Online Poker Tools

An Introductory Guide from Red Club

In today's game of online poker, if you're not taking advantage of learning and using some of the basic information that online poker tool software can provide…simply put, you are falling behind. You'd be hard pressed to find any top online poker players that aren't and for good reason, putting in volume is key to beating variance, gaining experience and understanding the common denominators in a game of so many different spots and situations.


Is adding "tracking or assistive software" allowed or considered cheating? Is using them an unfair winning advantage?

Both the developers of these tools and the most popular online poker sites will tell you some variation of an answer that can be summed up as "absolutely not!" While there are programs available that are banned or considered cheating, there are a few in particular that are often recommended and even endorsed by the gaming platforms and poker playing community alike.

Simply put, these "plug-ins" simply make tracking, analyzing, calculating and graphing information or using site functions easier. This allows the player to just play the game; without trying to scribble, type out notes or crunch complicated calculations in their head. These tools are available to everybody and anyone can use them, it's simply a matter of whether or not you feel they are right for you.


Will they make you a winning player?
No, but they can help you on your way or make you that much better at knowing what to look for in the patterns of your and others games.

Do they provide an advantage?
Certainly; particularly when it comes to speed of play, ease of control, applying poker strategy at the right times and classifying your opponents. It's about efficiency and when you do sit down to grind, it's best to make the most out of your session. Besides that, repetition is the mother of all skill, so the more you learn to absorb and understand the stats, the better your brain will auto-recognize these things when playing unassisted live poker.

 

Common Terminology and Abbreviations Relating to Online Poker Tools

HUD - The Heads Up Display is a small box or circle that displays the pre-selected statistics which you have chosen to view and will usually appear beside or under each opponent at your table.

Expected Value - used to describe the long-term average outcome of a given scenario. Were you ahead or behind in how you played the hand and if you do it the same over and over again will it have a negative or positive result.

VPIP - Voluntarily Puts in Pot, this is the percentage of the time a player enters a hand (not including blinds), when compared to hands dealt. This lets you know if the player is tight or loose and helps to determine how wide a hand range they are comfortable with.

PFR or Pre flop Raise - This information somewhat relates to total aggression, but also helps to determine whether they are a player likely to try to steal blinds frequently, or based on VPIP and Total Aggression, whether or not they actually have a strong hand. If all three numbers are low, chances are you should look out or assume huge implied odds if you can hit the right flop.

TA or Total Aggression - The higher the number, the more likely the player is going to make a continuation bet (c-bet), steal blinds, play a wide range of hands and put players to the test. Conversely, the lower the number chances are the more passive a player will be.

Money Won at Showdown - There are various abbreviations, but this is pretty simple, are they showing hands after the river that are winning or losing. If they are losing can you catch them on tilt? If they are winning can you catch them being careless?

Streak - Are they "hot or cold"? If a player has lost 10 games in a row, you might want to take the first open seat in any game they sit in. If their winning streak is high, well, assume they are going to be a tough opponent.

3 Bet or Fold To 3 Bet Percentages - Not many players are going to 3 bet (place a raise over somebody's raise) often without a big hand, quite a few won't call after a three bet is made. Those with higher percentages are likely putting pressure on opponents with minimal holdings, particularly if they aren't seeing much resistance. Knowing which end of the spectrum they are on can be taken strongly into consideration when faced with whether to make those tough folds, or snap call.

Equity - a mathematical average amount of money that a particular hand should win, if the specific situation were repeated a large number of times; calculated by the amount of money at stake in the pot multiplied by the percentage chance of winning.

Hot Keys - preset controls designated to speed up a series of actions in a single button; quick access to a function of a program.

ROI - Return on Investment; how much are you profiting or losing compared to your buy-ins and takes rake into consideration.

ICM - Individual Chip Model, a calculation that takes the number of chips in play and available prize-money and converts what the chips in your stack is worth in cash at the particular point. Very useful in making chops or deals, or deciding whether the risk is worth the reward.

 

Which poker tool is best for you?

The answer will depend on what stage of your game you are at, how many tables you are playing and just how deep the statistical worm-hole you will want to go. We have some top picks and we'll explain why. There might be better, but these are typically considered the most popular amongst online poker players.


SharkScope

While all tournaments across many networks can be tracked, this is typically considered a tool for playing and tracking the Sit n' Go play statistics of yourself and other players, Sharkscope looks mainly at "streaks" (whether or players are "hot or cold"), what stakes a player is usually playing and ROI. Players also have symbols varying from a guppy jumping out of a fish bowl to a fierce looking shark when searched; giving a quick visual that says a ton.
If your opponent is running in the negative, you can assume they have some leaks in their game, or might really tighten up on the bubble. Since most successful SnG players apply a "ramped aggression method", it's very helpful to know who is most likely to give up their blinds and add to your chip equity. The premium membership allows for Heads Up Display, giving the more common stats of players and saves time in having to search each individual. Customizable graphs show trends and can provide great info on players regarding success at different buy-in ranges etc. A poor rating, streak or ROI on any given day can simply mean the player stepped up too high, but was very solid in their previous buy-in range. This is good to know for yourself, but it can also provide insight on what your opponents are looking to accomplish.


