Beat The Fish

These Poker Sites Without HUDs Are Better for Everyone (Except Grinders)


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.

Rank

Poker Site

HUDs Available

Bonus

Anonymous Tables

Link

1

Ignition Poker
HUDs Not Allowed

150%

up to

$1,500

Yes

2

Bovada Poker
HUDs Not Allowed

100%

up to

$500

Yes

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?

  • Recreational players who don't even know HUDs exist.
  • Players on mobile or tablets who don't even have the option to run a poker HUD.

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.

Poker Sites without HUDs

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:

  • Who blocks HUDs entirely
  • Who allows them but tries to reduce their effectiveness
  • Where you'll be completely safe from being tracked
  • The telltale signs of HUD poker sites you want to avoid

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

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.

Ignition Poker HUDs

How they set the gold standard:

  • They've been rendering HUDs useless for years. I remember being mildly amused and somewhat annoyed when Bovada (the ancestor of Ignition Poker) announced that they would be making their entire poker software anonymous back in 2011. I believe they were the first to introduce them. I thought something along the lines of “What is the point of a gimmick like that?” Yes, I was still fairly naïve about the effect of HUDs in online poker.
  • Ahead of their time. I stand and applaud them as forerunners to ban poker HUDs, such as Poker Tracker. It was a brilliant idea that the rest of the industry is starting to catch up with. The result? They’re still one of the loosest poker sites online, open to US players, and have grown exponentially since introducing anonymous tables.
  • All identifying data blocked from all games. While some poker sites have pussyfooted around with anonymous tables, Ignition applies them across every cash game, Zone (fast-fold) game, Sit and Go (including Heads-up), and tournament. Players are only given a number from 1-9 and can never be tracked across tables. This applies to every every Texas Hold'em and Omaha game.
  • Quick seat now added to further level the playing field. Anonymous tables already inherently prevented “bum hunting” and seating scripts. This is used by questionable poker HUD software players to track and sit to the left of poor players, they’ve taken things one step further to prevent table selection. Cash game players no longer see a traditional lobby interface with a table list.
  • Making tables more homogeneous. To join a cash game, you now just select the stakes and table size you want to play. This is also available on their no-download software client. The software then automatically works to find a table and seat for you. The idea is to stop heads-up display players from only choosing tables with attractive metrics like a high flop percentage to evenly spread out more skilled players. They’re a little late to the party on this one as several other poker sites have using Quick Seat for years now to limit HUDs.

HUD-Free Poker Sites I Don't Recommend


Party Poker

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.

Party Poker HUDs

What they've done to ban poker HUDs

  • Anonymous tables. Party Poker has been intent on regaining its lost player base largely through encouraging recreational players. Banning all poker HUD cash game tracking use in 2016 was a huge step in that direction. Your opponents at cash game tables will only be identified as Player 1, Player 2, etc.
  • Quick seating. This eliminated seating script tools and “bum hunting” HUDs like poker copilot by forcing cash game players to play at whichever table the software chooses. After selecting your preferred table size and limit, the Party Poker software will automatically seat you. Players can no longer be followed or targeted.
  • Players can change screen names once in a while. One way to combat poker tournament data mining and heads up displays is by occasionally allowing players to change their screen names in an easy self-service way. The catch? You can only do it every 180 days.
  • Still allows you to track your own play. This compromise seems like a very clever way to appease online poker HUD software users who actually want to use their hand history data solely to analyze their own play. In my opinion, that’s the only perfectly legitimate reason to use poker tracking software. Party Poker allows players to download their hand histories to be imported into a poker HUD's software program, but all other players at the table are still anonymous, rendering it useless for future sessions.

What could still be improved:

  • Cash games only. While I prefer anonymity across all game types, Party Poker is still allowing tournament players to be identified by screen name at the table. Although players are restricted from using HUD software, it’s hypothetically possible that tournament data and stats could be mined by third parties and used manually by players. This is the strategy of poker tools like Sharkscope work.

Unibet Poker

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.

Unibet Poker HUDs

They're what you want in a site without poker HUDs:

  • Never allowed HUDs. I’ve been a big supporter of the stated mission by Unibet Poker to focus on the recreational player. Aside from simple software and goofy graphics, an excellent way they’ve done that is by banning poker HUDs entirely. Unibet requests HUD software developers not to support them and actively sanctions players found to be using custom tracking heads up displays.
  • Unlimited identities and avatars. This was a unique solution by Unibet Poker that further combats HUDs: Even though players are identifiable by screen name with their chips at the table, players can have up to 5 different “identities” simultaneously. If you’re maxed out, one will be archived if you create another one, which you can retrieve later if you choose to. You also get to choose from one of a few dozen parody avatars to further lighten the mood at the tables.

PokerStars

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.

