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Now that most online grinders in the U.S. have been forced to play cards in brick and mortar casinos, the majority of online tracking programs have been rendered useless for American players. PokerTracker, Hold’em Manager and Table Ninja, to name a few, have been left abandoned on the desktops of thousands across the county and the term “HUD” has been all but forgotten since Black Friday.

There is one program, though, that can still be very useful for those playing in a live setting. While you can’t take it with you to your local poker room, PokerStove is a tool best used away from the table to analyze and study your past hands in order to make profitable plays in the future.

PokerStove is an odds calculating program that determines your probability of winning (or your equity) against a hand or range of hands that you assign to an opponent. It has been a staple for professional poker players in every No Limit Hold’em format, including cash games, sit and gos, and multi-table tournaments, for nearly a decade.

Even the most gifted poker players in the world aren’t capable of putting a player on an exact hand at the table. This is why giving an opponent a range of possible holdings and then plugging them into a calculator program like PokerStove is so important. Several factors can go into deciding on a player’s range: Is the player loose-passive? Loose-aggressive? Tight-passive? Tight-aggressive? How old is he? What is he saying at the table? Does he seem to have a grasp on what he’s doing? A player’s past behavior at a table is the best source of information to decipher his probable actions in the present hand. This makes observation so essential in poker, even when you’re not involved in a pot.

Given that, here’s an example of how PokerStove can be used during a tournament:
Player A is a young, loose-aggressive player and raises to 150 from under the gun with blinds at 25-50. He has 2,000 chips to work with. The action folds around to Player B (our hero) who is on the button and holding a pair of tens. Player B calls with 1,850 chips behind. Player C, an older gentleman in the small blind, moves all in for 750 chips. The big blind and Player A fold, leaving Player B with a decision to make.

This is where PokerStove becomes a vital instrument. First, the ability to assign a hand range to an opponent comes into play. We don’t have a lot of information on Player C, other than he hasn’t gotten out of line and appears to be a tight player. It’s doubtful that he’s attempting anything crazy in this particular spot, especially considering that Player A raised from early position. Therefore, we can assume that Player C is only holding a premium hand. We give him a range of TT+, AQs+, AKo (a pair of tens or higher, ace-queen suited, ace-king suited, and ace-king offsuit).

Inputting this information into PokerStove is simple. By clicking on the Player 1 button under the Hand Distribution label, we can enter Player B’s exact cards (including suits). The same can be done for Player C by clicking the Player 2 button, but in order to include a range, we need to click the preflop tab at the top and manually put in the hands included in the range we’ve given to Player C.

Once that information is in place, the calculation can be performed by hitting the Evaluate button. Results are figured based on numerous repeated trials and the equity for a hand is calculated by dividing the number of pots that won the hand by the number of possible outcomes. Through this we learn that Player B’s equity against Player C’s range is 35.9%, meaning that out of 1,000 trials, Player B would win the pot 359 times, on average.

The next step in our decision making process is working out the pot odds in the hand. After Player C moves all in, there are 1,100 chips in the pot. Player B, who has 150 chips invested already, needs 600 to make the call. To figure out the equity needed in order to make this call profitable, we divide 600 into 1,700 (what the total pot would be) and come up with 0.352 (35.2%). Since Player B’s equity is higher than the pot odds he’s getting, he can correctly call Player C’s all in.

In order to maximize your winnings in the long-run, you need to analyze situations such as this one and make the correct decisions accordingly. Folding pocket tens against Player C in this case has a negative expected value and making similar plays in the future would be like ripping dollar bills in half.

This is just one example of what makes PokerStove so valuable. It is a well-executed program that opens your mind up to the real value of a hand in many situations. Even though it won’t be useful in real-time situations, PokerStove is still an absolute must-have for any serious poker player, especially considering that it has a free downloadable version without any spyware or spam attached. Take notes while you’re playing at a casino. Plug your hands into PokerStove. Use it as a resource, but be sure to analyze your hand ranges wisely!

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