a different approach. I believe tracking software is a necessity for any professional poker player.
I don’t think the very best professionals necessarily need HUDs to make their decisions in real-time, but for studying their game and the games of their opponents, they are critical.
The HUD is a time-saving device. Programs like Hold’em Manager and PokerTracker record and crunch data in ways that would be impossible to do by hand.
Choose any sport in the world and either the coach, team or player is spending a large amount of time watching their opponents, looking for weaknesses and developing strategies to exploit them.
At the same time they are also watching recordings of their own play, finding weaknesses and developing strategies to shore up their defenses.
Tracking software and HUDs give poker players the means to do deep analysis and raise their games to a level where making a living online is possible.
HUDs also allow a player to track results and share them with their coach, or backer if they're involved in a staking arrangement.
The bottom line is at the end of the day if HUDs are outlawed in the US, some bright spark will create a pirate version of their own.
The Nevada law is a little grey on this matter, and until more online poker rooms join the likes of UP it will probably stay that way.
Let’s just hope when that grey separates into black and white, HUDs are welcomed with open arms and seen as a necessary and vital piece of kit for the professional poker player.