PokerStars HUDs

Their stance on HUD poker is complicated

  • They seem afraid to do more. The biggest poker site in the world for more than a decade now, PokerStars regularly comes under fire by the poker community seemingly for any decision they made. They’re scrutinized intensely in every situation, which might explain the delicate dance they take when it comes to online poker HUD software. They seem cognizant of causing an uproar in their grinder-heavy clientele, which is the same demographic using HUDs liberally.
  • Beware, as they still allow HUDs to some degree. I appreciate that PokerStars has stood up to HUDs in the form of removing automated actions and seating scripts, but they still technically allow poker HUD versions in some form. They have jargon-filled rules and lists of acceptable HUD software such as PokerTracker and ProPokerHUDs, which, in my opinion, does not go far enough at all for protecting casual and mobile players.
  • Prospective players should be fully aware that heads up display product usage is supported in some forms at PokerStars and you can and will be tracked by other players while playing there.

Global Poker

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.

Global Poker Online

How they prevent HUDs

  • The Global Poker software can't be downloaded. One of the best parts about Global Poker is their completely web-based software. You simply log in at the website and you can play. That goes for any desktop device, any mobile, and any tablet. With no software files or hand history files on your computer, even if a HUD was developed for Global Poker, it couldn't collect anything. 
  • HUDs are banned and encouraged to be reported. Reading through their Terms and Conditions, Global Poker explicitly states that third-party software (HUDs) like PT4 is not allowed. If they catch any player using a HUD, they reserve the right to confiscate their funds. Players are also encouraged to report any player suspected of using a HUD to support. Global Poker is trying as best as possible to create a level playing field among desktop, mobile, and recreational players.
  • Usernames at tables, but hand histories are anonymous. One interesting thing about Global Poker is that they don't have anonymous tables. You'll still see usernames and can take notes on players. However, when you look at your hand history, all other players will have anonymous player names. I think that's a good balance of blocking HUDs, but still allowing you to take manual notes on players if you choose to.

My Pick for HUD-free Poker

Ignition Poker

winner

Bans HUDs and software actively prevents them. USA players accepted.

Bonus: Up to 150% for poker and up to 150% for casino

Chart of Poker Sites that Ban HUDs

RankPoker SiteHeads-Up Displays allowedHand history downloadAnonymous tablesSoftware Link
1.Ignition PokerNoNoYesPlay there
2.Bovada PokerNoNoYesPlay there
3.Global PokerNoNoNoNot Approved
4.Party PokerNoYesCash gamesNot Approved
5.Unibet PokerNoNoNoNot Approved
6.PokerStarsSomeYesNoNot Approved

How sites are dealing with poker HUDs

Partypoker Anonymous Table

Party Poker has banned all HUDs and changed cash game tables to anonymous. Take a look at the placeholders for each player.

Partypoker Use of Heads-Up Displays

One change I would like to see Party Poker made is making tournament tables anonymous as well. Currently, players can be identified at them, even though the usage of poker HUDs is prohibited.

Partypoker Seating Scripts

Party Poker is combating bum hunting and seating scripts with quick seating. Players can't see who is seating at a table before sitting down.

No HUDs at Ignition Poker

Ignition Poker takes the strongest stance of anyone when it comes to banning HUD software. Every single table gives players anonymity via a random number.

Ignition Poker Hand History Data

I love what Ignition does to combat the HUD poker crowd's claim of easy cheating. You can see everyone's cards in every hand you've played in after 24 hours.

No Bum Hunting at Ignition Poker

Ignition Poker has had success at eliminating skilled heads up display players from picking and choosing table stats, thanks to this new quick seat format.

Unibet Poker Bans Heads-Up Displays

Unibet Poker has always been without heads up displays. They explicitly say right on their website that they don't allow them.

Unibet Poker Bans HUDs

This is where Unibet Poker players can change their identity with a different screen name and avatar at any time. It applies to every game, including heads-up.

PokerStars HUD Policy

PokerStars has a complicated history with the HUD. They have a jargon-filled page describing what's acceptable and what isn't. At least they're doing something.

PokerStars HUDs Accepted

As you can see, PokerStars still allows poker HUD users to view all table metrics in the lobby and preview exact player names of every table.

Poker Sites without HUDs Q&A

HUDs Harmful

Why are even the best HUDs harmful to the poker economy?

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?

Poker HUDs are Cheating

Is using poker HUD software cheating?

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?

PokerTracker

Do anonymous tables stop heads up displays like PokerTracker?

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.

Poker Sites Ban HUDs

Will all poker HUD sites eventually ban these tools?

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.

Players Tracked

Is there any downside to poker sites banning HUDs?

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.

I disagree.

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.

Players think the poker sites themselves can't identify everyone

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?

Frequently Asked Questions
✅ What is a HUD in online poker?

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.

✅ Does PokerStars allow HUDs?

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.

✅ What is the best poker HUD?

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.

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