Software like PokerTracker and Hold’em Manager pervades our every thoughts these days and it is all too simple for a novice online poker player to simply be fearful of playing online poker at all.
You often hear many players say that tracking software is absolutely essential for success in online poker. Well do you know what? Most of the very best players in the world do not use them so what does that tell you about tracker data? The bottom line is that most of the data is useless in my opinion for several key reasons.
The first is that your opponent will chop and change their style over time and more than one player could be active on the same account. Also your opponents will either bust out and leave the site or improve their game to an extent where their previous stats are no longer of any use. Also it can take many thousands of hands before some stats become accurate. You should be able to get a feel for what some opponents are doing within the game itself without the need for tracker data.
For example, if your opponent raises and you 3-bet and they fold then their fold to a re-raise percentage is probably very high which indicates that their opening raising range is high also.
So you can immediately start 3-betting this player more often and you don’t need a large sample size of several hundred hands of data before you have to act. Likewise if you see a player lose a big pot and then they start raising and 3-betting all over the place, then clearly this player is on tilt. Also, if you play full ring, for example, then your opponents will play so few hands with you that their data on you will be next to meaningless!
In full ring games, nearly all of the players within this environment will be some variation of tight-aggressive. So, if you see VPIP and PFR stats then the chances are that most of your opponents will have very similar stats. It is also worth mentioning that statistics can often be wrong based on how players’ styles change whether or not they are winning or losing.
For example, a player that is winning and making big hands could then decide to push their “rush” and begin raising with much wider ranges and calling raises with much wider ranges as well.
So their individual session stats could be some way off their overall stats. It is these short term fluctuations that are more meaningful than the longer term averages.
Another example can be seen when players log on and then hit and run after say fifteen minutes when they are ahead by half a buy-in or so. This tactic is rife online and once again tracker based statistics may have a problem picking that up.
So the bottom line is that you need not fear tracker programs and if you take great pains to improve your game and make sure your actions are relatively well balanced then the overwhelming number of tracker users will not be able to spot any patterns that you may have.