Whether you play cash games or tournaments, analyzing the games of both you and your opponents is an important part of improving as a player. Tracking software allows you to gain powerful insights into what is going on at the tables through statistical analysis. Poker players are creatures of habit, and once you have played a few hands with someone, a heads-up-display (HUD) will give you a really accurate picture of what they are doing at the table. If you use tracking software for no other reason, a HUD is almost a must-have if you want to excel at poker.
Here are the only tracking software programs that I recommend.
Best Programs For Analysis and Advanced HUDs
My favorite poker tracking software. I have spent thousands (yes thousands) of hours using Hold’em Manager, or HEM. Choose this one if on a budget as it is priced much more cheaply than PokerTracker4, yet will do basically exactly the same thing. It also has versus hero stats that I love! PT4 does not come with this feature.
A very smooth functioning tracking software that has awesome HUD and personal study capability. I used PokerTracker for a number of years and has a few newer features and updates. Check the latest price and get a 30-day free trial.
If you are an analytical player who loves to dive into statistical analysis and break down the game into the nuts and bolts, then Pokertracker 4 (PT4) or Hold’em Manager 2 (HEM2) is for you. If you are on the fence about which to choose:
- PT4 is a bit newer with more advanced features
- HEM2 is time-tested and easier to navigate (also cheaper)
My advice is to try both and see which one you like more. Or, just go with HEM2, my personal favorite.
Note: If you play on Ignition, Bovada, or Bodog, P4 and HEM2 won’t work without a converter or card catcher.
Best Program For Those Who Prefer Simplicity
Hold’em Indicator has seemingly been around forever. While it does not have all of the bells and whistles of PokerTracker or Hold’em Manager, it offers the vast majority of players all they will ever need to succeed. So, if you are looking for a no-frills tracker that has a simple HUD and easy setup, look no further than Hold’em Indicator.
What Is Poker Tracking Software?
By having access to a plethora of different stats, which give intimate insights into the minutiae of a poker strategy, rapid development became the norm throughout the poker community. Studious players now had a powerful weapon in their never-ending struggle to “perfect” their strategy and tactics. Indeed, a constant dialectic was being waged on poker forums, as thinking players battled it out to develop optimal lines of play.
Soon, “standard” poker norms were being established as pretty much everyone battled to “solve” the game as quickly as possible. Everyone wanted the prettiest graph on the block.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that tracking software was the sole reason that poker developed into the game it is today. In fact, people had already started thinking deeply about theory years before it even existed. Indeed, a string of high-quality books on theory had been written between the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Authors like David Sklansky and Mason Malmuth had begun building upon what Doyle Brunson had started way back in 1978* when he published Super System.
What poker tracking programs did is add fuel to the fire by giving players the tools necessary to break every aspect of poker strategy down into nuts an bolts. Simple math could then be easily applied and a sound strategy and counter strategy developed. Couple this knowledge with the poker boom, and you had a proverbial Manhattan Project when it came to the development of poker theory.
Fast forward ahead only about 5 years, and by 2012, much of the rapid progress in the development of poker theory was in the past. Of course, there will always be room for improvement as the evolution of poker continues. However, it appears that the golden age of poker development is behind us.
*Actually, David Sklansky wrote the first true strategy book on poker in 1976 with Hold’em Poker. However, it wasn’t widely circulated and didn’t pack the mainstream punch that Super System did.
Something about HUDs
Pretty much anything you wanted to know about another player could be included on the HUD. How many hands did they play? Check. How often did they raise versus call? Check. How often did they 3-bet or fold to a 3-bet? Check.
In the first few years, anyone employing a HUD via tracking software had a MASSIVE advantage on the rest of the player pool. It was basically like playing bumper cars with a Sherman tank. Inexperienced players didn’t stand a chance. As a result, there was an accelerated transfer of wealth from recreational players into reg accounts. Seemingly overnight, there was an abundance of internet poker millionaires in the making.
Today, even the biggest poker newbies out there are aware that HUDs exist. And, with the growth of more anonymity in poker rooms, the extent of a HUDs effectiveness have atrophied. Even so, if you want to compete on the numerous poker rooms that still allow them, a HUD is pretty much mandatory.
How Does Poker Tracking Software Work?
Poker tracking software works in several different ways. It gathers raw data from any hand you either observe or are involved in, and then gives multiple ways of using that information.
1. Hand Histories
Every time you play a hand, the software pools that information and expresses the action in the form of a hand history.
$1/$2 No Limit Hold’em Cash, 6 Players
BB: $291.18 (145.6 bb)
UTG: $99.20 (49.6 bb)
MP1: $467.71 (233.9 bb)
MP2: $188.60 (94.3 bb)
Hero (CO): $48 (24 bb)
BTN: $277.07 (138.5 bb)
Preflop: Hero is CO with J♦ T♦
UTG folds, MP1 calls $2, MP2 folds, Hero raises to $8, BTN folds, BB calls $6, MP1 calls $6
Flop: ($24) Q♠ K♥ 9♦ (3 players)
BB checks, MP1 checks, Hero bets $6, BB folds, MP1 calls $6
Turn: ($36) 3♦ (2 players)
MP1 checks, Hero bets $9, MP1 calls $9
River: ($54) K♠ (2 players)
MP1 checks, Hero bets $25 and is all-in, MP1 calls $25
Results: $104 pot ($4 rake)
Final Board: Q♠ K♥ 9d 3d K♠
BB mucked 5♥ 5♣ and lost (-$8 net)
Those hand histories can then be studied and posted for further review by your peers. Alone, hand histories made “talking” poker much easier.
2. Statistical Analysis
Tracking programs allow someone to not only view their raw stat frequencies, but also filter for particular situations. Want to know how much you make when you c-bet or call a 3-bet? Ever wonder how well you do when you flat call in a particular situation and/or position? Tracking software pretty much allows you to analyze any possible circumstance that could ever possibly arise at the tables..
As time goes on, tracking software programs, allow you to see every single session you have ever played and gain a long-term perspective on your progress. That way, you can analyze a particular day to see if a loss or win was caused by tilt or just normal variance.
What Is The Best Poker Tracking Software For The Major Poker Sites?
Choosing the best tracking software is all about personal preference. If you want something simple or have a low-end computer, you will want to go with Hold’em Indicator, or Tournament Indicator, for MTT/SNG players. If you want to analyze your game in depth and spend hours pouring through hands and statistics, looking for opponent weaknesses, then you will want to choose HEM2 or PokerTracker4. Just remember to check to see if your poker site is on the list of supported sites, shown below.
PokerTracker4/HEM2 Supported Sites
- Full Tilt
- iPoker Network
- Merge Network
- MPN (MicroGaming)
- OnGame Network
- Revolution Gaming Network
- Winning Poker Network
You will notice that Ignition, Bovada, Bodog, nor the Chico network are on the list. In order to use HEM2 or PT4 on those sites, you will need a card catcher or hand converter.