Online poker third party software is an aid for the professional and a headache for the amateur. How does it fit into the future of online poker?
Long before Terminators roamed the land turning the human species into a bath of blood, there was third party software. It started with Pong, moved to Heads Up Displays (HUDs) and ended with robots hacking bits and pieces off online poker players underneath a blood moon.
One of my major roles during my time in the rail industry was to run my trains on time. While that may seem obvious, punctuality on freight trains was appalling.
When handed responsibility for improving readiness, I introduced systems to record the reasons why trains were late. You cannot manage what you cannot measure.
By recognising the cause of train delay, we were able to put systems in place that mitigated those problems or removed them entirely.
When I started playing online cash games I had a similar problem. I was losing money, but I didn’t know why? I read books; I watched training videos, but something was still incongruent. I felt like I was doing all of the right things, yet I kept losing.
Then I started working with a coach.
Alan Jackson was a HUD expert. The online grinder taught me to use a HUD, not necessarily to find my opponent’s weaknesses, but to find my leaks.
Under his tutelage, I started winning.
The Third Party Software War
Jonas Odman, the father of the recreational poker model, predicted this Armageddon. He knew that Pong would one day turn into a Terminator. That’s why he created the recreational poker model. It was protection for those searching for a bit of fun.
The online poker industry has started to realise the power of Odman’s seminal moment. Pick an online poker room out of a hat and they are all unabashedly making similar changes in an attempt to halt the uprising. The United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) has announced plans to undertake a comprehensive review of third party software and its use in online poker in the UK.
So it was a surprise to me when I received an e-mail this week marketing a new third party software known as Hand2Note. A new tool that makes HUD data easier to use in the heat of the moment for the user to extract as much money as possible from the unsuspected target.
I have been both a victim and an abuser.
I have used third party software to make improvements to my game, and I have lost money as a victim of the people who also use it to their advantage.
What’s my view?
When online poker was born it wasn’t meant to be a profession. It was supposed to be a game, a form of enjoyment – a hobby. Over time, the better players started to earn more money than a regular nine to five, and they also found freedom and happiness.
A profession was born.
The problem is there has never been a separation between the professionals and the amateurs. And this is somewhat unique when it comes to sports.
Take football as an example.
Except the FA Cup, there is no likelihood of an amateur footballing team competing with Manchester United. But that can happen in poker.
While I believe it’s incorrect to use third party software for a professional to gain an advantage over an amateur, I don’t think there is any problem with a professional using the resource against another professional. Furthermore, I believe third party software is crucial for the development of the professional player.
Let’s take a hop, skip and a jump back to football for a moment.
There was a time when football managers used to manage by gut reaction, intuition and experience. These days those assets are accompanied by a broad range of statistics provided for by the likes of Opta and Prozone.
In a 2014 article written in The Guardian, the author Tim Lewis uncovered that Opta statistics tracking players in 2012 found that the Everton full-back Leighton Baines created more chances than any other player in the entirety of Europe’s top leagues. Not long afterwards Baines replaced Ashley Cole as England’s left-back and came close to joining Man Utd.
Data analysis is a critical way that Premier League teams analyse weaknesses in both their opponents and also their players. Currently, Premier League leaders Manchester City employ a team of 11 data analysts whose job it is to crunch the data and turn up a wave of new information that will help the team grow. In an ever more competitive league, every edge counts.
Now where have we heard that before?
The systems used by Opta and Prozone analyse anywhere up to 1,500 different statistics in a single football match. In every sense of the word, these two statistical giants are poker’s version of a HUD. Football’s governing’s bodies are not seeking to ban Opta or Prozone. If anything, they are being celebrated as the future.
Until professionals and amateurs are separated the outlawing of third party software is a no brainer.
When competing it shouldn’t be used.
However, if you choose to pursue poker as your profession, then I feel it’s only fair to allow third party software to be used away from the games in order to study and improve. By removing this type of software or making it tough to use it, we are making it difficult for a professional online poker player to reach the peak of their profession. Online poker contains too many variables. Post-It notes won’t suffice.
Intuition and skill will remain the primary decision-making factors within the game, but if you want to make online poker your profession, then advanced technology should be made available and be legal.