Sunday, March 15, 2009

My Case Aginst Using a HUD

As of this past Sunday, after much self-deliberation, I have decided to fully abandon my HUD permanently. Although I do not doubt that there are a few select players out there who can actually put these things to work, my final analysis is that they do far more harm than good for the vast majority of online grinders. Here is my case against it.

First of all, it is important to acknowledge why we actually use a HUD. Here is why: to inform us to make decisions by the use of past player statistics that we would not otherwise make were that information not available. In this regard, it is like a live tell. After all, a tell is only significant when it causes us to take an action that we were not otherwise going to do had we not seen it.

So now that I have defined what a HUD does, let's examine the underlying logic here. In the course of my career, I have played roughly 2,000,000 hands of online poker. Although the overall quality of play has certainly increased in this time frame, one major truth has emerged: most players generally adapt to each other and take on the same tendencies. In other words, if one player open raises by mashing the pot button with his decent hands in early position, most others will be doing the same thing. Likewise, if one player is min-raise opening his marginal hands in late position, I can expect that others who are opening for the minimum in late position are also doing it with marginal hands. And one more, if one person is limp-reraising only premium hands from early position, it is pretty safe to say that others are doing the same thing, a.k.a., they are NOT doing this with hands like 66.

While I could go on and on with a plethora of examples, I would say that the concept is clear here: I don't need stats on players in order to decipher these basic meanings, and reading stats to try and get deeper here could only accomplish one possible thing- to obscure what is already obvious. Be these extreme examples as they may be, most everything else follows suit to some degree or another. Observation is the key. A 6x open raise from early position is virtually always a premium hand, whether it is coming from a 9/6 or 30/20. Period.

So now that I have established that certain tendencies are visible through lone observation, we must now address the logic of using a device over our own observations. Exactly how does this make sense? We are using stats that are, at best, only 30 days old or less. These stats do not capture a person's mood or whether or not they are adjusting to current table conditions or following the meta-game. Ask yourself this: is a player with an “Attempt to Steal” stat of 60% who was just 3-bet off his hand three times in a row still just a 60% ATS guy this time around, or an angry or clever player holding QQ and now HOPING he will get 3-bet again?

By attempting to use these stats rather than our own good judgment, these little nuances are missed. Is the player who runs a 30/20 a real maniac, or is he just some min-betting fool looking to take the initiative in a lot of cheap flops? This information is not clear on its own, but with good observation and note taking skills should be readily apparent.

So I know what you must be thinking. “I am playing so many tables that I just don't have the chance to get this information on my own.” Here is my retort: how can it possibly be beneficial to be piling on more and more tables in exchange for lousy or non-existent information? And that is only assuming that the information that we are getting is accurate! I still have not even addressed the most dangerous aspect of using a HUD. When the information initially loads up, often times it is not correctly lined up with the appropriate player and you are looking at stats that could belong to another player. Further into your session, you will also find that sometimes a player leaves or goes busto and another player promptly sits down and “inherits” the first player's stats. Even though this can be avoided by making sure the names line up, a single slip up has a high price. And how much “good” information is necessary to make up for that single time you stacked away on one bad misread?


havin_a_laff said...

Nice post. Can't really argue with any of that. At the moment I feel like I get value from the HUD. Not sure how much weight I give the stats - maybe 50%. At the moment I definitely think I would rather have the HUD than not.

I prefer to start building an image of my opponents style by paying more attention to their actions - especially as I don't have big hand numbers on any of them.

Today for the first time I switched off my owns stats and it was totally liberating. With the HUD I think was adjusting my play to my stats and assuming that my opponents would develop a certain image based on my PFR / 3-bet etc. etc.


Lorin Yelle said...

Perhaps people's biggest problem with the using the thing (and my own) is that they see a player take a particular action and then contrast it with the stats to see how it measures up with their stat profile. The problem is that they somehow expect the stats to tell them what kind of player this is. But there are many different kinds of winning play, and losing play, for that matter. A 15/12 does not mean a player is good any more than a 25/20 does not make a player bad. Likewise, to see my stats, someone could never guess that I am capable of shoving over them with a hand like 75s, but I do!

For you, I would suggest turning it off for a week. Don't get me wrong here- I am not saying these things are bad for everyone but it is certainly worth a try on your part to see if your results improve. Let me know what happens!

Anonymous said...

Very thought provoking mate, very good piece.

I don't think it is a coincidence that when I first became a winning player I didn't use any HUD, just tracked my play. Since I have used a HUD etc, I have stayed at the same level for a while, almost relying on the HUD to help me make decisions.

I've stopped using HUD for MTTs and this month I have made numerous final tables and padded my bankroll somewhat.

Looking forward to more posts like this.

Lorin Yelle said...

I have been telling people that I have yet to see any smoking gun proof that these things are actually increasing anyone's long term win rate. In all modesty, I would say that my knowledge of the game of NLH is easily in the top 1% of all active players. Yet interestingly enough, I still can't find a way to make more money using these things.

And let's face it. If you make a vicious blunder, how much worse do you feel knowing that you did it for no other logical reason than reading some numbers off a screen?

Munkey said...

I think you make a lot of very good points. If you limit your tables I can see how your earn per table might be greater using reads rather than a HUD, but I think a HUD is critical if you're mass multi-tabling

You may say cut back on your number of tables, but 16 tabling with a HUD is going to be much more profitable than 8 tabling without one IMO.

Lorin Yelle said...

Agree on all points, but that would be to assume that the person is question is already a strong winner. The argument is basically put forth against those are doing only slightly better than break even while 16-tabling and some how imagine that by stacking on more tables they can seek higher profit. So agreed, a person playing nl100 would do better at 16 than 8 tables, IF he were already doing well.

But if he can barely keep up, then he would be doing much better 8 tabling nl200, and would be improving at a much faster rate as well.