A good online poker setup is crucial for being able to work efficiently. I’m not talking about the hardware here but the tools you can use for making online poker more efficient. Getting a good monitor and a comfortable chair are kind of a given if you’re planning to spend a lot of time multi-tabling.
Since poker is an information game, you want to have as much info about your opponents as possible. That includes HUD stats as well as notes on specific things your opponents did in the past.
To gather all this data in a live game, you have to be very attentive. Luckily when you’re playing online, there are a number of tools available that will help you keep track of what your opponents are doing.
The most important is tracking software. I personally use Pokertracker 4 but you can also use Hold’Em Manager 2. They both offer roughly the same features and they’re both excellent programs. Once you get used to tracking software you cannot imagine ever playing without it again.
1. Optimize Your HUD
The most important part of tracking software is the heads-up-display or HUD. It analyzes your hand histories and gives you a report of your opponents’ statistics. It’s incredibly valuable when making poker decisions and can make a huge difference in your game.
To me, playing online poker without a HUD will just put you at a big disadvantage. Knowing your opponents’ pre-flop ranges and their tendencies in certain spots will allow you to make the right decision so frequently that investing in tracking software will pay for itself in no time. The way to play the most profitable poker is to exploit any weaknesses your opponents might have in their game. HUD stats are by far the most accurate tool to identify these weaknesses.
Below is a picture of my HUD. This is what I would consider a good amount of information to have available at the table if you’re playing at stakes of NL10 and higher. You can see other stats through popups, but these are so important that you want to have them on your main HUD.
Player Name / Number of Hands / Went-to-Showdown
VPIP / PFR / Steal / Fold to Steal
C-Bet Flop / Fold to Flop CB / C-Bet Turn / Fold to Turn CB
3-Bet / Fold to 3-Bet / 4-Bet / Fold to 4B / Aggression Factor
You can read this guide if you want to learn more about how to interpret the stats.
If you’ve never used a HUD this will look very overwhelming to you. It takes time to get used to all those numbers so for beginning players I would recommend a more basic HUD until they move up from the lowest limits.
Player Name / Number of Hands / Went-to-Showdown
VPIP / PFR
C-Bet Flop / Fold to Flop CB
3-Bet / Fold to 3-Bet / Aggression Factor
This HUD contains the most important stats that you need for playing a solid game.
Keeping things simple is definitely the way to go at the beginning. Take your time getting used to the light HUD until all those stats are very familiar to you. Then you can expand and include more specific ones.
2. Use Custom Popups
This depends a lot on personal preference but I find the default popup in PokerTracker 4 is too cluttered with information. That’s why I took the time to make some custom popups for different situations. You can assign them to the stats, so that when you click on a number in your HUD, it opens the appropriate Popup.
Like I said it all depends on what works for you. If you can work well with the default popup then by all means keep using that. I just like having things as streamlined as possible when I’m playing poker so I have more time available for thinking about the right play.
3. Take Better Notes
Taking notes is a great way of keeping track of specific things you observe about opponents. For example you might spot a timing tell or some specific betting line an opponent will take with certain hands. Try to always observe opponents and when you find something that could help you make a better decision against them in the future, take a note.
One addition strategy I use when taking notes is already thinking about the appropriate counter-measures. Then I add the counter-measures to the notes so I will have a game plan against this player next time we meet.
Here is an example of some notes I have on an opponent to give you an idea of what I’m talking about:
I think this exercise is very useful for beginners as it forces you to think about ways you can exploit a specific mistake your opponent makes. That is exactly the kind of thinking that you should develop as a poker player and working on your notes is a great way to train that. If you’re too busy in the game to take notes, just mark the hand and do it after the session ends.
4. Use Automatic Notes
You might have noticed the lower half of my notes popup in the picture above. These are automatic notes that your tracking software can take for you. On Pokertracker 4 the program is called NoteTracker, if you’re using Hold’Em Manger then it’s called NoteCaddy.
Automatic notes are fantastic for getting an idea of opponents’ ranges in certain spots. For example you can create a note for all the times an opponent calls a 3-Bet in position. Now every time he does this and you get to see his hand at showdown, your tracking software will create a note of it.
You can download my HUD, my custom popups and my Notetracker definitions for free when you sign-up for my newsletter. That way you’ll also be among the first to receive any updates from this blog.
5. Use Table Ninja
If you’re playing more than 6 tables at a time, then investing in a software like Table Ninja 2 might be a good idea. It has many great features for multi-tabling and can make your life a lot easier, especially when you’re playing on a site that doesn’t have hotkeys.
One of the most important things about multi-tabling well is having as little distraction as possible while playing. Using a software like Table Ninja will make betting and managing your layouts as automatic as possible so you can focus all your energy on the decisions in the game.
You can get a 30-day trial for free so you can try it out for yourself.
6. Keep Stats Up to Date
This is something that I think not a lot of players.It makes a lot of sense though. Like yourself, (most) other players are constantly improving. That’s why stats on an opponent that are older than a few months can be completely inaccurate and lead you to make bad decisions in the game. You should delete old stats frequently to keep your information on opponents as accurate as possible. I think throwing out stats that are older than 2 – 3 months is reasonable.
There are usually options in your tracking software to only show only hands from a specified time-frame.
Alternatively you can delete any hands older than that manually from time to time. You will lose stats from yourself as well though so make sure to keep the hands stored somewhere.