Tracking Your Game: Best Poker Tracking Software
Ever since the man with the most marketable name in poker sat down and won the World Series of Poker in 2003, online poker has become an ever-changing beast. Gone are the days when you could single-table your way to a profit playing Sit & Go tourneys. Today's online poker players are multi-tabling away a profit, often taking on half a dozen tables or more.
But how do they do it? Back in '03 the discussion was all about understanding player types, their habits, and how you could change your style to adjust to theirs. In the modern era, it's more about understanding the numbers of the game. With so many tables on the go, you leave the casual observation to your poker software and make judgements based on the stats you're fed. Not playing with one? Then you're putting yourself at a massive disadvantage.
You wouldn't think twice about investing your money in a bad poker game, and it should be exactly the same when it comes to picking up the best online poker software tools to help your game. Read on for the main players in the world of online poker, and the tools you frankly shouldn't go without.
- Excellent HUD that can be configured
- In-depth reporting
- Covers the major poker networks
- Can be a little complex
- A little on the pricey side
In terms of poker overlays, PokerTracker and Hold'em Manager really are the top dogs. With the latest version of PokerTracker, you're able to call up a mind-boggling array of data on your opponent's playing tendencies in real time, meaning you can compare their 3-bet ranges and donk-bet percentages in a couple of seconds.
The way most people benefit from PokerTracker 4 is from this in-depth Heads-Up Display (commonly known as a 'HUD'). While PokerTracker 4 will add the data to your playing layout in pretty much any format you can dream up, it's actually an incredibly useful tool for reviewing your play as well.
Find yourself in a tricky spot post-flop? Recall the hand and replay it through. You can have PT4 run automated reports after your session as well to help you find common issues thanks to 'LeakTracker', meaning you'll soon become a much harder player to exploit at the tables. If you're finding one particular hand type to be posing particular issues (small-pocket pairs being a great example) then you could find the Holdem Hand Range Visualizer useful.
Finally, everyone loves to know just how much of a luck box they are, which is where the Luck Bell Curve graph will come into its own. Select the session you want to evaluate, let PokerTracker have a few seconds to crunch the stats and you'll have either a good chuckle or some small consolation, depending on which size of the graph you fall.
All of the major poker networks are covered and installation is done in the time it would take a hand or two at your local casino, meaning you can get the full power without being a technical wizard yourself. The great news for lovers of Apple is that Poker Tracker 4 is Mac-compatible, too.
At the time of writing, PokerTracker 4 has a couple of pricing structures. Single game products for either Hold'em or Omaha set you back $99.99 each, with both game formats supported in a bundle price of $159.99. For those of you who are playing at the smaller limits, you can fork out either $59.99 or $99.99 for the single or double product versions of PokerTracker 4, meaning you're only paying out a very affordable part of your poker bankroll no matter which limits you play.
Hold'em Manager 2
- Table finder is a great addition
- Sleek interface
- Very customizable
- Not cheap
- Can take a while to get to grips with all the features
Partnering Poker Tracker 4 at the cutting edge of online poker software is Hold'em Manager 2. While the two pieces of kit outwardly seem the same, there are some key differences that set Hold'em Manager aside.
The sleek new dark interface might be the most immediate change from Hold'em Manager, but under the bonnet is where the real goodies lie in wait. The in-built report suggestion tool is great for those who like to go over their stats with a fine-tooth comb, with over 1,000 different statistics available. HEM also benefits from an even faster processing time, meaning those of you with robust databases can cut through to the key hands almost three times quicker the its predecessor. Considering Hold'em Manager has always been considered to be leading the way for large online poker databases, that's quite an achievement.
Those of you who like to customize your HUD will also enjoy some of the features Hold'em Manager has to offer. With its innovative street-by-street approach, you can have the details relevant to the exact situation you're in, so gone are the days of scurrying around for barreling stats while facing a big decision on the river!
So we've got sleek looks, faster processing and a HUD which coughs up the numbers you need most. Sounds good, doesn't it? Well, there's more with Hold'em Manager 2. With an ever growing selection of apps which can be integrated into HEM2, you really do have one of the best poker software tools out there for just a few dollars more.
Take Table Ninja II, for example, which is an absolute must for those of you who enjoy extreme multi-tabling. Table Ninja II will auto-focus your screen on the table which needs action first; make your check, bet or fold and the next table is queued up right behind. What you're left with is a seamless stream of tables, situations and those in-the-moment numbers, which are going to help you stay ahead of the game.
Another handy app inside the Hold'em Manager 2 offering is 'Table Finder 2'. This bolt-on allows you to fire up Hold'em Manager 2 alongside your open poker software and it will start scouring the tables to see which players you have data on. If it finds you a good table, it will highlight it as one you should join, as well as give you the stats on the potential donator. It's literally helping you shoot poker fish in an online barrel, and that's worth the investment alone.
Overall, the customization and sheer firepower of Hold'em Manager 2 make it a great investment for a budding online poker grinder. With the additional apps that integrate in to HEM2, you really are spoilt for functionality. As was the case with Poker Tracker 4, you're able to either Hold'em or Omaha versions for $59.99 for the Small Stakes edition or $99.99 for the whole enchilada. Buy both Hold'em and Omaha Managers together for the discount price of $159.99, meaning you're looking at a straight comparison on the price front in the great Poker Tracker vs. Hold'em Manager debate.
The Best of the Rest
Apps such as Table Ninja II used to be standalone products, and on the whole the folks at Poker Tracker and Hold'em Manager appreciate that poker players want all sorts of wonderful edges.
