The beauty of online poker is that it allows players to use (quite legally) several tools to help them at the tables, when making their decisions. One of the most powerful tools is undoubtedly the tracker. You don't know what a tracker is or what it's used for? If so, the following article is for you
Definition of a Tracker
A tracker is a computer program that accumulates and records the poker hands played by all the players at a given table. The tracker works for cash games as well as tournaments and sit'n'gos. The tracker will have 2 functions: to record as text files all the poker hands played and to display this information live at the poker tables
For hands to be recorded, the player owning the tracker must be present at the table in question. The tracker will therefore create a text file for all hands played by the tracker owner (we'll call him Hero for the rest of this article) and his opponents. The text file hands will detail all the actions of all the players at the table. The accumulation of these text files with all the recorded actions of each player will form a database that the tracker will keep in reserve
The tracker in action.
The beauty of the tracker is that it also has a Heads-Up Display (commonly known as a HUD) that will display real-time player information stored in the database. The HUD will display the information collected about each player in the following manner:
The list of stats displayed on each player may be long or short, depending on the player's desire. It will be possible to display information for the current session only or cumulative (i.e. all lifetime hands accumulated on that player). On the picture above, we have a basic configuration. If we take the Hero in this hand (Kidam) we see his name, then the information BB:100 which tells us that he has 100 blinds. The number 117 in red is the number of hands played in this session. This number allows us to know if the sample is significant or not. If we have 10,000 hands on a player, we will know that his statistics will be much more representative of his usual style than if we have 9 hands
The VP (or VPIP) is the frequency at which the player invests money in the pot without being forced to do so. We know here that our Hero invested 11% of the time of the preflop money without being forced to do so. We therefore conclude that he is of the conservative type (a player plays an average of 25% of his hands at a 6-player table). The next figure, PR, gives us the "preflop raise", which is the frequency of preflop raises. So we know that the Hero almost always raises when he invests money in the pot (only 2% of the time he calls). This result is obtained by making 11% VP minus 9% PR, so 2% call and 9% raise for a total of 11% VP. Finally, we know that his aggression factor is 38%, which gives us an indication of his gambling tendencies after the flop. Is he more the check and call type (which lowers the aggression %) or the bet and raise type (which increases the aggression %)
Anyway, the tracker is a software program that records all of our opponents' actions so that we can display them in real time alongside our opponents. This information will help us make better decisions
Are trackers widely used? Can my opponents use one?
Yes, your opponents can use a tracker to collect information about you. For the process to be legal, if you collect information about them, they will obviously be able to collect information about you as well. This is something to keep in mind when playing. Your goal as a player will be to make better use of this information than your opponents. Getting the information is one thing, but making good use of it is another. Always be smarter than your opponents
Trackers collect a ton of information about every player. It would be too tedious to list all this information in full, but just to give you an idea, here's some information your opponents might have about you:
Your flop betting frequency, your check-raise flop frequency, your fold flop frequency, your turn betting frequency, your river betting frequency, your all in preflop frequency, your 3bet preflop frequency, your 4bet preflop frequency, your opening frequency of all positions, your small blind and big blind defense frequency, etc. The list is just beginning
What about the legality of trackers?
Unless otherwise stated by the poker room you're playing in, trackers are perfectly legal software. What is illegal is collecting information about the players in a poker room when you are not at the table (this is called "datamining"). As long as you are present at the table, using a tracker and HUD is legal. You can always write to your poker room support to make sure of this
Who could use a tracker?
A tracker is a great tool that can help any poker player, no matter what limit you're playing, no matter what your skill level is. Even the best players in the world use a tracker. A tracker gives us valuable information about our opponents, so why do without one?
Poker is an information game; the more information you have about a player, the better decisions you can make against them. There is no reason not to use this information. Many poker players call themselves "feeling" players, players who rely heavily on their intuition, but often our minds play tricks on us. A tracker remains an objective indicator that is never emotional or tired. To give an example, sometimes our intuition tells us that Player X is playing far too many hands. Based on this information, we play our hand in a particular way. However, if we had looked at our tracker, we would have noticed that this player plays about 8% of his hands (which is very little) and that he has a conservative style. Maybe he's played a lot of hands recently, but that's probably due to the fact that he was lucky with his starting hands, nothing more. Our intuition is never an objective marker of player trends, it's better to rely on his tracker
If you play at all, a tracker is the most profitable investment you can make for your poker.
What are the main trackers you could suggest?
There are several software packages on the market. If you hesitate in your choice, we invite you to read about the trackers that we strongly advise you to know which one suits you best:
PokerTracker 4 and Xeester are two excellent choices. The software is complete and reliable. Several professionals use them and we can recommend them without hesitation