The big discussion in online poker right now revolves around tracking software. This issue became a hot-button topic when high stakes pro Patrik Antonius claimed that tracking software is the reason why he doesn’t play NLHE or PLO online any more.
Of course, Antonius was referring to the more-advanced programs, but even simpler tracking software has come under fire lately. And poker pro Ian Simpson believes that he has a solution to the debate: build software into a poker room’s client, or ban it completely.
As Simpson explains, only serious players are going to pay over $100 for software that tracks opponents’ tendencies on every hand seen. For instance, you can know how often your opponent c-bets or 3-bets based on the stats that the software tracks/calculates. What’s worse is that players can even share databases through certain software programs, allowing them to get stats on opponents whom they’ve never even seen before.
Another problem is seat-scripting software, which enables players to quickly scan for bad players and sit to their left. When you combine this with regular tracking software, there’s no telling how much of an edge a skilled player will have over their software-less opponents.
Here’s an excerpt from Simpson’s CardPlayer blog on the matter, where he also discusses the problem with entirely banning tracking programs:
To make the playing field equal again I think tracking software should be built into the poker client, so that everyone can use it, or like other sites have done, it should be banned completely so that no one can use it. Many recreational players don’t even know that it exists at all, and are oblivious to it. This puts them at such a severe disadvantage. Tracking software is insanely powerful nowadays.
The thing that really upsets me about tracking software is that people can share databases using it. It just seems unfair to me that someone could play a thousand hands against one opponent, and they both learn about each other’s tendencies, for that opponent to then share this information with a friend, or sell it on to someone. An opponent that someone has never met before shouldn’t start out from sitting down at the felt with an advantage over someone in the form of information about their tendencies acquired over thousands of hands gained from playing against someone else. They have no idea that he knows exactly how often they C-bet an ace high board for example and he can use that information to make money off of them. He or she is starting out with a massive advantage over an opponent that they have never met, and what’s worse is that opponent has no idea this has happened and is pretty powerless to counteract it. The only way I can think of to neutralise database sharing would be to ban the software, but that in itself would cause massive problems. Software allows many players to play many more tables than normal, and poker clients make more money with the more tables a person can play. The other problem would be software gurus making their own trackers without poker clients knowing it, forcing the practice underground.