BY JOSH H, OWNER AND EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
I'd like to admit something that might not be popular with my full-time grinder brethren: I am loving the war on poker HUD software. Loving it, in the most schadenfreude-laden way possible.
What’s HUD poker software? The acronym stands for heads-up display. HUDs in poker are software that inlays detailed statistics about opponents' tendencies right on top of a poker site's table graphics.
Allowed to run unfettered for years, I largely blame poker HUDs for almost ruining online poker from 2008-2014.
The worst part about poker HUDs? They give educated online poker players who already have a skill advantage a technical advantage as well.
Who are the biggest victims of poker HUDs like PokerTracker, Hold'em Manager, ProPokerHUDs, and Jivaro?
You know, only the people, money, and lifeblood of the poker world.
I have good news, though:
Online poker sites have fought back over the past several years and are slowly killing the HUD.
Poker sites knew that the recreational players were staying away and the cannibalizing sharks weren't cutting it for their bottom lines.
Playing at poker sites that block or minimize HUD software is one of the most underrated factors prospective players should be checking out.
You don't have to live with poker HUDs, but it isn't always clear where you'll be in the clear and where you'll be on the end of a 20-tabling grinder perusing your lifetime stats.
That's why I researched and tested every poker site I recommend to find out what they actually do to fight poker HUD tools. You don't have to play at poker tables dominated by players who can find your leaks and weaknesses with a click.
Let's take a look at:
In other words, how to make sure you have options for online poker games with a level playing field regardless of your technical knowledge.
Ignition Poker was the first to really launch an all-out assault on HUD tracking software and I think they were brilliantly ahead of their time.
Anonymous tables across cash games and tournaments and now quick seating makes this the gold standard for poker sites without HUDs.
The One of the poker sites hit hardest by grinding HUD software users was Party Poker. They've fought back in a big way and now bans them entirely.
With anonymous cash games and quick seating, you won't have to be worried about being targeted. Along with the new bonus, it's been a boon to looser games.
Unibet Poker was one of the first poker sites I've seen to declare war on HUD tools before they even launched. They're built for casual players.
Besides outright telling HUD software developers to buzz off, they make staying private fun by allowing you to change your identity at will.
PokerStars is in a tough position because of the clientele they've attracted for years: the hardcore grinders that make up the HUD population.
They have taken some mild steps towards mitigating HUDs, which I commend, but I still think they should be going a lot further.
Global Poker is a newer online poker site that has never allowed HUDs. They explicitly ban third-party software in their Terms and Conditions.
The Global Poker software takes place in a browser, preventing HUDs from harvesting hand histories. It's full of loose tables and friendly to beginners.
Bans HUDs and software actively prevents them. USA players accepted.
Bonus: Up to 150% for poker and up to 150% for casino
HUDs (or heads-up displays) allow an unfair advantage to any player using them. I believe that 100%. They allow players to automatically capture the play data for every opponent seated at their table via hand histories without disclosing their existence.
Online poker HUDs like PokerTracker then create meaningful data on autopilot that is displayed during future play sessions by altering the view of an online poker site’s software.
Poker HUD players are playing on a PC, as there is a Windows and Mac version for most trackers. When you play against a HUD user, they can literally see statistics about you such as VPIP and PFR. These show how much a player voluntarily puts into the pot and the frequency a player makes a pre-flop raise.
HUDs can track your performance and tendencies at a granular level. These poker tools can show what you do most often on the flop, turn, and river. For a modest license cost, or even a free trial, customers of poker HUDs can see your lifetime performance, when you're likely to bluff, how you perform on the button, and other stats.
Even random poker statistics, such as how often you've played an ante game or which card suit you like to play most are all fair game to HUDs.
HUDs aren't quite the equivalent of turning your face-down cards into face-up cards, but it comes close enough to take the odds out of your favor.
Does that sound fair to you?
I think using HUDs during games is borderline cheating, and I wouldn't have to be convinced much that it is definitively.
Basically, HUDs collect data on everyone you play against and then put it into numbers displayed right next to your opponent’s seat at the table. HUDs can also run hand replayers outside of poker play sessions.
