partypoker to Ban HUDs
The years-long effort by online poker rooms to try to make their gaming environments more friendly to recreational players looks to plow forward, as reports have emerged that partypoker will soon be banning third-party heads-up displays (HUDs).
The Skinny on Heads-Up Displays
A HUD is a text and graphical information overlay that appears on the screen on top of the poker tables. It is generated by third-party software running at the same time as the poker client. The information that is displayed is customizable by the HUD’s user and can include things such as an opponent’s call/raise/fold percentages, how often the opponent three-bets, etc. It is a way to have a crib sheet on every player. HUDs produce this information from hand histories stored on the user’s hard drive, so “every player” isn’t necessarily accurate; the software only has information on opponents the user has faced, unless the user buys hand histories from a website (a practice not allowed by poker rooms).
I, personally, don’t have a problem with HUDs and was only a light user of them when I was a regular online poker player, but many people do not like them and I understand why. HUDs can give the user a tremendous advantage. Now, HUD proponents will argue that HUDs are available to everybody and the price isn’t prohibitive (Hold’em Manager and Poker Tracker average around $100), but in reality, most casual players are not going to either a) know about software like this, b) care to figure out how to use it if they do know about it, or c) want to pay money for such an add-on. It’s just another way that pros and serious amateurs will gain an advantage over recreational players, and that way is not through simple poker skill.
But our debate about the value or awfulness of HUDs is a discussion we can dive deeper into another time (in fact, I think I’ve had that debate with myself on this site before). The point is that apparently partypoker thinks they are bad, or probably better stated, bad for business.
partypoker Giving Almost All Software the Boot
Writer Anuj Arora spoke with partypoker rep Colette Stewart in the online poker room’s support chat room on Discord, who confirmed rumblings from March that HUDs were set to be banned. But that’s not all. Hand histories will no longer be downloadable, either. This would render HUDs fairly useless, even if someone still used said software. As mentioned three paragraphs above, it is the hand histories that feed the tracking software and, in turn, the HUD. The software reads the text from the hand histories (they are just text files) and fills in its database of opponents with the appropriate statistics. No hand histories, no data, useless HUD beyond maybe the current session.
In exchange for not being able to download hand histories and thus not having them available for hand tracking software, partypoker will apparently be providing its own hand replayer for its customers so that players can still review hands. No details have been provided as to how exactly this will work, particularly how far back the hands will go, but it will be there.
Perhaps the most interesting change that is being reported is that partypoker will mandate screen-name changes for all of its players. This will no doubt upset a lot of players, as many are attached to their online identities and some have reputations they want to maintain, but the reason for it is to add another obstacle to those who still want to try to track opponents. Even if someone was still able to use a HUD on partypoker, all of their old data on their opponents would be obsolete. You have information that says “straightflusher123” likes to three-bet when in late position? Well, that guy doesn’t exist anymore.
Reports are that the changes will be implemented soon, during the first week of May. CalvinAyre.com says it will happen in late May, but either way, it sounds like May (that rhymes!). Stewart did say that “very limited third party software will be permitted,” which may mean something like basic starting hand assistance charts or something, but chances are, most people wouldn’t find these sorts of things too helpful.
Partypoker is just the latest online poker room to take significant steps toward making its tables more rec-friendly (actually, partypoker was one of the first, years ago, to try to develop a more casual, social feel to its site). Recently, PokerStars banned all seating scripts from its site – after initially allowing limited seating scripts – in an effort to reduce the amount of hunting of recreational players by pros.