Part 1: To Use or Not to Use Poker Software

Date: 2008-11-17
Author: Earl Burton

This article was written by Earl Burton.

Tracking newcomers as well as veteran players is easier with the implementation of many of the programs out there, but there are still questions as to whether using poker software is an aid to play or a detriment to the game. There are also those questions as to whether it is ethical to use poker software. To examine this issue, talked to three players about their poker software usage - or whether it should be used at all. Our subjects did not wish for their real names to be shared, so we have devised names for them. This article focuses on two players who benefit from the use of poker software. A follow up will show the flip side.

Greta - Poker Veteran Changes with The Times

“Can I typify myself as an experienced recreational player?” Playing since she was a young girl, Greta has continued the tradition of the kitchen table poker game as she has grown from playing with her six siblings and parents to sharing the table with her grandchildren in penny-ante games. Until her husband passed away, she made yearly treks to Las Vegas and is an experienced online player, earning around $10,000 over the past five years.

When I asked Greta which programs she used, she reeled off a list that showed she has a great deal of experience with poker software. “I used PokerTracker for over two years and also use SharkScope to get some knowledge on people I play against in sit and gos,” she stated. “Over the past 15 months or so, I have quit using PokerTracker for a program that I have found to be much better in Tournament Indicator.”

Because she is a frequent tournament player – and she found Hold‘Em Indicator and PokerTracker are more oriented for ring games - Tournament Indicator is her software of choice. “Tournament Indicator is one of the very few that will work playing sit and gos, as other software doesn’t start keeping statistics until after 100 hands played against an opponent. I think Indicator is also the only software that shows the players what they call the ‘M-Zone,’ which is a great feature in tournaments for predicting a particular player’s actions.”

When asked about Tournament Indicator, Greta was enthusiastic about why it was her software of choice: “The advantages are to numerous to list,” she joyous exclaimed. “Sitting at a table, I have win odds, pot odds, Sklansky’s hand ranking, and EV all pre-flop. I also have your M-Zone, VP$IP, PFR, AF, WSD, and WSDW. There are indicators as to if you are on a streak and, if I played you or ran Indicator on your table before, I have that at a click of the history button. Indicator also has rankings such as tight aggressive, passive, and so on, which can be good for stealing blinds.”

Through her history, though, Greta has found some software that wasn’t worth the time. “SitNGo Wizard was one that became useless,” she said. “It started off legal at PokerStars and on other sites and then became prohibited to use while Stars is open. For a while I used it, but as other programs became more advanced, I eventually dropped it.” There was also a hand-held device that she tried that actually hurt her game more than helped it. “A few years ago, I bought one of those hand-held calculators. You punched in your hand and position and it gave you win odds. I couldn’t keep up with the poker sites and was timed out too much,” she said with a laugh.

When it comes down to whether the software helps her or not, Greta was convinced that it did. “Software has helped my game in different ways. After looking at so many hands with win odds and pot odds pre-flop with software, when I go to a site that doesn’t allow software, I know the odds by heart,” she stated. “I find myself in the money in more tournaments since I purchased software. Being able to use my notes and cumulative information on a player from site to site is also helpful.”

Fred - Instant Information is the Drawing Card

Fred has been playing online poker for about four years with a great deal of success. “I may not have made a substantial amount of money over that time, but I have earned a vast amount of experience and poker software has been instrumental in that growth,” he said.

Fred’s poker software of choice is one of the more popular options available. “Poker Office gives you different statistics like pot odds and probabilities, which any software can give, but what I like most about it is that it will give you stats on how your opponents are playing,” he shared. “I really find that in online play, the only real reads you can have on opponents have to do with their tendencies. With Poker Office, you don’t need to sit there and watch each opponent all of the time. You can know who to bluff, who not to bluff, and who you should only play premium hands against.”

One that did not meet up to Fred’s standards was Texas Calculatem. “It gives you some stats that you may not know but, for me personally, I know roughly what my outs and pot odds are,” he flatly stated. Another thing he disliked about the software was its approach to the game. “It will tell you what your action should be base on the betting. I usually have a tight approach to the game but I found that Texas Calculatem was too tight in some spots and too loose in other spots. I would recommend it, however, for someone just starting out as it can give you some basic stats.”

Both Fred and Greta pointed out two things that make using poker software important for their games. “Poker software basically gives you things that you may be able to get on your own, but it makes it much easier,” said Fred. “I can come up with things like pot odds and statistics, but maybe not instantly. Since online poker is a pretty fast game, poker software allows you get your information promptly.” Greta echoed that sentiment, saying “How can it not be an advantage with all of the stats, odds and instant percentages I get?” They also said that the free trials that come with most programs offer the best way for players to determine the one that is for the individual player.

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