Blog

May 5th

Why HUDs are hidden from the masses

Posted by with 18 Comments

*** NOTE – THIS IS AN OLD POST THAT HAS BEEN UPDATED/EXTENDED WITH ADDITIONAL CONTENT ***

An old discussion flared back to life on twitter yesterday after I asked @pokertracker to inform me when they have full HUD coverage of @pokerstars Zoom Poker so I can stop playing it.

This is a stab at @Pokerstars – not @Pokertracker but the inevitable discussion with HUD defenders ensued. In this case with @JoeTall and @Pokertracker associate @_Tizzle.

As often is the case, people defend the existence of HUDs while I oppose not their existence – but how sites cloud their use. So the discussion doesn’t really go anywhere.

Hence I want to make the following clarification:

I am not an opponent of features and functionality that utilizes game data and the strategic complexities of poker to offer players a potentially more engaging play experience. I am probably an above-average proponent of such things. Heck, I’ve even argued for the use of bots under certain conditions.

My beef is with the poker sites and their inadequate handling of the fact that such tools exist as third party applications. And the reason I feel so strongly about it is because I understand the root reason of why the act as they do.

The problem isn’t that sites to a varying degree (but not varying enough imho but that is a different discussion) approve the use of 3rd party player tools. It’s their game. They are free to craft whatever play experience they like.  The problem is that they intentionally do very little to make sure the entire player base is aware of these tools and what they can do.

At first this was mostly due to the fact that the industry was young; development happened almost haphazardly, often just copying what everybody else were doing – or mimicking standard practice for live poker. Sites had no control over or even knowledge of  3rd party development that utilized or altered their code. The situation was chaotic.
Nowadays most Terms & Conditions will outline which tools are legit and which are not. And some of the bigger 3rd party tool suppliers, like @pokertracker, cooperate with the sites and networks that their tools support. Some sites may even, especially in the wake of the recreational player revolution, have outlined a credible game design strategy. They now, most of them, understand the role these tools play and how the ecosystem of poker fundamentally works. The problem is that they don’t like what they have learned.

The reality is that sites don’t want their casual players to understand that the game they were sold as one of wit, cunning, guts and luck is often played as a game of statistics and time-consuming data analysis. The sites fear that if a casual player is exposed to the intense world of HUDs and equity calculators and whatnot they will be instantly turned off. They will realize that this is a game in which they are not willing or able to invest the time required to stand a fair chance. And that the fancy talk of bluffing and tells evaporates the minute they clock in enough hands to be adequately analyzed.

Even in a game without monetary involvement this is bad. In one where money is involved it is outrageous. Yet this is never publically discussed other than by me. Not that I am aware of anyway.

By not integrating the advanced functionality offered by many 3rd party tools into their software  - or making the 3rd party tools intuitively and easily accessible from within the GUI – they flunk one of their most important responsibilities as gambling providers – that of offering a level playing field.

Sites choose to accept that a large majority of players will be playing oblivious of the kind of tools, and their potential, that a minority of opponents may be using against them. Allowing them to gleefully adapt a bluffing play style doomed to fail.

The recreational players are simply sold out in order for the sites to not have to deal with either of the following two options:

1. Ban the use of such tools and risk losing committed, highly active users.

2. Make everyone fully aware of the range of approved tools and how to use them – thus taking the risk of losing valuable (contributing) players intrigued by poker’s psychological aspects and taking comfort in that the software seems to offer limited capacity for other players to exploit the fact that they don’t want to read nine books in order to justify playing at all.

But, but all this is spelled out in Terms & Conditions and we also have a page somewhere on our site introducing some of the tools!

Yeah, whatever. It’s not your money being lost after all.

***UPDATE JULY 22***

In the wake of the announcement that @pokertracker will be sponsoring the EPT I, perhaps tediously, decided to give this topic another runaround. It bugs me that it’s never gained much traction.  I can only hope that more people join me in putting pressure on site’s to change or tell me to shut up once and for all.
One argument that has been brought up to back the notion that I’m making a lot of noise over nothing is that the permission to use for example HUDs are spelled out in the rules. And if you don’t read the rules, your bad.
I don’t think this argument removes the responsibility of a game provider to present players with a GUI that reflects the rules, but let’s ignore that for a while.

Here’s what you find about the ability to compile, store and access additional game and player data directly at the table through the use of third party applications on Pokerstars.eu.

