A quick heads up on HUDs

Having opinions about HUDs is in fashion these days. As someone who’s been writing about this topic since I launched this blog in 2010 I’m thrilled. The increased attention has led me to rejoin a conversation I’ve stayed away from for a while because I’d said and written all I wanted to say and write.
As a result it seems only appropriate to recap what my stance actually is.
I’d hate for people to… misunderstand it.

There are four HUD related questions any provider of an online poker room needs to answer.

1. How much game information and what kind of data processing and analysis features do I want players to be able to utilize  in order to potentially improve their chances.

2. Do I want to supply that functionality myself or am I willing to bring in an external supplier?

3. Is it ok to charge for access to potentially odds-improving data and functionality?

4. If I bring in an external software supplier, should I tell my players about the opportunity or let them figure that out themselves?

Question number one has no wrong answers. It’s a game design question best left to whoever is in charge of the game experience. Do you want a shooting game that features a hundred different guns or just one? Same question. Same impact on game complexity, target demographics and revenue model. I can readily argue for the both sides and could see myself in charge of rooms that take opposite stances on this.

Question number two has no wrong answer either. It’s your room. It’s your business model. If you think some kind of typical rev share deal with someone whose business it is to tutor players is a great idea well then good luck with that.  I know what I would do, but that doesn’t mean everyone who decides otherwise is wrong.

Question number three is tricky. It’s one I often get asked about.
If communicated properly I think it perfectly within any site’s right to charge. What you don’t allow is for anyone else to control what players can pay for.
A third party supplier who develops and prices their product independently will trash your game design plan. But as long as you keep that in check and retain 100% transparency, it’s your choice.

Question number four however does have a wrong answer. And because it does, the industry has opted not to even answer it. Until recently anyway.
Nothing excuses operators of real money gambling games from (even potentially) tilting the level playing field by allowing some players to capitalize on an information advantage that others have no reason to expect exists. And if the opportunity to utilize additional features is not made clear during the sign-up process, is not evident in the GUI nor regularly communicated to all players, that scenario is a reality.

But it says so in our nine page T&C! Congratulations, that may protect you from lawyers. You’re still an operator of a real money game with a creative definition of fair play.

But there are books! People can read books! That doesn’t change the fact that players have no reason to believe that the game user interface they are being presented with supports options and features you can’t actually access or even read about via that very game user interface.

I’d gladly discuss question one with an open mind and consider various options. I have a very set opinion about question number two but that doesn’t mean I am not  interested in listening to other opinions. I definitely lack insight into, for example, the costs associated with developing a HUD.
I’m on the fence regarding question number three. All ears on that one.
But regarding question number four I think there is only one right answer. And anyone who tries to cloud the issue or brush it over (I get that a lot) will and should be opposed. If you don’t think it is an relevant concern, you need to spend some more time with customers who you don’t meet at the World Series of Poker over a five course dinner.

That, and nothing else, sums up my stance on HUDs.