Pricing & Packages:
Free, Pay as you Go, Silver and Gold.

Players can search 5 screen names per day for free, though some sites require an "opt in". This is mostly useful only for checking out your own stats after a heavy day at the felts by telling you how much your ROI really is after the rake. Where are you making, or losing the most money?
The "Pay as You Go" package for $10 allows 200 searches. If you are relational player who rarely logs on, but still wants to make the best of every session, this is a decent deal. If you play a bit more regularly, the Silver package for $12 a month, allows for 150 searches per day for a few bucks more. Those really diving in should just bite the bullet and go straight for the gold as it allows 1000 searches/day and the Heads Up Display. Keep in mind, any players displayed in the HUD use up searches, so it's not hard to rack these numbers up if you're a player who can play 50 nine handed tables per session; as an example.

Rating - 7.5/10: Pricing is great and information is can be sorted in many ways yet kept simple, but the program itself is not as "expandable" as other more advanced and all encompassing tracking software.

 

Table NinjaPP (Party Poker Version)

Arguably the best features of TableNinjaPP are its "Hot Keys" and "Utilities". This program's basic functions can be very useful to even the beginners of online poker tools, but it is also a favorite amongst advanced users. Having the hot key functions of TableNinja become imperative for those looking to play many tables at a time and earn more at the game not only through winning, but also by raking up the player VIP and loyalty rewards that come with putting in volume.
The "hot keys" allow users to pre-set amounts for a variety of situations; percentages of the pot, or number of big blinds pre or post flop, when making c-bets and on different streets, just to name a few examples. This means that players don't look to fall into patterns of always betting a number of big blinds based on hand strength and the standard controls the gaming platform offers. Even simple actions like folding, checking, betting and flat calling can be set to specific keys.
These functions are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to what a single key can be designated to do and many You-Tube demonstrations are available for the curious. This program's value grows with the user's understanding and preferences, but we won't dive into the MUCH deeper topic of available pre-sets here.
The table frame (border) colors of stacked or titled tables also change, so players know which tables need attention, based on how long they have been waiting for a player response. Time consuming actions classified as "annoyances", auto re-buying, choosing to never sit out, etc. can be controlled by simply setting up the program to click these actions for you.

Pricing and Packages: Free trail available, then $60 to unlock full version

Rating - 8/10: TableNinja has joined forces with Hold'em Manager. It's also more so a tool to multi-table, so there is not a "stand alone" value for every player. Pricing wise, users should easily re-coup their investments via less "miss-clicks" alone.


Hold'em Manager 2 (HEM)

If you're talking to other players about poker tools or simply browsing posts, Hold'em Manger aka HEM is certainly going to come up time and time again. A giant in the industry, HEM is constantly expanding on its "plug ins" as well as even having I-Phone applications. Its features contain all of the available positives listed in the other software reviewed above, but having aligned with SnG Wizard and Table Ninja, they look to be pulling away from the pack. Graphs and visual displays are also just more visually appealing than most giving it a small edge.

Pricing and Packages: Free Trial, $59-$159

The "Pro Version" at $99 can be purchased for either Omaha and Hold'em at all stakes, whole the "Pro 2 combo pack" also costs the same amount as PT4 at $159 to access full features of both Omaha and Hold'em.

Rating - 9.5: We are going to give this one a little higher rank than the others; simply because it's so wide spread. This translates to meaning users should always be able to find help from other players and be using the same tools. Since they are consistently adding apps and tend not to require new versions for purchase, it looks like they get things right the first time.

 

 

Free Programs worth Checking Out

FlopTurnRiver.com's Hand Converter simply takes a copy/paste of a hand history and puts it in a much cleaner, visually appealing and easy to follow format for posting and sharing. Players learn by breaking things down with other players and this tool saves everybody a bit of headache by making all the key information easy to read.

PokerStove.com: This free download can also help players see if they really had enough equity in those tough spots. It runs the scenario a large number of times and is very helpful in understanding variance and long term results for players, or to back up points made by players in hand analysis posts.

 

Online Poker Tool Ethics

We sincerely hope that our Red Club's simple guide to online poker tools has left you with enough information to start exploring which could help improve your game. In closing there are however a few things needing of mention as to the ethics of their use; as with all databases and tracked information available, this should never be used to ridicule or tilt another player at your table. This only devalues your investment as it raises unwarranted suspicions that online poker is somehow rigged. Don't chase away your profits by insults or raising insecurities; remember you can shear a sheep many times but only skin it once.

Besides the moral responsibility to treat other players with respect, it's never good to "tap the glass"; if you've spent the time to read this article you're obviously serious about taking your online game to the next level and putting in work. Keep your edges close, the little fish are what keep the sharks fed, don't feed them free info or they get that much harder to swallow!

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