Poker Games Frequently Asked Questions – Nothing.
Pokerstars Special Features – Nothing
How to Play section – Develop your skills! – Nothing
Poker Game Rules – Nothing
Poker Strategy – Nothing
Prohibited Software – Full info

This menu item is not found under “the How to Play section” but under a site section called “Poker Room”.  I also find it telling that the section is called “Prohibited Software”. It’s called that because the good people at Pokerstars have put it there not to inform casual players of what tools they can use but instead to answer questions from grinders regarding which they may NOT use.

The following is from Blizzard’s World of Warcraft user interface add-on development policy

1) Add-ons must be free of charge.
All add-ons must be distributed free of charge. Developers may not create “premium” versions of add-ons with additional for-pay features, charge money to download an add-on, charge for services related to the add-on, or otherwise require some form of monetary compensation to download or access an add-on.

2) Add-on code must be completely visible.
The programming code of an add-on must in no way be hidden or obfuscated, and must be freely accessible to and viewable by the general public.

3) Add-ons must not negatively impact World of Warcraft realms or other players.
Add-ons will perform no function which, in Blizzard Entertainment’s sole discretion, negatively impacts the performance of the World of Warcraft realms or otherwise negatively affects the game for other players. For example, this includes but is not limited to excessive use of the chat system, unnecessary loading from the hard disk, and slow frame rates.

Any comparisons between online poker and World of Warcraft here will be flawed for several reasons but I think it is fair to say that one should expect a game in which players gamble with their own money and directly win other people’s money should live up to far higher standards than a subscription MMORPG.

All I am asking is that sites make the existence and use of external aid tools transparent. Either by making sure every new player understand that they are available, make sure the use of external tools is made apparent in the game client so players can discover it themselves or – which would of course would be the best option – make sure the approved functionality is embedded in the software and ban everything else.
Until they do, they are marketing a game experience that does not exist and trick players into thinking they are playing on a level playing field.

Agree? Disagree?

Would love if enough people chipped in so I could conclude once and for all whether I’m right or wrong here.

It’s highly advised to read the comment section before deciding. It’s full of additional angles and arguments.

 

  1. Joe Tall
    May 5, 2012 at 10:30 pm

    If anyone believes anything in the above post, please see this link, it defuncts everything Kim has said:

    http://www.partypoker.com/how-to-play/playing-on-our-tables/poker-tracker.html

    -Joe

  2. Kim
    May 7, 2012 at 12:05 am

    Joe, please.

    If this discussion is going to lead anywhere kindly keep it reasonable. That link was brought up in the discussion between me and @_Tizzle and it doesn’t defunct everything I just said.

    It proves that someone is at least doing something albeit, which I point out in the very last paragraph, it’s not nearly enough.

    This specific page I find if I go to partypoker.com, evade the multiple play now/download buttons, pick the how-to-play tab, choose “playing on our tables” (good section to have) from a myriad of links and go to the bottom of it.

    Where on the front page is it? Where on Pokerstars.eu is it? Where do I get wind of it from the software interfaces?

    Since I don’t have the grip I used to have of various poker software I’d be delighted if things have changed for the better. But a single page on a single site buried quite deep into the site’s page structure will not make me change my mind.

    Take this page as an example:

    http://www.pokerstars.eu/poker/room/features/statistics/

    It’s a page on Pokerstars.eu about “poker statistics”. It explains the Pokerstars software’s internal poker stats functionality but does not mention anything about third party apps. At the bottom it claims the following:

    “We hope PokerStars’ comprehensive statistics tracking system gives you the edge!”

    A definite candidate for the title of Miss Leading.

    Credit to Partypoker.com. Something is better than nothing. But it’s not enough to absolve an entire industry of guilt.

  3. Dmitry @ poker listings
    May 7, 2012 at 10:19 am

    I believe you are over-dramatizing the situation and it is not the poker room responsibility.

    Just like in any other money making endeavor, the player must do the due diligence and educate him- or herself on the subject and decide either they need to use those tools or not.

    They are ‘not hidden’ from the public as anyone can find them easily online and buy them for mere $100.

  4. Dmitry @ poker listings
    May 7, 2012 at 11:40 am

    What’s up? Critical comments are not open for discussion?

