Part 2: Interview with Holdem Manager Founder Roy Goncalves

Date: 2008-11-06
Author: Chris Wallace

Chris “Fox” Wallace is a hard-hitting interviewer who talked to Holdem Manager founder Roy Goncalves in order to contrast his product with those offered by PokerTracker and Poker Office, two of the premier progams in the industry. Goncalves also dives into what features we can expect in the future. To read more about what Holdem Manager is and how it can change your game, visit Part 1 of our interview, which was conducted by Dan Cypra. Holdem Manager is out of Beta and now available to the public. How much work was it to create something like this program?

Goncalves: There is a reason why   PokerTracker has not had serious competition since it first launched. Building an application like this is a huge undertaking and, just when you think you are close to the finish line, you realize that you are just getting started. I first began working on this program in November of 2006 and launched the public beta version in July of 2007. I'd say for the first three or four months, it was very part-time and I explored different options. After that initial period, I spent just about every spare minute I could find working on Holdem Manager.

PS: When you set out to create this program, did you have a specific goal in mind? Would you say you were you a frustrated PokerTracker or Poker Office user who wanted things set up differently or a software designer who thought things could be done better from a technical standpoint?

Goncalves: My goal from the start was to create the first next generation poker tracker.  PokerTracker was incredibly innovative for its time; however, it was never meant to scale to many millions of hands, offer the analysis that today's players demand, and updates were limited to bug fixes and dealing with the ever-changing poker site hand histories.  

Looking at the program, I knew that there was no realistic possibility of updating it to do what people wanted and that a rewrite would be necessary. I like to think big and knew I had the ability on the software side to make it happen. Plus, I understood exactly what players wanted and needed being an avid online player myself, so I decided to make the time commitment to build what has now become Holdem Manager.

PS: How is the business side of things? Are you surviving and carving out a chunk of the market for Holdem Manager?

Goncalves: The business side is going very well – I obviously wasn't the only one who was disappointed with the lack of updates and functionality over the last couple of years, which is an issue when there is essentially a monopoly.  I'm able to focus full-time on Holdem Manager and Tourney Manager now, which is a great feeling.  Building great software, interacting with people who get excited about it, and still having time to spend with my family is a wonderful thing.  I had spent the last 13 years with what was initially a startup with no funding and no products and is now a successful publicly-traded company in the financial services world. That came with a lot of pros and cons.  If ten years ago someone would have asked me where I wanted to be in ten years professionally, I would have said it would be developing my own software and still being able to pay the bills.  I'm there now, so despite the crazy hours and never-ending e-mails, you won't hear me complain.

PS: With the release of PokerTracker 3, I can see a lot of similarities between the programs. Are you both simply moving in the direction that makes sense and advancing with technology?

Goncalves: I like to think that there is a lot of innovation in Holdem Manager.  Some of the new features were obviously needed and demanded, but many are quite unique. I am still releasing updates that provide even more new innovative features to the online poker world.  That isn't going to stop, but these unique features will become standard in other trackers because the bar has been raised and players will simply demand them.  

When any competition sees new features that people like, the first instinct is to take the concept, try to improve it, and then put it in your own application.  This works both ways. There are a few things that I like about PokerTracker 3 that I will surely implement in Holdem Manager.  There are other programs around that may or may not gain traction and each of those will have their own unique ideas.  What is great about competition like this is that consumers are the big winners.

PS: Statistical analysis programs have really changed the game over the last few years, particularly with Heads Up Displays. What is in the future for programs like yours?

Goncalves: I spent a lot of time working on the core framework of Holdem Manager, which essentially is the engine that drives everything else.  This lets me layer on some pretty powerful functionality with much less effort than what would normally be possible.  So, there are still some big things coming, but looking down the road, my focus is going to be using the program to show people how to become better players.  They have this incredibly powerful tool right in front of them and just using the basics will put them way ahead of where they were before. I really want the people that use Holdem Manager to use it as a tool to elevate their games.

PS: Do you spend a lot of time at the tables yourself these days? It would be great to hear what your personal set up is for the stats in the HUD.

Goncalves: I play a fair amount.  I've played just about everything over the years, starting with Limit Full Ring, moving on to SNG's and MTT's, and for the last two years or so, I've been focused on six-max cash games.  You can find me playing the mid-stakes games on PartyPoker once in a while.  

As far as the HUD setup goes, I am a bit of a minimalist.  I have the basic preflop stats, VPIP / PFR / Steal / 3Bet, and then Flop CBet% and Fold to Flop CBet% all in a single line.  However, I take detailed notes that I frequently look at (and update) mid-hand.  Most of the information in the notes comes from the Player Analysis section of Holdem Manager. I basically look for stats that can be exploited and use that to adjust my standard line.  For example, if a player has a very high Fold to Raise when he makes a flop continuation bet, then I'm going to raise him with air.  Most of my analysis in the notes goes deeper than that, but there are a lot of obvious ones that make for really easy, profitable decisions.

PS: What is just around the corner for Holdem Manager? Are there any scoops that you can give us on new functionality being introduced?

Goncalves: I have been knocking off some fairly big chunks of functionality lately with the Player Analysis, a brand new replayer with the HUD completely integrated, and I'm now moving onto adding much better tourney support.  That includes tracking of winnings along with some very powerful new functionality that I'm going to be keeping under wraps for a bit.  I have quite a few more ideas in various states of development in Holdem Manager, so expect a lot more in the coming months.

PS: The folks who review software for us love Holdem Manager, but we notice that a few things like graphing for tourneys are not yet ready. When are we likely to see those final loose ends tied up?

Goncalves: Tourney winnings support is being implemented right now.  I would expect this to make its way into a release within the next two to three weeks.  Following that, I'll be working on some new multi-currency functions, which will make a lot of people on certain sites happy.  It all comes down to prioritization right now.  Holdem Manager is constantly evolving and I've got enough ideas to keep me busy for a long time.

PS: Are any add-on programs appearing for Holdem Manager yet? Do you think that is likely to happen as it has with other major pieces off software or is the program a little too complete for people to be writing programs to fill in the holes?

Goncalves: There is always room for add-ons. There are a lot of brilliant developers in the poker community that have a lot to offer and I hope to see much more of this as Holdem Manager’s market penetration increases.  I do know of a few that are currently in development, so hopefully you will start seeing these become available for public use soon.

Visit our Holdem Manager review right here on plus learn how to get the program completely free.

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