The ability to play poker over the internet has changed the entire landscape of a professional poker player’s career. Not only do they have access to competition from all over the world 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, online poker affords the added convenience of downloadable tools to increase a player’s abilities on the virtual felt. One such tool, the Heads-Up Display, or HUD for short, has become incredibly popular among grinders, but in the long run, is it really worth using?
While there are many advantages, as well as some disadvantages, to incorporating HUD technology, the only way to truly answer that question is to observe your personal player type. For someone who frequents live poker tournaments, HUD implementation can actually have a negative effect on their mental speed and calculability in a live setting. It can also drain the enjoyment out of the game for those who come to rely heavily on a Heads-Up Display to base their decisions on.
On the positive side, there are countless tidbits of information that an online poker player can take advantage of. HUD uses poker tracking software – you’ll have to have one of those tools too; note that the top two poker tracking software tools, PokerTracker and Hold’em Manager, each come with a built-in Heads-Up Display – to gather information on all players at the table. That info is then converted into very precise statistical data that players use to gain and edge on their opponents.
For example, knowing the VP$IP (voluntarily put money in pot, meaning how many times a player voluntary bets/raises, as opposed to forced blinds and antes), PFR (Pre-Flop Raise; how often a players raises before the flop) and Attempt to Steal LP (how often a player tries to steal the blinds pre-flop from late position) will tell you how tight or loose, and how passive or aggressive an opponent is. The 3Bet and Fold to 3Bet tells you how often a player bets 3x the pot, and how often they fold to a 3bet, telling you how likely they are to bet or fold based on their cards. Essentially, the more a person bets and raises in all possible scenarios, the more likely you are to range their hands and outplay them, either by causing them to fold or knowing when to fold to them.
On the negative end, a Heads-Up Display has hundreds of statistics that can be shown, which will quickly clog the screen if you’re not selective. It takes a lot of trial and error to know which HUD data is worth exhibiting, and which is not. That’s a personal preference, based on what info you find yourself using the most.
The real threat in using HUD is that an online poker player can become too reliant on the information. What happens if you are using someone else’s computer to play, or if the software goes down for a while during an update? Or worse, what if your online poker site decides to prohibit the use of HUD in the future; a distinct possibility as operators are constantly moving more towards the accommodation of recreational players? Are you still going to have a decent ROI if forced to play on intuition and mental adeptness alone?
Realistically, the best poker pros in the world are those who find the same success in an online poker forum as they do in live play. These are players who have been analyzing their opponents for years based on their own mental prowess, not computer generated statistics. HUD is a great tool, and one that many types of players can do wonders with, but anyone who wants to become a genuine poker pro will need to learn to gauge the opposition without the use of software. It is comparable to using a calculator to do all of your math homework, then failing every test without one.