  5. Kim
    May 7, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    “What’s up? Critical comments are not open for discussion?”

    Absolutely! I just need to approve them first. Otherwise you’d be reading about cheap handbags and viagra sales…. :-)

  6. Kim
    May 7, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    #3

    “I believe you are over-dramatizing the situation and it is not the poker room responsibility.”

    What exactly is not the poker room’s responsibility? To provide accurate and easily accessible information about features related to their own software?

    Some people in poker hold this absurd notion that exterior code that utilizes a program’s data and code and alters it, adapts it and bends it is not something the program owners have to take any responsibility for towards their users.

    Of course it is.

    “Just like in any other money making endeavor…”

    They are not (anymore) marketing poker as a money making endeavor to all players for obvious reasons. That is the heart of the matter.

  7. Dmitry @ poker listings
    May 7, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    “What exactly is not the poker room’s responsibility?”

    To disclose and keep track of third-party software features. Let me draw an analogy from financial world: if somebody, who utilized a financial research software sold you a stock and you lost money on it – you wouldn’t go to a stock exchange and cry about it being unfair and rigged just because the seller used the tools you don’t have, or would you?

    “…exterior code that utilizes a program’s data and code and alters it, adapts it and bends it…”

    Hmm, how exactly Holdem Manager or Poker Tracker alters and bends the code? You lost me here. I always thought it was ‘data’ that those programs analyze. Please elaborate.

    “They are not (anymore) marketing poker as a money making endeavor to all players for obvious reasons. That is the heart of the matter.”

    Anybody surely understands that poker is a zero-sum, actually it is a minus-sum game due to the rake. For few to make money majority has to lose – this is the nature of the game. Promise of riches and fame if you get to the top attracts the crowd and brings fresh money. Few realize how much effort is needed to become top player.

  8. Todd
    May 7, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    “Anybody surely understands that poker is a zero-sum, actually it is a minus-sum game due to the rake. For few to make money majority has to lose – this is the nature of the game. ”

    I would position that the majority of the players that bring money into the ecosystem do not at all reflect on this. They don’t think about rake at all. They couldn’t say how large part of the players are “winners” vs “losers”.

    “Promise of riches and fame if you get to the top attracts the crowd and brings fresh money. Few realize how much effort is needed to become top player.”

    Again, I would position this to be incorrect on the players that actually deposit the majority of the money the “break-eveners” and “winners” use to play with. The depositing players want to play a fair game of poker, see it as “recreational gambling” (i.e. expect to lose and have fun in the process – with at least a chance of winning). They want to play against other players that are like them – they don’t want to play against the “pros”.

  9. Kim
    May 7, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    ” you wouldn’t go to a stock exchange and cry about it being unfair and rigged just because the seller used the tools you don’t have, or would you?”

    People actually should (and are) crying about it lately.
    There is a reason why certain countries / stock markets are considering the ban of various forms of automated trading (not my field, I apologize if I get the jargon wrong).

    The reason for this is that the world at large has not been aware of some of the “tricks” used by the financing community to outplay average Joe. And there is a reason why the financial industry is not exactly dying to have their little secrets on the front page of magazines.

    I’d argue that the banking industry is just as irresponsible when they keep telling people to invest in stock but fail to mention how much of trading is done by computers that could run investments into the ground in five minutes. By mistake.

    Add to that a very important psychological difference. Trading tools are used to analyze companies and the trades made in those companies’ stock.

    Any edge you may have over me in terms of better analytics software does not involve me and my data. You do NOT know MY trade patterns. Playing me in poker and having in depth data on ME represents a far greater itrusion of my privacy. Exactly the kind of sensation a “casual” player is likely not to appreciate.

  10. Kim
    May 7, 2012 at 5:54 pm

    #8 +1

    No.. make that +2

  11. Dmitry @ poker listings
    May 7, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    “Any edge you may have over me in terms of better analytics software does not involve me and my data. You do NOT know MY trade patterns. Playing me in poker and having in depth data on ME represents a far greater intrusion of my privacy. Exactly the kind of sensation a “casual” player is likely not to appreciate.”

    If you played with me and in the process you were alert and gained insights on me and my play patterns and made notes, you gained an edge on me – while I was drinking beer and having recreational fun, so kudos to you. Using a software to analyze the play is just an extra enhancement step. If that would be a secret tool not available to masses or if it would be so expensive that most wouldn’t be able to afford it, then you have a case.