A poker HUD is a piece of software that runs on your computer and tracks your opponents’ statistics in real time. It can be used in conjunction with a poker tracker, which tracks your own statistics and hand history.
These poker tracking tools give users an edge over opponents by providing information that would otherwise be unavailable. That information can be used at the sole discretion of the HUD user in the middle of a hand.
Unbeknownst to the recreational target, a poker HUD can track statistics such as how often a player raises, their lifetime losses, how often they fold to a 3-bet, and their overall win-rate.
HUD software developers who profit from selling packages to players like to point to the fact that heads up displays aren’t technically “stealing” data. They’re making use of hand history data that’s available to everyone. Anyone could form the same conclusions manually with enough database number crunching.
That’s absolutely true, and if any player wants to manually track what their opponents are doing through spreadsheets and calculators, then more power to them. Unfortunately, HUDs like Jivaro allow the equivalent of Johnny 5 to do the analysis for them. Even that could be acceptable if the line was drawn at data analysis.
However, in what I believe is the worst violation, HUDs display that opponent data in real-time right on top of the poker software! HUDs alter a player's view of the official poker site software, they don’t need to declare to anyone that they’re being used, and they’re only even available to advanced players who know they exist. It feels especially dangerous for heads-up players.
Doesn’t that sound like cheating to you?
Yes. Anonymous tables, which are used at poker sites like Bovada Poker and Ignition, are 100% effective in protecting players against HUDs because identifying players via hand history is the only way heads up displays can function. Take away the ability to know a player's history and you make them unable to be hunted by sharks. There is real value to players in anonymous tables.
There has been such a backlash against HUDs over the past several years that I expect this war against them to continue. The online poker industry was dying, due in no small part to professionals using HUDs, and it needed an intervention.
The numbers have shown palpable growth at sites that ban or restrict HUDs, so they're going to continue to follow the bottom line.
That being said, I imagine at least a handful of poker sites such as PokerStars fear a revolt by their core HUD player base enough to leave them alone. The problem is, if HUD sites continue to be avoided by recreational players, I believe they'll eventually die a slow shark-filled rake-fueled death.
The only complaint from Team HUD that feels to me like it goes beyond sour grapes is the argument that player anonymity gives rise to the chances of player cheating. However, I think the logic of that argument is at least somewhat flawed.
Before HUD banning, if an opponent was playing suspiciously, it was easy to keep track of them, look for their name in downloadable hand histories, and compare your results to others in the poker community who may have crossed paths with the same player.
The argument is that banning poker HUDs and, by extension, player identities in hand histories, eliminates that.
No poker site that bans HUDs hides your hand histories. You just can't use them with screen names to gain an unfair advantage. You can still review every hand you've played and look for signs of cheating to your heart's content.
Ignition Poker takes it one step further and even allows you to see every player's hole cards after 24 hours, even if they folded pre-flop.
Technically, that makes it easier than the pre-HUD backlash to track cheating. Just send the poker site's support team an email with the hand number and as many details as possible.
Just because you can't identify the player in hand histories doesn't mean the poker site can't. What an awful security risk it would be if sites couldn't know who their own players were at the tables.
True, there is a lot of trust involved with relying on the poker sites without HUD support to follow up on cheating claims, but there's a lot of trust involved with the free market that is online poker to begin with.
If you don't trust your online poker home, find a new one. If you don't trust anyone, why make yourself miserable and play online poker at all?
A HUD (or heads-up display) is tracking software that allows you import online poker hand histories. HUDs display information alongside or on top of an online poker site's software, displaying information on how your opponents have previously played hands. Ignition Poker is currently my favorite poker site than bans HUDs. Their web-only software makes it incredibly difficult for rule-breakers to even try to use a HUD there.
Yes. PokerStars has a complicated history with HUDs, as a large portion of their players are experienced online poker players who utilize tracking software to their advantage. PokerStars currently does allow some HUDs and maintains a list of ones that are allowed.
Personally, I do not support the use of any HUD or tracking software beyond what is officially integrated into a poker site's software package. My biggest reason for that is the unfair advantage it allows over inexperienced and/or mobile players.