A chronology of HUD ban
The HUD ban tendency is not new. Although it's quite challenging to determine the exact date of the first HUD prohibition, we can work out a chronology proving that this was foretold.
- At the end of 2013 and before launching Snap Poker (a fast-poker version), 888Poker requested to software developers to exclude the possibility of displaying statistics at the tables; it took a while until all developers adopted this guideline;
- On March 3, 2014, the independent site Unibet not only prohibited HUDs at its tables but also restricted the hand history download, making impossible to use hand converters or make post-game study sessions;
- When iPoker launched its new client in early 2016, a less-restrictive measure was taken, and only one fast-poker table (Speed Poker) was able to show a HUD;
- The European network MPN joined the "anti-reg" path right after Unibet left. First, anonymous cash games were introduced, and today, about 40% of all the action belongs to tables without nicknames. In the spring of 2017, the hand history was updated, and only the players that took part in the hand were able to download it, restricting the data mining. With Prima, the HUD's completely disappeared from the cash games tables, and some players use statistics via the older version of the software;
- Some new poker rooms have born without HUD and support software restrictions. Some of them are very successful, like the GG Network or IDN. Pokerdom also belongs to this group;
- partypoker confirmed that HUDs and all third-party tracking tools would be banned from June 17, 2019.
Also, HUDs are not the only victims of this crusade, but also automated seating scripts and other tools that were banned by PokerStars or Chico, other networks like PaiWangLuo (Bodog) have partial restrictions to support software, and several sites are adding anonymous tables to their lobbies.
- Red: HUDs completely banned
- Orange: partial restrictions to HUDs and automated seating scripts
Pros and cons of prohibiting HUDs
Checking the graphic above, almost 70% of the top-poker networks have introduced restrictions to the usage of support software, and 40% had banned HUDs already. Therefore, it's very realistic to think that in the future this trend will only grow because the HUDs ban has more advantages than disadvantages to the poker rooms.
Something that all players have to keep in mind is that online poker is a business meant to produce money, like all business. The poker rooms are not philanthropic organizations, and they will offer the best conditions for the players as long as those give good financial results. The anti-reg path (which includes the HUD ban) started right after the online poker boom decline, and the traffic became more stationary.
With a HUD ban, the poker rooms remove from the tables the "grinder-nerds," those players that play exclusively according to the HUD statistics and turn the game almost into an automated process. Without those players, the game becomes "more fun," and as a result, more recreational players come to the tables. In the long term, poker rooms believe that more profit is made from amateur players than regs.
Another reason exposed by the poker rooms is a fight against bots; a functional bot requires a long up to date database to adapt constantly the game; otherwise, it will be effortless to spot it, or it will become a losing bot; without hand histories, bots will be gone for a good time. Someone may think that GTO tools are still a possibility, but nowadays are highly overrated, require state-of-the-art PC's, and at the tables without fishes, those won't work correctly.
How to play online poker without HUD?
With an overwhelming majority of poker rooms introducing restrictions to third-party tracking tools and HUDs, online poker players only have one option: adapting to the new situation and start adjusting their games to survive without a HUD:
- All players have the same restriction; in short, all players will be in the same position: zero statistics at the tables. With this, the usage of printed starting hands and pot odds charts, intuition, player's notes (where is available) and focusing at the tables become stronger tools. As an experience, I used to play 16 tables in 2008 without a HUD with EV+ results;
- Offline study: tools like oRanges Calculator or even DriveHUD have GTO tools that can be used to study offline and prepare for several situations at the poker tables;
- Online poker tells: similar to live poker, in this new scenario where no one can use support software, good players can spot tells at the online tables, like insta-checking, taking a long time to make a decision, bet sizing and betting patterns, etc.;
- Keep in mind that a poker room without HUD support will always be softer.
The reality is only one: HUDs are being banned from online poker. Although we don't believe that all poker rooms take this path, unfortunately, the industry prospects forced to make changes: with less money flowing to the investors, this new way may lead to an industry reborn.
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