    If you personally just unaware of a relatively cheap tool which is available to everybody, then this is your own problem as each of us decides how much effort/research/reading he wants to do to play the game.

    I still fail to see how is it the poker room responsibility to provide info on third party tools?

    On the top of that, you are supposed to change your playing style constantly to throw off your regulars…

  12. Kim
    May 7, 2012 at 9:23 pm

    “If you played with me and in the process you were alert and gained insights on me and my play patterns and made notes…”

    Since note-taking functionality is built into the GUI, that is obviously a tool I am can be expected to be aware of and choose how much time to dedicate on.
    Maybe I spend hours and hours using the note taking functionality the sites I can use in order to gain an edge just to learn months later that other players are using more powerful tools that the site forgot to mention.

    “I still fail to see how is it the poker room responsibility to provide info on third party tools?”

    And that’s where I can’t help you. I as a user have no reason to assume that other software is affecting the outcome of the game I am playing if the game I am playing doesn’t mention it and explain it.

    Blizzard for example are aware of their responsibility and do more to solve it in WoW than online poker sites who have people gambling their life savings do.

    “If that would be a secret tool not available to masses or if it would be so expensive that most wouldn’t be able to afford it, then you have a case.”

    Define secret. Define expensive.

    You argue like a grinder and like many grinders, you fail to understand the mentality of the majority of the players that supply the poker world with deposits. And unlike you perhaps, I am acutely aware of the fact that many of them may be more important customers than you are and as such deserves to be told the premises of the game they sign up to play and pay for.

  13. Kim
    May 7, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    “And that’s where I can’t help you…”

    Uncalled for. My bad. Could have edited it out but published is published. Need to point out how much I appreciate your or anyone else’s input.

    Regardless of who is “right” or “wrong” this is beyond question a topic that needs more attention, debate and discussion.

  14. Dmitry @ poker listings
    May 8, 2012 at 8:58 am

    No worries, you were getting a big worked up there and personal, fyi, I was actually more offended by you putting a label of ‘grinder’ on me, which I am not.

    I play one big MTT tournament on occasional weekend and I treat is as money spent on entertainment. I do use Holdem Manager as a tool.

    That is why I defend my position. Every poker player chooses to play on their free will. What amount of preparation and effort player puts in, is up to him.

    You are arguing that poker room must disclose that other players use enhancement tools that put you at disadvantage. That is a noble quest, but even if they do, it will not change things much because most players are ignorant. To truly level the playing field those tools should be given each player for free.

  15. Kim
    May 8, 2012 at 10:04 am

    “it will not change things much because most players are ignorant.”

    I’m not looking to change anything. That’s a different question. I’m pointing out that you can’t run a gambling game where vital information related to outcome is withheld from players – especially when it is likely that it is withheld intentionally for the good of the company.

    We can stretch the argument and look at a theoretical software which does not support hand histories, player notes, bet pot buttons and utilizes anonymous tables. Imagine that all of these features and the ability to crack anonymity is, however, available through a 3rd party tool.

    And then have the site pretend this tool does not exist other than stipulating in its t&c that it is ok for players to use it.
    Not enough.

    Arguing like a grinder and being one is two very different things. I should know :-)

    “Every poker player chooses to play on their free will. What amount of preparation and effort player puts in, is up to him.”

    Nothing I argue changes this. But every situation and every product comes with expectations. And by giving false expectations sites break their level playing field wows.

    “To truly level the playing field those tools should be given each player for free.”

    Indeed.

  16. Dmitry @ poker listings
    May 8, 2012 at 11:20 am

    Alright, I think we have exhausted the topic.

    Let me know if you succeed in this quest.

    Maybe even try to make those tools free for everybody? ;)

    New topic: PokerStars should buy HM and PT and make them free. :)

    Good luck,

    Dmitry

  17. Bill Rini
    May 9, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    Kim, this is one we’ll never see eye to eye on. I think you’re making a mountain out of a molehill on this topic. :-)

  18. Pokeratu
    June 5, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    A very good article! I really like to play with a hud, but I didn’t know about their existence at the begining, no one does. They find out about pokertracker or HEM after they start to read about strategy (if they ever do that).

    +1 fot this “To truly level the playing field those tools should be given each player for free.” :)

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*