That's why there are a slew of other online poker software tools that are well worth considering, too.
- Web-based software you can use from anywhere
- Easy to use and offers a lot of data
- Cost is based on usage
First up is Sharkscope (www.sharkscope.com), which differs from most other tools as it's actually a website. It's a real go-to resource for online poker players though, allowing you to search for up to five different player aliases in a 24-hour period for free.
Sharkscope will give you a snapshot of the player's profit and loss in tournaments or Sit & Go tournaments, as well as showing you the average buy-in for that player. It might sound very basic, but these are the rudiments of game selection; if you've got a player at the table who is playing higher than his normal buy-in, he could well be scared money. If you find another who has played thousands of sit and go's in this format and is turning a consistent profit, you know they have their poker head well and truly screwed on. Sharkscope basically helps you to pick your battles selectively – heck, if you're vain you can even check up on yourself from time to time!
If you plan on using the website reasonably often you'd be well recommended to buy one of the four packages available. You can double your searches from as little as $6 per month with the Bronze Package, but the Platinum is our favorite; a ridiculously luxurious 3,000 searches per day as well as all the trimmings such as the exclusive Sharkscope SNG guide and Sharkscope HUD for $42 per month. Being a website means Mac users are able to benefit just as easily as PC users, too.
- Great for tournament players
- Has the option to be used for free
- Serious users will need to sign up for a subscription
While Pokerstove certainly opens the doors to those who enjoy the maths of the game, the dedicated students of poker numbers (and Sit & Go's in particular) will really reap the benefits of Icmizer. ICM (or Independent Chip Modeling for those of you who want to show off at a poker-themed dinner party) is simply put the best way to learn your push and fold spots. As you edge down to the business end of a tournament or perhaps the bubble of a sit and go, the chip stacks and table dynamics sometimes make it a profitable play to shove with the likes of K-2 suited, for instance. Don't believe us? Then Icmizer will show you the error of your ways, allowing you to ramp up the aggression in your late game or understand with which hands you need to draw a virtual line in the felt.
Like Pokerstove, Icmizer is a tool that suits those who have a good grounding of the maths in poker, although you can certainly get a feel for the hand ranges you should be shoving with after simply experimenting with Icmizer. The other similarity is the fact both can be enjoyed by Mac and Windows users in equal measure. Icmizer is actually a website with a subscription based service. The year long option at $79.99 is the most economic option and allows you to run as many calculations as you'd like If you want to test the tool out, you can sign up for a free account and use your three-a-day limit as a way to find out just how awesome Icmizer really is.
- Great for seeing hand strength
- Cheap to buy
- Not Mac compatible
Should you get that pre-flop decision a little wrong though, you can soon jump on to Flopzilla to see just how bad it really was. While Pokerstove is great for understanding how your hand compares to other hands, Flopzilla is there to help you appreciate how the flop has affected your hand. Wet and dry flops are terms which are often banded about in poker strategy videos, but the real benefit comes from knowing how each affects medium-strong hands such as top-pair good kicker. Want to know when to play fast and when you can trap? A few hours of tinkering around on Flopzilla will get you in to the groove.
You can download a 7-day trial of Flopzilla for free, but the $35 for the fully blown software is a real bargain in our opinion. The only bad news comes for Mac users out there, with Flopzilla a PC-only poker software tool at the moment. You can, of course, always use an emulator such as Wine to work around that though.
- Great for seeing situational matchups
- Good to get to grips with equity
- No Mac or Linux version
If you like to balance your hand ranges and find out the equity of pre-flop match-ups, then Pokerstove is another must-have tool. Those times when you hear players say you should only play the top 15% of hands can be pretty confusing. Does that include A-7suited? How about a pair of fours? Load up Pokerstove and try selecting the starting hands you'd consider playing from under the gun, for instance. You'll soon find what percentage of hands you're opening up with, as well as then be able to see how equitable those hands are against Ace-King, for example. If you understand poker equity, or just want to gain a better grounding in some of the situational mathematics of online poker, Pokerstove is the way to go, and it's free, which is always a nice bonus.
- Has a great scenario analyzer
- Useful for improving pre-flop play
- Doesn't have the features of the bigger software packages
Another tool worth checking out when it comes to improving your decision-making is Equilab. Equilab, which is a product from online poker goliaths Poker Strategy, lets you learn how your hand ranges match up not just against one specific hand but a whole range. Incredibly useful when you consider you make pre-flop decisions in a split second, the Scenario Analyzer which comes as part of Equilab is invaluable, giving you plenty of training situations to run through and ultimately making you more comfortable in a trickier line-ups.
- Great for MTT players
- Huge set of data to mine
- Not useful for cash game players
Wrapping up the poker software essentials is Tournament Shark. If you enjoy Sharkscope, Tournament Shark is the next step up. As the name suggests, it's for the MTT aficionados out there and what a beast it is. Over 30 million players have been tracked from over 500 million tournaments, and you can have a player's ROI, average buy-in, Win-Loss records and finishing positions displayed in seconds. That's some edge when it comes to beating your table in big-field MTTs. Available from $19.99 for one month, it won't be long before you end up getting the two-year deal if you're serious about your online tournaments – at just $99.99 for 24 months, it saves you almost $380.
As you can see, there are plenty of options out there, and the real questions really stem from the game types you want to excel at. If you're a budding MTT star or someone who wants to crush the cash games, the resources are out there and hopefully this article has pointed you in the right direction. Good luck at the tables, and remember us when you're making the big money, okay?