PokerPlayer’s Big Issue: Should HUD’s be banned?

Ask a poker player whether HUDs should be banned from online poker rooms and you’ll get one of three answers.

In the ‘no’ camp are the grinders, the pros who multi-table and depend on the stats their HUDs feed them to make snap decisions on players without having to get their info the old-school way– by making notes. HUDs give them vital statistics that can predict whether a player is likely to fold to a three bet, or be bombing the river as a bluff.

On the other side are old-school players like Patrik Antonius. In a recent interview with Poker Listings, Antonius said: ‘You know, it’s a little sad, but it looks like the technology has advanced so much that it’s become a totally different game. Nowadays players use software that gives them so much information and so much data that it has become more of a game of numbers… I‘ve never used technology to get an edge… But the players today know what they’re doing. They are basing their play on what the software tells them to do so it feels like you’re playing against a computer these days.’

Antonius used to crush the high stakes online games, so the poker world tends to take notice when he says something. These days he doesn’t play NLHE or PLO because of tracking software, focusing on mixed games where HUDs don’t exist.

The third answer is, ‘A what?’ And this is the real issue – the mass of recreational players that don’t even know what a HUD is. When you sit down at a poker table you like to think that it’s a game where you’re pitting your skills against other people. The trouble with HUDs is that they create an uneven playing field, where those using them have a distinct advantage over those who don’t. HUDs on their own can’t turn a bad player into a good player. They don’t tell you what hands to play and how to play them. But a good player can use the stats to make much more informed decisions on an opponent. The larger the sample of hands you’ve got on a player, the more accurate your stats are going to be. If you’re a live player it’s like being a super-computer and dragging up every hand you’ve ever played against an opponent in your lifetime before deciding whether to call or fold. Doyle Brunson wouldn’t approve.

Reclaim the tables!

Pro-HUDers point out that everyone can use tracking software and that it’s neither illegal or unethical, and that’s true. The trouble is, even if recreational want to spend time learning how to use one, reducing a game they love playing into a number-crunching exercise.

Some sites have taken action – Unibet and Sky Poker have banned all HUDs and partypoker has just followed. PokerStars has just made an announcement limiting the use of third-party software without going as far as to completely ban HUDs.

Alexander Dreyfus, CEO of the Global Poker Index, thinks PokerStars should make a stand and stop its pros Twitching with HUDs. He thinks it sends out the wrong message to players who might be coming to poker for the first time. He has also gone on record and said that he’s convinced the big sites like Stars will eventually ban them as well.

We hope he’s right. Poker isn’t just designed for pro players and without the mass of recreational players it will die a slow death. Unibet and the rest should be applauded for their decision to ban HUDs, and PokerStars should show the poker world it’s not afraid to make tough decisions by following suit. Let’s make the poker playing field level again.


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