We have already talked about the usefulness of software that collects statistical data and information about your opponents at online poker tables. If you are a serious online poker player, you can’t avoid using at least one of these products like Holdem Manager 2 or HUD.
But what about the softwares that let you evaluate your decisions as a player? Are they worth the money? The answer is yes, but … Let’s take a look at what these tools can and can’t do.
All of the above tools are primarily meant for evaluating and looking at situations outside of actual sessions, but they can definitely be used during the game if you have enough time. Of course, they are not allowed in the live game, as the use of tablets, smartphones or even laptops is always prohibited there.
On the one hand, you can enter any situation before or after the flop and calculate how high your own chance of winning (equity) is. For example, you can calculate what percentage you have with JTS against AKo. These are the basics – but it gets interesting when you can define “Ranges” by either pre-selecting a range like “the top 25% of all hands” and then seeing which hands are included in this range to calculate your own hand’s chances against it. Or, you can select certain hands that you think your opponent would play, and then calculate your own odds.
Furthermore, you can import hand histories and calculate your own chances in an already played hand to find out if you have played optimally. This is a lot of work, but it helps a lot to find holes in your game.
In practice, these tools can be a great help. Let’s say you have a player about whom you have a large number of statistics, e.g. according to Holdem Manager 2 the player raises very often as first-in – let’s assume 25% of all hands.According to Flopzilla this means that he raises all pocket pairs, all suited connectors from 56s upwards, A4s and better, A9o and better. K9s, Q9s and all Broadway hands.
Now you can evaluate your own hand and see how often you win with it against this range. In theory, it would be correct to make a reraise (3-bet) if your hand has more than 50% equity against this hand range – especially because you also have fold equity (i.e. there is a possibility that your opponent will fold to my 3-bet preflop, and because as a 3-betor you can often take the pot after the flop with another bet.
So far, so good – but where are the pitfalls?
Well, for starters, these tools work better for cash games. In the tournament, there are other considerations, namely your own survival in the tournament, or even how much % of your stack you should risk. In cash games I can always reload, and mathematically correct play is important, because otherwise the opponent could recognize weaknesses and exploit them again and again (exploitative play).
In tournaments, maintaining your stack is important, especially before the bubble and when you’re already in the money and payout jumps make survival lucrative. Getting involved in 55/45% situations over and over again is bound to lead to a total loss in the long run.
Another big problem is when you use ICMIZER to its full potential, for example by considering the following:
My opponent has 10 BB left, is in middle position, the hand is so far uneraised and he goes all-in. I have K9s on the big blind, and I have 20 big blinds. With ICMIZER I could now calculate with which hands the opponent could “theoretically profitably” go all-in, then put my hand against it, and would find that a call would be mathematically correct, since it would bring me XXX chips in the long run.
But here even a powerful software like ICMIZER reaches its limit, because:
Can I really assume that the opponent actually goes all-in with the theoretically correct range? If his all-in range is much tighter, then the calculation is waste.
What happens if I lose the hand? I would slip from 20 BB to 10 BB. With 20 BB, I have far more options available to me in the tournament (e.g., a preflop raise followed by a C-bet), while with only 10 BB left, there’s really almost always only one question before the flop – all-in or not?
These softwares are excellent for training and analysis purposes (Flopzilla and ICMIZER are especially recommended), but for the actual decision the player must always take other aspects into account. Especially in tournaments it would be a serious mistake to rely only on the recommendations of such tools!