Lately I've started reading on the bus to work again and my topic of choice has tended to be random poker books I downloaded a while ago onto my Kobo. One of them had a little Q&A section where one of the questions briefly mentioned something called a poker heads-up-display and asking if they were now mandatory for online poker. I'd never even heard of one (turns out they came into popularity long after my free-rolling days back in University) and figured it was worth checking out. The response to the question was pretty non-committal one way or the other. He said they can help and can be a great thing if used properly.
It turns out the basic idea behind a poker HUD is the HUD interfaces with a poker client to provide extra information on overlays. What kind of information? Well, it can display things like pot odds, or your chance of hitting a flush, or filling your straight. It also reads the log files saved on your computer to display mucked cards after a hand or to show statistics on your opponents from previous hands that session. It also seems there are sites selling databases of such hand histories so you can actually pull up stats for your opponents from every game they've ever played with anyone contributing to such a database. It can also generate personal stats in order to help find leaks in your game and whatnot.
Some of that stuff sounds useful and quite viable to have. Being able to work out your hourly rate just seems sensible. I'd have envisioned using an Excel spreadsheet (Excel being this carpenter's hammer) but I totally can see how a specialized program would be useful. And with so many people playing poker I understand how such a program should exist by now.
Some of that stuff seems questionable. Having the software list the outs you have to a straight feels like it's taking something away from the skill of poker. Maybe I'm just saying this because crunching numbers on the fly is something I'm pretty good at doing. (I find I'm beating people at Pergamon on Yucata because I'm just better than they are at figuring out the right spaces on which to bid.) That said, these are number you can work out on the fly if you wanted to and having them just appear on the client certainly makes playing at multiple tables easier.
Some of it seems over the line. The idea that you can see the mucked cards right after a hand or that you can look up thousands of hands worth of history on a new opponent just feels wrong. Seeing all mucked cards after a hand is a way to help catch cheaters so it makes sense in a way to have it as a general feature for poker clients. Getting a ton of history on an opponent feels like it's removing some of the skill of reading your opponent but I guess a guild of frequent players could share notes on a forum somewhere and this is along the same lines but potentially available to all?
I talked to Andrew a bit about this today and he didn't see a problem with any of it. His theory was that at top levels of play the opponents are going to be shifting their game enough that long-term averages wouldn't mean anything. You'd still have to figure out what your opponent was up to under the assumption he's good enough to be capable of anything. At low levels he thought it might inflate someone's idea of how good they were and cause them to end up playing against top opponents and losing. And if it actually does help a lot then getting used to using it would be a huge detriment in a live game. Having the odds available doesn't actually give anyone an advantage they couldn't have just by practicing anyway.
I donno. It still feels wrong to me on some level but it really seems like they've been declared legal by the poker sites and are here to stay. Has anyone made use of such a thing? Just how useful are they?