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Poker Software Tools: Good or Bad for Poker?

by Ian Simpson |  Published: Sep 16, '15


In my opinion when you sit down at the table all things should be equal. In a cash game you can choose your starting stack to a degree and in a tournament everyone gets a fixed number of starting chips. No one should be treated any differently in this regard. As soon as you buy in, everyone, before skill and variance get involved should be on an equal footing to maintain the games integrity. Ideally both online and live poker should have all of its players start out on an equal footing, but that is not the case for online play.

When you play online poker tracking software can give a big advantage to any player using it. If you aren’t aware, software exists that records every hand seen and each action that a player takes. It will record things like how often you 3bet or how often you fold to a continuation bet. This software can be purchased and used by anyone, but typically only serious players are going to pay over $100 to have the software. Someone owning the software will have numbers displayed next to their opponents telling them exactly how often they take each different kind of action, and they can use this information to make better decisions against their opponents. To make the playing field equal again I think tracking software should be built into the poker client, so that everyone can use it, or like other sites have done, it should be banned completely so that no one can use it. Many recreational players don’t even know that it exists at all, and are oblivious to it. This puts them at such a severe disadvantage. Tracking software is insanely powerful nowadays.

The thing that really upsets me about tracking software is that people can share databases using it. It just seems unfair to me that someone could play a thousand hands against one opponent, and they both learn about each other’s tendencies, for that opponent to then share this information with a friend, or sell it on to someone. An opponent that someone has never met before shouldn’t start out from sitting down at the felt with an advantage over someone in the form of information about their tendencies acquired over thousands of hands gained from playing against someone else. They have no idea that he knows exactly how often they C-bet an ace high board for example and he can use that information to make money off of them. He or she is starting out with a massive advantage over an opponent that they have never met, and what’s worse is that opponent has no idea this has happened and is pretty powerless to counteract it. The only way I can think of to neutralise database sharing would be to ban the software, but that in itself would cause massive problems. Software allows many players to play many more tables than normal, and poker clients make more money with the more tables a person can play. The other problem would be software gurus making their own trackers without poker clients knowing it, forcing the practice underground.

Seating script software is something I really hate. If you aren’t aware, this software scans cash game tables for someone new joining the game. It automatically reserves a seat to the left of this player and the person using the software can then choose to sit down if the player is either new, or known to be a poor player. Targeting new players or “fish” so vehemently hardly creates a fun or friendly atmosphere. As soon as they realise that they are being targeted they will feel insulted and many will quit playing. Aside from it being bad for the poker economy, a random person gets insulted and upset and fleeced from their money which is hardly a morally sound thing to do. UniBet Poker’s client has random seating at its cash tables and I love that idea. I hope other clients follow in their footsteps.

One final point I’d like to make from a professional poker players view is that all the rules in poker, both live and online come from feedback from people who play poker regularly and therefore the rules end up favouring the professional players. If the edge in poker becomes so high against a new or recreational player then the poker economy will collapse. You don’t see me playing high stakes chess because there is no chance I could win. The appeal of poker comes from anyone being able to win. Jonny nobody can sit down next to Sam Trickett and win, and he gets to go and tell that story to all his friends which in turn makes them want to play. If the edge gets too big, this story will happen all the less frequently and so less new players will enter the game. I feel that software that assists in online play makes the edge for a professional player that much higher and I wonder how many more recreational players there would be contributing to the poker economy if it had never existed.

After spending a year sponsored by Paddy Power Poker through their Sole Survivor promotion, Ian Simpson went on to win the 2013 Irish Poker Open to take home €265,000 euros. He currently plans on doing some work in schools in between travelling the tournament circuit and writing for Card Player Magazine. You can find him on twitter @IanSimpsonPoker

Any views or opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the ownership or management of


over 3 years ago

been trying to figure out a way to sue NJ for allowing these third party software tools to be allowed on their website. as part of a facebook group on poker players, i constantly see photos of some of the people who will take down decently nice prizes. and i finally took notice because i was upset, what were they doing that i wasnt? then i looked deeper at the photos. i could see weird numbers next to players names, all color coordinated. it was some kind of tracking software. my question is, if you cant use these programs in live real money gambling, why are they allowed online? during a live game your supposed to keep notice and track yourself. it would be nice to have a real life program to tell you the % that people are raising out of the small blind. but since theres not it should be the same way with online poker. as someone who has grinded low stakes for years, these programs allow my friend who has been playing the game for about a year now, to completely catch up. instead of figuring out all the little things for himself he can now use a program combined with what he knows, and could easily end up winning a bigger prize in his first year. With less than half the learning effort. Not only that there is no mention on any of these websites the availability to use these programs. if these nj sites are going to allow it, then make it public for all to take advantage of. if im playing for REAL money online, there should be no advantages for anyone. Since in NJ its clearly not fair, im looking into suing these websites for the exact same reason... just sucks when it comes to this kind of stuff you have to do all the work basically for a lawyer to even look at you. but id rather kill online gambling as a whole, not just nj, if these poker tracker sites are not taken away.


over 3 years ago

i watched a video with Phil Galfond playing high stakes. He has J8 suited in the dealer position. about a 150-170k stack. His opponent a little over 100k... so first his opponent raises small and phil reraises. phils opponent then reraises to 10-11k. Galfond pauses the video. He explains because of the program he uses, that if Galfond shoves all in, the % of the guy folding is very high. He explains using math on the program that the all in play will get the guy to fold. Galfond shoves, guy folds. Does Galfond shove over 100k with j8 suited in real life? or even online without the program? NO. Theres no reading people involved at all in that scenario.

Like i said, either every single poker website promotes these trackers for fair play, or they ban them completely.

If i was a politician who noticed this, i would eat this up. Online gambling has a bad enough reputation that all you need is some gov. to say exactly what i am saying publicly. That people can use poker trackers, giving people and unfair advantage in real money gambling, and the nj poker websites allow it but dont make the public aware of it. So there would be a good % your playing online with someone that has this system/advantage.


over 3 years ago

Bovada has anonymous tables only -- maybe all sites should do the same.

I like it -- you have to decipher opponents' tendencies on the fly -- just like live.


over 3 years ago

Thanks for the replies guys. I don't think you'll be able to sue. The software is perfectly legal.

I love the idea of anonymous sites.


over 3 years ago

An interesting article by Ian Simpson and a good attempt to offer solutions to problems facing the online poker industry. It is clear from various responses to his article that the advantage given by HUD's is open to debate. Attempting to ban HUD's will likely fail to succeed because as he points out software experts would be more than capable of making their own trackers that the sites would not be aware of.

We broadly agree with his statements concerning recreational players who have just as great a desire to win as anyone else even if they do not expect to do so in the long run.
The problem with building tracking software into the poker client is that you immediately alert everyone to its existence which is highly likely to unnerve recreational players. It is also doubtful that they would bother to use it.

Sites offering the opportunity to frequently change screen names or random seating are attempting to level the playing field even if HUD's are tolerated.

What absolutely should not be tolerated is collusion rings and interlinked bots. We at Poker Innovations believe this is the real threat to the online poker industry as they are a contributing factor if not the actual cause of the decline in online poker.

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