It's Poker but not as We Know It

by Carl Sampson
Submitted by: snoopy on Mon, 04/08/2008 - 2:11am

Over the past few years, those of us who play poker seriously and regularly are all too aware of tracking software and what they can do. Well I have something of an issue with tracking software… I don’t like it! This isn’t anything to do with me being too old to comprehend the software or too set in my ways to change either. I actually use PokerTracker and Poker Office for one simple reason and that is because my pupils use it so I need to.

But I have always believed that poker should be a contest between humans and not between computer programs and hard drives. I realise that this is still what live poker is about but online poker is certainly a different kettle of fish.

I have just entered into a sponsorship deal with Cake Poker ( for this very reason. They offer a facility to be able to change your screen name every week which I know is and will be invaluable to a vast number of people, many of which won’t even know it yet.

Speaking of not knowing, I wonder how many players online are blissfully unaware that their opponents are using tracking software against them and have all their vital details super imposed on HUD’s (head up display) on the screen and getting a totally different view of things to everyone else.

But does it make it right just by saying that these pieces of software are available to everyone? Even if every single online player were using tracking software of some description then this would still be an artificial aid and many players depend on these things to make their money which I think is a recipe for potential future disaster.

But having the facility to deny your opponents the ability to store data on you is very important these days and this has always been a very big philosophy of how I play poker online. Disguising my identity has always been top of my priorities and I really don’t see what advantage a serious player can get from divulging their identity unless they are being paid handsomely to do so as part of some deal.

But I know full well that by supporting a site like Cake Poker that I am also supporting millions of poker players out there who are either unaware of tracking software or who are fearful of being up against it. But software like PT and PO are not always easy to operate and to maintain and you do need a computer with a certain level of specification in order to get the very best out of them.

Many people will fail this test and so will not get the best out of their software. But I mix with many amateur poker players down my local pub who want to try online poker and all of them are not even aware that these things even exist. I think it is my duty to follow my beliefs and to educate people as to just how handicapping not using these items can be in today’s new online environment or in the tremendous advantage that some of your opponents will have over you who may be using them. This is especially the case if you have a style of play that can best be described as ‘automatic’.

These types of players are the most vulnerable to tracking software for the simple reason being that the biggest strength of them is that they will rapidly spot patterns in a player’s game. Once this happens then you really are presenting a very big advantage indeed to your opposition.

The use of these pieces of software are now becoming so widespread that some sites even offer them free as a bonus for signing up. But a couple of years ago, I made it my goal to largely side step the use of these things. I set out to design a style of play that was ‘anti poker tracker’ and I succeeded. You see, all this software does is collect data. It has no artificial intelligence of its own and it relies on the intelligence of its user in order to get the best out of it.

But there are ways and means to throw curve balls to the operator that is using it. For instance it is very difficult for a PT/PO user to spot situational trickiness and to identify ‘floating ranges’ and this higher form of poker is where tracking software struggles at this time. Fortunately the overwhelming majority of players cannot fathom my style of play at no limit Hold’em even with PT but in actual fact, it can sometimes be the use of the software that in many cases actually hinders their progress. So it isn’t quite time to surrender superiority just yet.

Carl “The Dean” Sampson is sponsored by Cake Poker and can be seen at