New rules are coming to PartyPoker regarding third-party software tools that some players use to gain an edge at the tables. More specifically, HUD (heads-up display) and hand tracking programs will be banned at Party starting in early May. This news has been confirmed by PartyPoker partner Rob Yong and site representative Colette Stewart.
This move is viewed as an attempt to discourage mass multi-tabling poker veterans from exploiting newer players to the same extent as they currently can. A tracker-plus-HUD package, like PokerTracker 4 or Holdem Manager 2, enables users to see statistical information on their opponents’ play in real time, allowing savvy practitioners of the game to gain an edge on their adversaries.
While one doesn’t necessarily need to be an experienced pro to utilize these tools, novices are mostly unaware that they exist. In any case, the interpretation of the information shown is perhaps more important than just the mere fact that suitable numbers appear on a player’s screen. Understanding the stats shown on a HUD is an art and science in and of itself: one with which beginners are almost thoroughly unacquainted.
The termination of HUD use on PartyPoker will most probably make things easier on the fish. They won’t automatically become poker wizards, but the rate at which they lose will diminish, and they will thus get more play from their entertainment dollar.
Attempts to cater to recreational customers rather than winning regs have become common within the online poker industry during the past decade. The reasoning behind these efforts is that winners remove a lot of money from the poker economy when they withdraw their profits; however, losing players don’t generate any long-term earnings from the game, instead converting most of their deposits to rake, which benefits the operator.
It is therefore to the advantage of the poker sites to restrict professionals’ ability to hunt down whales while simultaneously giving these unskilled players incentives to keep spending their time (and money) at the tables. This keeps cash flowing through the games with the house levying its cut on every tournament entry and cash game hand.
Bodog/Bovada was a trend-setter in this space with the introduction of its recreational player model, including anonymous games, back in 2011. Other operators have also implemented certain features to help non-pro customers, like Unibet allowing users to change their screennames up to three times a day and iPoker’s switching to Real Player Value calculations, which deliver more rewards to net depositing (read: losing) customers and less to net withdrawers.
Party Poker itself has taken a few tentative steps in the past to shelter amateurs from the depredations of experienced cardsharks. For a brief period of time in 2013, it segregated its members at different tables based upon their winrates, but this system was ended because some people were able to circumvent it. Similarly, Casual Cash tables, which were only accessible to those who were not playing in any other cash game at the same time, were introduced in 2014 but removed from the PartyPoker client in late 2018.
Clearly, some of Party’s innovations in this direction proved to be abortive, but there’s every reason to believe that the forthcoming software ban will stick. The poker room has already been taking measures to reduce the effectiveness of HUDs for a while now.
In ring games at Party currently, hand histories written to a player’s local machine have all screennames anonymized, which basically makes opponent stat collection impossible. Some individuals have found workarounds, however, which involve using third-party capture software to record screennames in real time as a session is being played and then importing these converted hand histories into tracking programs.
Thus, the announced prohibition on HUDs and trackers isn’t something entirely new but rather a way of extending PartyPoker’s preexisting policies on this matter. We deem it ultimately unlikely that the site will reverse its decision on HUD programs.
At around the same time that the new software rules come into place, several other changes will occur. Players will be unable to download hand histories to their local computers, instead having to rely on an in-client hand viewer. This will basically make tracking packages totally useless at the site.
Moreover, users will be prompted upon log-in to make a one-time change to their aliases: a procedure designed to hinder the effectiveness of hand histories that may be have been collected up until this point.
There are many who applaud PartyPoker’s decision to restrict the use of third-party software at its tables. They contend that poker is meant to be a battle of wits among humans, not a contest to see who can most effectively deploy complex, and sometimes expensive, computer programs.
A sizable minority of folks, however, lambaste this new policy. Some feel that advanced tracking capabilities are extremely helpful to individuals who are attempting to combat bots and other forms of cheating. Perhaps its no coincidence that Party recently announced the identification and closure of 277 bot accounts. The company may be trying to reassure the poker-playing public that it possesses the means to tackle bots in-house, which makes the lack of HUDs more palatable to those who are worried about unfair play.
There’s also the fact that independent results collating sites, like SharkScope and PocketFives, will no longer be able to gather data on PartyPoker tournaments. Furthermore, the elimination of support for tracking software will inconvenience those who employ such programs to track their own winnings for their personal edification and for tax purposes also.
Here’s a selection of comments posted on popular poker forums about the upcoming PartyPoker HUD ban:
Rival poker provider PokerStars is also tightening its terms of service to blunt the gains that technologically sophisticated users can attain through their favorite software products. It revealed some updates to its PokerStars’ Third Party Tools and Services Policy on March 4.
All seating scripts are now prohibited on ‘Stars. These are utilities that scan the poker lobby, looking for games with known fish or desirable table stats, and then automatically join the table.
PokerStars has also opted to blacklist all HUDs that change which stats are shown onscreen depending on the game state or position. Basic HUD displays that don’t dynamically adjust to new gameplay factors are fine.
PokerStars is viewed by many as the leader in online poker, but in this department, it seems to be merely following in Party’s wake. PartyPoker already banned seating scripts late last year, so PokerStars is just catching up to its competitor here. And Party’s total proscription against HUDs is much stronger than ‘Stars just limiting their functionality.
While PartyPoker and PokerStars are unavailable to those in the United States and Australia (with very limited exceptions), there are a number of internet poker destinations that are. Select the site that’s right for you based on whether you seek limited HUD functionality, like at Ignition Casino, or the full-fledged HUD experience, like at Juicy Stakes.