Generally speaking, online poker software products can be grouped into three broad categories – pre-game, game play, and post-game. Pre-game software would be the training type of applications, such as a bubble trainer. Game play would be the software that would provide information to assist in decision making during a game, such as an odds calculator. And, the post-game software would be programs that help a player analyze completed games, such as an hand history converter.
Altogether, not much different than what one would expect to find available for any modern, highly competitive sporting enterprise. By way of example, try to think of all the technological assets that are available to an NFL football team. The pre-game, game day, and post-game technologies are marvels of our age that have elevated the sport at every level. Indeed, the keener the competition (because of the better technologies), the more richly rewarding the game experience is for everyone – owners, players, and fans, alike.
Which leaves me at a loss to understand why some online poker rooms have prohibited the use of several of the most useful of the poker software products. Somewhere along the way, the powers that be have forgotten, or perhaps they never knew, that poker is a game of information. The player who does not utilize every shred of available and observable information will become a long term loser. No exceptions.
In the past, when there were only brick and mortar games, we could gather information by observing a table before we were seated. Share information with other observers. And, collect even more data while we played. We could record both written and verbal notes the entire game. Then, before we played again, we could categorize and easily review everything we knew about every one of our opponents. Eventually, we could predict their every move.
Then came books written by players. And, magazines. And, TV. Soon, we knew almost everything about everyone. This universe of information helped us to understand every type of player, and every one of our opponents.
During that time, also appeared the Internet and on-line poker. Overnight, there were new ways to accumulate, store, reference, and analyze everything – game data, opponent data, and even personal playing data. Unfortunately, this quantum leap in technological sophistication has been deemed by a few poker rooms to yield an unfair advantage. And so, our use of many of the best poker software products has been prohibited. Yet, most of the prohibited software represents nothing more than just another next-step in the evolution of poker information.
In substance, is there really a difference between the two forms of poker information gathering and analysis? That is, between off-line and on-line poker information? The answer is, no. Because, in either case the result is simply better informed decision making.
So, what is the real effect of these software prohibitions? Is it to protect the public? I do not think so. To me, the real effect is nothing less than to dumb down the competitiveness of the game. And thus, to decrease the long term potential for growth and advancement of the sport. Drawing again upon the NFL for an example, think of professional football of a few decades ago versus professional football of today. Where would the sport be if all the teams were stuck in the 1960s?
In the entire history of humankind, restricting any form of information, sometimes known as book burning, together with every other form of similar censorship, have never served any ultimate good, and have never proved to be in the best interest of the public.
Alright, now that I have finished my rant, here are fifteen suggestions regarding the purchase of online poker software:
1. Compare competing brands for price and features. If two products appear identical, they may be the same product, but with different skins.
2. Make certain that the product supports your poker room. While some products will work at practically every poker room, there are some that will not. And, there are a few that are poker room specific.
3. Make certain that your computer can handle the additional processing demand. If you own an older computer you might encounter slowdowns, especially if you run multiple products simultaneously.
4. Make certain that the speed and capacity of your Internet connection is adequate.
5. Make certain that you have adequate data storage capacity available on your computer. Some products are web based. While others will store data on your computer.
6. If you are considering multiple products, and plan to use them simultaneously, make certain that they are compatible.
7. Make certain that you understand the application of the product. Some products are stand alone. While others can only be used in concert with, or to enhance the features of another product.
8. If you have concerns or questions, email the product’s support department. If you do not receive a prompt and complete response, that may be all the answer you need to make a decision.
9. Check for free trials and special offers. There are usually both. Always accept the free trial. As this would be your opportunity to assure that the product meets your expectations, and to work through any bugs or issues.
But, carefully consider any poker room sign-up special offers. Because, poker room sign-up offers will sometimes prevent or diminish your future rakeback. In those cases, the sign-up offer will not be such a good long term deal.
10. Search the Internet and poker forums for product insights, reviews, and critiques.
11. Check your poker site’s End User License Agreement (EULA) to assure that the product is permitted to be used while playing. If you are caught using prohibited software, your poker room account could be forfeited.
Permissions and restrictions vary from poker site to poker site, with various prohibitions against:
- data mining,
- shared hand history databases or stat tracking,
- ICM calculators or end-game analyzers,
- sharing hole card information,
- hand strength calculators and other poker advisors, and
- bots or automated poker-playing software.
In other words, at a very few of the more than 600 online poker rooms, about the only non-prohibited or non-grey area software would be an odds calculator that did not also offer advice for playing your hand.
Sharing hole card information is cheating. However, well informed competing is something that should always be encouraged. Where as, cheating in any form is never condoned.
12. Beware if the product appears to be too good to be true, or suspicious in any way. For example, a product that claims to be able to read in real-time an opponent’s hole cards. Any such product may be malware or spyware, and in any event is certainly worthless.
13. Check if the product supports a user’s forum. If so, a forum would be a definite bonus. There you would find a place for sharing experiences and information. That would be a huge win-win-win situation for everyone. You benefit. Other users benefit. And, the product support team is made aware of any needed improvements.
14. No one product does it all. So, think in terms of your overall needs. You may require several products. That is the case with most players.
15. But, do not overload yourself with multiple new products. It takes time to become familiar and comfortable with new software. The learning process can be a distraction from your game. So, add products slowly. Master the use of one first, then add the next.
There are scores of poker software products available in the marketplace. Furthermore, some products exist under several different names, each with different skins. And, the product scene is constantly changing. New ones appear, old ones disappear, updates are continuous, and new versions are released from time to time. It is much more dynamic than an individual could hope to follow thoroughly. But, even though the task of finding the software that is right for you will be challenging, the rewards will more than compensate.
Finally, keep in mind that the purpose of any software product should be to help you to learn to make better poker decisions. In other words, to help you to become a better player. Not to do your playing or thinking for you.