After years of fighting the masses, the Cake Poker network has finally decided to allow its players to use hand tracking software while at the tables. The new policy went into place on November 9th and the major players in the poker analysis software category immediately jumped right in.
Hand analysis software has been the subject of debate since it was first introduced. Software packages such as PokerTracker and Hold’em Manager allow players to collect data on the hands they play, as they play them. Everything about the hand – chip stacks, community cards, hole cards (only those shown by the poker room), bets, end results – are automatically recorded on the player’s computer. The players can then review their hands to find ways to improve their game. Players could do all of this manually, but it would take great discipline and accuracy; having software that does it automatically makes it easier and faster. Plus, the software packages are able to generate multitudes of different reports with the click of a button, helping players get an even better read on how they play.
Perhaps the most controversial part of hand tracking software is the heads-up display (HUD). Not only do software packages track the user’s hands, but they also track all of their opponents’ hands. They don’t collect any information that isn’t available to others at the table (for instance, if someone folds pre-flop, the software won’t know what cards they had), but much of the information that is collected is still very valuable. This information – things like pre-flop raise percentage, aggression factor, and the like – can be summarized and displayed on the screen next to each opponent as the games are in progress. Thus, someone using a HUD can already have a basic read on an opponent if they have collected data on them in the past without having to remember anything. Professional players and serious amateurs generally swear by hand analysis software and HUDs, whereas casual players often (though not always, of course) consider them an unfair advantage. Casual players, who usually don’t play enough or make enough money playing poker to justify purchasing such software, don’t like that the pros can have an even longer leg up on them that they already do.
Serious players argue that the software is available to everybody and as long as a poker room allows it, it is fair game. It behooves them, they would say, to take advantage of a valuable tool that can help improve one’s game and, in turn, profitability. Players are allowed to take copious notes during live games and hand tracking software is a natural extension of this in the online world.
Cake Poker traditionally sided with casual players. Part of that attitude may have also been related to a business decision, as poker rooms want to see their tables filled with more casual players, who redeposit more than pro players. Anything that could make the tables more casual player-friendly is something that poker rooms typically like.
But the pressure from the poker community mounted and the Cake network has finally relented. Third party software packages like PokerTracker and Hold’em Manager are now allowed as long as a) the only data collected by the software is from hands obtained through the customer’s own play at the tables, and b) and the screen names in the hand histories that are collected match the actual screen names of the people who were playing.
To that last point, the Cake Poker network permits players to change their screen names every seven days as a means to avoid tracking by opponents. Thus, if a player has data on “John Doe” and later figures out that he has changed his screen name to “John Doe 1,” the player is not allowed to edit his collected data to reflect the name change and merge the two screen names into one.