Today I am going to mull over the arguments in a debate that is (almost) as old as online poker itself… Are Poker Software Tools Fair? Let us define the scope ‘poker software tools’ first of all. This actually refers to several classes of program which can help you beat the online poker games – broadly speaking these comprise:
- Personal Databases, of your own hands and those of opponents you have played against. Poker Tracker and Holdem Manager are the two biggest.-
- HUDS, this stands for ‘Heads Up Displays’ and are usually combined with a database to bring you on-screen statistics on your opponents such as percentage of hands raised, aggression rating and how often they go to showdown after entering a pot.
- Pooled Databases: These give you access to on-screen data on your opponents which is pooled, either by scraping sites or by collecting the data of all tool users together. These can be accepted by sites as long as wins / losses and play-specific stats are not included. For example Tournament Shark’s stats are within site guidelines where as Poker Edge’s pooled data is not accepted by some major sites.
- Advice Engines: With many variations there are some tools which rate opponents and give you odds and outs information, sometimes combining this with extras such as ‘fish lists’ or game-specific calculations.
- Calculators: Hand matchups, ICM and NASH calculators all fall into this category. These tools are generally used when not playing to check your logic / Math.
- Bots: These are programs designed to play without human intervention, they are most definitely against site terms and other than this mention, are outside the scope of this article.
Are Poker Software Tools Fair – The ‘For’ And ‘Against’ Debate
Here are the key arguments which come up again and again in the ‘are tools ethical’ debate.
Against: Tools give players an unfair advantage, which is made even worse by the fact that players do not know who is using them and who is not. This often means that new players coming into the game lose their bankrolls against software-driven decisions before they even realize that such tools exist. What is more, tools allow players to mass-multi-table, often with 8 or 12+ tables at once – meaning that the games become (on average) worse for the recreational player, damaging the poker community.
For: Poker Tools are available and people are using them, if an individual chooses to be ‘pure’ and play without them then they are giving up an edge on their opponents unnecessarily. Some of your opponents will be using tools against you – so by not using them you are knowingly giving those players an advantage. If the poker sites say that these tools are legal then an individuals perspective that they are not fair or not ethical does not actually matter. You either use them to your advantage or choose to accept the fact that other players are using them and decline the potential edge. Besides, they only cost from $60 to $100 – a small price to pay to have a profitable advantage at the tables!
Are Poker Tools Fair? My Thoughts…
Well, those are the arguments laid out by others, what about my thoughts? I am personally inclined to the ‘for’ argument. In an ideal world these tools would never have been invented and we would all have a great time 2-tabling at Party… however the poker world has evolved and these tools both exist and are accepted by the poker sites. For me putting your hands over your ears (eyes!??) and refusing to use them is just being ‘moral’ for being morals sake – if you are serious about profiting then go grab yourself some serious software. There is one more argument which I have not covered here – could relying on tools actually damage your strategy / game in the long-term? In the same way that the current ‘maximize volume’ perspective does I think there is a case to answer here… this post is already waaaaayyyy too long, so will save that one for another day. So, we have a sub-section here at SNG Planet dedicated to the Best Poker Tools, check it out! If you are firmly in the ‘Against’ camp and will not be convinced, well, more power to you!
GL at the tables, Mark
Submitted by Planet Mark on Mon, 07/05/2010 - 10:47