15/08/2008

Ancient Wisdom Still Going Strong in 2008

Carl Sampson 'The Dean'

One of the most famous sayings of the legendary military genius Sun Tzu reads “if you know yourself and your opponent then you needn’t fear the result of a thousand battles”. How great those words were...and still are to this day. But over the years, poker players have done numerous things to try and achieve both of these goals from swapping data with other players to manually taking notes.

But tracking software is with us these days and it is amazing just how much data is stored within the realms of all of the hands that both you and your opponents play that you otherwise wouldn’t notice. The overwhelming number of players who play either low or mid stakes poker fit into some sort of style.

They do certain things with certain hands pre-flop and post flop. They can be either cautious or bold, erratic or calm, aggressive or passive, tricky or straight forward. Many people these days play multiple tables and this is necessarily no bad thing and especially when you are earning more money doing it.

But as you head into the bigger games then tracking software starts to become problematical when you encounter top players. Strong players simply base their play and mould everything they do into such a style that tracking software of any sort fails to adequately pick up. This can lead to the read outs being misleading and can lead to a player making incorrect decisions quite frequently.

I changed sponsors recently and joined Cake Poker and one of the best features of this site is that it gives players the facility to change their screen name every week which I think is a tremendous feature to have on any poker site. Not so great of course for players who use tracking software but then again, this facility aids and assists all those millions of players who don’t use it or are unaware of it.

This brings up a question of ethics as can it be said to be fair when some players have access to data that others don’t? It’s an interesting situation that I am sure a lot of novice and rookie online players would be all too interested in knowing about.

But many players do use things like PokerTracker and Poker Office and I am certainly not knocking their use as I use them myself in various capacities. But one of the successful strategies used by successful online players these days is to multi-table using tracking software.

This comes into its own when you simply haven’t got the time to take notes on so many players because of the fact that you are playing so many tables at once and the software allows the user to make better decisions. If you can couple this with a top rakeback scheme through a reputable site like The Hendon Mob then you can be making good money every month and that has to be good news for most people.

But I found personally that only when I reduced the amount of time that I played poker and started analysing my game more did I really start to understand poker. I just don’t see how it is possible to learn the true subtleties of the game and to incorporate the meta game factors when you are playing eight tables at once with an automatic pilot style game even if it is successful.

In my mind I would rather play one game of $25-$50 NLHE and really try and get inside the heads of my opponents than eight tables of $3-$6. I know that you need a far bigger bankroll to play $25-$50 than to multi-table at $3-$6 but there is something satisfying about outthinking someone and manoeuvring them into making a mistake with the better hand.

Maybe it’s just my view of poker and what poker should be but I think that the game should be more than just about money or at least it is for me. I became a serious online player six years ago so for me the pleasure of earning money playing poker is really not the same now as it used to be. For me now I have to be playing poker in a certain way to get any enjoyment out of it at all and for me this means out psyching the opposition and outplaying them strategically.

So the bottom line for me is that players really need to use tracking software in the right way rather than trying to lean on it too much. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that these items may no longer be around in a few years time for whatever reason and there is certainly a growing dependency on them now there is no doubt about this. For me the true test lays in understanding tracking software and what it does and how players interpret the data and figuring out a way to beat games in that way... now that’s really fun!

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