Last year I posted about a new (to me) type of poker software, the 'HUD' or Heads Up Display. Were these things legit? Were they useful? My brother left a comment asking me to let him know if I found a free one so he could give it a try. Off and on since then I've tried to do more research and find a good free one for him and have come to the following conclusions...
In general these things are actually legit. Poker Stars has a list of 118 allowed pieces of software. But there are also lists of illegal ones as well, and apparently the Poker Stars client does some scans to check if you're running any of the bad ones. (Reminds me of Final Fantasy XI running scans for fishing bots!) The keys to being a banned program seem to be things that share private information (folded hands between players) or things that gather information from outside sources. It's fine if you've played thousands of hands against a given opponent and can glean stats from those games since that's something you could have done with your own brain. It's not fine to download a file containing information on everyone. That last part was one of the biggest things making this stuff seem sketchy to me so I'm happy to see at least one site has come out to say it's not kosher.
In general these things seem to be quite profitable. It sounds like they really help you play multiple tables at once without missing as much. There are some that monitor your historical play compared to your current play and guess when you're on tilt. Then the software locks you out from playing to give you a chance to cool down. This seems like it could save some people an awful lot of money if it actually works. There are scripts which show you your outs, or which give you quick bet options so you don't need to think or drag sliders or whatever to always raise the same amount every time. That'll presumably let you squeeze in more hands or remove bet sizing tells or both which has to help.
How about being free? Well, it turns out in an environment where people understand how to critically look at the value of certain actions that something that makes you money is worth spending money for. And the sort of people who will make good use of this sort of program is exactly that sort of person. So the companies making these things rightly understand they can charge a reasonable amount of money for them and get paid off. It reminds me of the trading bot situation on Magic Online many years ago. And just like back then, there are a few free solutions available, but it sounds like these tend to be poorly supported and are basically just things people who were screwing around put together. There's an entire forum on the two plus two boards dedicated to them. I'm sure there's bound to be some good stuff in there, but also likely lots of buggy junk too.
There's also a way to get the commercial stuff for 'free', in a sense. Poker sites are big into affiliate recruiting it would seem. This is similar to the way Riot gave me some free IP for recruiting Sceadeau to play League of Legends, or how Blizzard gave me a free month for convincing Robb to play World of Warcraft. A poker site will give the software developer a bunch of money for getting you to sign up and play a ton of poker. In return the software developer will give you their software for free. Everybody wins!
Well, in a sense. The poker site and the software developer certainly win. If you win remains to be seen. The thing is there are tons of different affiliates kicking around and it's entirely possible that you could sign up through someone else who will pay you enough cash to buy the software with some left over. There doesn't seem to be a single spot listing what all the different options are, so it's hard to tell. I guess it's the sort of thing you'd need to research if you were really into it.