Planet Mark's Blog. Thoughts, News And Strategy For Poker Tournaments Of All Size

SNGs And HUDs… The Arguments For And Against

This post is the result of a readers question (thanks James!). HUDs or ‘heads-up-displays’ are a common piece of poker software used by cash game pros to get reads, and thus an advantage on their opponents… Here I will debate whether they are a necessary addition for SNG players looking to grind up a bankroll.A disclaimer first, I tried PokerTracker a few years back and never really got on with it (for reasons I’ll explain below). I’ll try my best to put this to one side and be as objective as possible...  

SNGs and HUD Software - Background  / How It Works For those not familiar here is how the software works. You install a program which keeps a database of all the hands you played and all of your opponents. Statistics on how each opponent plays are then displayed on the screen, alongside their avatar. You can configure exactly which stats appear, with common choices being:

VPIP: How often each player ‘voluntarily puts into pot’, in other words how many hands are they playing.

PFR: Of all the hands that an opponent is playing, how many are they raising with first in? AF: Aggression Factor, the aggressive vs passive balance for each player

CBet%: How often does this player continuation bet.  There are many more, 3 bet %, fold to 3 bet %, turn continuation bets and so on… you can even get more specific and see this data by position by clicking on the smaller display to bring up a detailed chart.  

SNGs And HUDs - How You Could Benefit

After you see all the statistics available it should be easy to see how valuable this information is. You will need to play the same opponents for many hands before your sample becomes statistically significant of course. Once this is done you will be able adjust your own play to cater for each opponent type. Think of the bubble for a moment, you could even go as far as translating the VPIP for each player into a percentage of hands (please do not actually do this yet, you would get the ranges very wrong unless you read what is below!) Yet I still choose to play without… why?  There are some practical problems for these in SNG play first of all... concerning the different stages of the tournament. Lets imagine we have a player who shows a VPIP of 20% (that’s very high for a SNG by the way!!). It may be that this guy folded the first 20 hands, opened with 30% from late position in the mid-game and shoved all-in almost every time at the bubble… or it may be that this player just called with all of these hands all through the game.  

In other words we have to account for the blind / stack ratios.  The good news is that you can configure both Holdem Manager and PokerTracker to do just that. And here is my core argument:Which leads me to another argument. If you break down the data by blinds and position, you will only ever get enough hands on the regulars to make valid judgments.

My angle is that anyone worth collecting this much data on is usually better avoided than ‘outplayed’… yeah, if you get their ranges perfectly tied down you will be able to profit from them, but this is small beer compared to what you could make from recreational players who do not even know what VPIP is. At the lowest levels you end up with lots of data on players which is not quite enough to make better decisions... and could easily influence you to make the wrong decision. Most of your profit comes from bubble mistakes, and the HUD will never tell you how aware of situational factors or how much your perceived calling range is affecting your opponents pushing range. There is one more reason I stopped playing with a HUD.

Needed to be very honest with myself here (a strength I guess)… I was using the HUD stats as an excuse to do what I had already decided to do, rather than looking at things objectively… this is actually something I still do, using nationalities, avatars and chat… all very bad habits. Now, to be balanced, if you are a high volume pro the expense (less than $100) should repay itself quickly, if only by identifying a few regular fish who you can then target. This data is better than nothing if you are disciplined enough not to rely on it and to keep your own notes, take percentages with a pinch of the proverbial salt. If you are planning on moving to cash games then this software is a must, even a luddite like me will use it for these! Each player needs to decide for themselves what is important… I prefer playing without, adding notes on probably ranges and keeping my eyes peeled for the profitable spots.  If you were thinking of investing in your SNG career, my personal recommendation would be to invest in training at Cardrunners first, then worry about a HUD once you reach the middle limits with a fat bankroll! 

GL at the tables, Mark

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