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Most of you have heard of online poker and many of us have even tried our luck at virtual tables on one occasion or another. For most, online poker is about having fun and relaxing while watching TV or having a few beers. However, for some, this is a highly profitable activity that represents their primary source of income.
These players approach the game methodically and with a completely different attitude than casual thrill-seekers. They are not online to have fun; they are there to beat the game and make a profit out of unsuspecting opponents. These efforts are largely helped by various poker software client that many casual players don’t even know exist.
Why Is Poker Software Such a Big Deal?
Why would anyone need poker software to play the game? After all, once you figure out the basic percentages it gets down to making right decisions based on the math and your reads on your opponents. How can a computer program help with that?
The thing is, in your local card room, you’ll usually play against the same group of people over and over. Over time, you’ll learn how most of them play and what you can expect them to do. Some will bluff often, some will never bluff. There’s that guy that just plays every hand, etc. In a group of twenty or thirty people it’s fairly easy to memorize your opponents’ tendencies.
Online Poker is a different beast
With online poker, however, you’ll be pitched against hundreds, if not thousands, of different opponents. If you’ve been playing for a while you’ve probably had an opportunity to play against some of these players, but it is humanly impossible to remember all the different nicks and their tendencies.
That’s where poker software comes in.
Instead of you trying to remember everything, which would be a futile effort anyway, the software will do it for you. With every hand you play, even at massive market leaders like PokerStars, it will add stats for all opponents involved. As you play more hands, these stats become increasingly relevant.
They help with the decision making process as you have a pretty good idea about a player’s playing style based on their previous actions. It’s just like in your local card room, but on a much bigger scale.
Hold’em Manager & Poker Tracker Come to Life out of the Poker Boom
The so-called poker boom started in the mid-2000s after an unknown accountant Chris Moneymaker captured the victory in the biggest poker tournament on the planet, the World Series of Poker 2003 Main Event. Hordes of people took up poker and software developers started to realize there was an oportunity.
People were looking for ways to beat the game more efficiently and two products managed to surge out ahead of the competition. These are Hold’em Manager (1 and 2) and Poker Tracker (several iterations). Although it took some time for them to really pick up, these two became a dominant force in online poker.
Of course, as is always the case with similar software products by different companies, the poker community became divided between Hold’em Manager and Poker Tracker users. Some, of course, preferred to use both, turning to HM for tournaments and PT for cash games.
The Tipping Point
The Companies behind these two products were able to turn a big profit. Although only a handful of players used Hold’em Manager and/or Poker Tracker initially, it quickly became apparent that those who did were able to gain a significant edge over their competition.
This led to more people buying poker software and using it on a daily basis. After a while, every semi-serious player had at least one of these two applications installed on their computer.
Making players dependent
Of course, both companies continued developing their products offering even more options and enticing players to buy new versions. Adding new stats and things like Note Caddy, software companies made players almost entirely dependent on their products, to the point where some started questioning if such products should be allowed at all.
Online Poker Rooms Finally Take Action
As of recently, many big online poker rooms have started introducing measures against poker software. Their reasoning is that this assisted play ruins the experience for casual players and they are trying to create a more level playing ground.
This development had a big impact on the bottom line of the companies behind the two most popular poker software solutions. It is worth noting that Poker Tracker and Hold’em Manager actually merged back in 2014, realizing that it was better if they worked together instead of competing against each other.
This Lucrative Business Isn’t Going Anywhere
Poker software is a huge industry worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Apart from the two biggest names mentioned here there are many other products fighting for their share of the market. Some of the biggest online poker sites introducing measures against using software is certain to hurt these companies somewhat, but at the end of the day, poker software has become an integral part of the game, and it isn’t likely to go anywhere anytime soon.
Software developers will fight the best they can to make their products in line with the rooms’ regulations, introducing necessary changes and potentially reducing the impact of having third-party software running while playing, but it’s hard to imagine modern online poker ever completely devoid of piggyback helpers when there’s so much at stake in every hand played.