Poker HUDs Explained
Whether you are a complete beginner to online poker, someone who has played live and is transitioning to online play, or someone who is playing low stakes and is ready to start taking the game seriously, a HUD is a necessary tool in today’s tough online games.
A HUD is a copilot — not an autopilot. This guide will walk you through how a HUD works, the kinds of decisions a HUD can help you with, and common mistakes players make when using a HUD.
What is a poker HUD?
A poker HUD (“head-up display”) is an app for your computer that collects and displays statistics about your opponents. The HUD overlays your poker table with information about how each of your opponents has played in the past. The information is shown directly on the poker table in floating panels next to each player.
When you are deciding whether to bet, check, or fold, you can take a look at the way your opponent has played in similar situations to guide your actions. Are they an extremely tight player who only puts money in with a great hand? Are they a maniac who re-raises constantly preflop? Or are they a strong player who’s likely to be competent postflop? The statistics displayed by a HUD give you a good idea of how your opponent is approaching the game of poker.
When you first use a poker HUD, it feels as though a veil has been lifted and the fundamental strategies of your opponents laid bare. You will always remember using a HUD for the first time and being amazed at how obvious your opponents’ habits become.
What information does a poker HUD display?
Your opponent raises preflop, and you are not sure if you can re-raise your pocket pair of jacks for value or if they are better used as a call. Your HUD has a stat for that, showing exactly how tight or loose your opponent is opening from each position.
You are the preflop raiser, but your opponent has an annoying tendency of leading into you on the flop. Are they bluffing? Do they have a pair? Your HUD has a stat for that too, showing you the percentage of time they have lead into you (called a “donk bet”) on the flop. You can use this statistic, along with your own notes, to get a picture of what hands they are leading into you with.
You raise preflop with AJ and get 3-bet by an opponent (a 3-bet is when your opponent re-raises you preflop). You are not sure what to do. Does your opponent have aces? Kings? Or is he likely to have bluffs, like 56 suited and A5 suited? Your HUD has a stat for that. It will show you the percentage of times that your opponent is re-raising preflop from each specific position.
If you can think of a tough decision in poker, it is a safe bet that a HUD has a statistic for that exact situation.
Want a more in-depth look at the most important poker statistics and how to use them? Read through our complete poker statistics guide!
How does a HUD work?
Poker sites keep hand histories for players to review. Your HUD collects information from the hand histories and displays your opponent’s poker statistics in the form of percentages that you can view as you play.
As soon as a hand finishes, the HUD automatically takes data from the hand history and updates your opponent’s statistics.
Why use a poker HUD?
You might not be using a HUD yet, but your serious opponents are. The vast majority of players purchase a HUD when they make the switch from being a “fun player” to someone who takes the game seriously. There are three major benefits that make a HUD a great investment:
1. Enhanced ability to exploit opponents
A HUD allows you to play exploitative poker, where you identify mistakes that your opponents are making. We can look at a very simple example—a fold to flop continuation bet—to showcase how a HUD can influence your flop continuation betting strategy.
A continuation bet occurs when you raise preflop, are called, and then follow up with a bet on the flop. Your opponent can call the bet, re-raise the bet, or fold to the bet. The latter statistic is called a “fold to flop continuation bet.”
When you continuation bet the flop, you want to have some hands that are strong, which you are betting and hoping for a call, and some hands that are bluffs, which you bet in order to get folds from better hands. When you are deciding which hands to bluff with and which are good enough to value bet, you need to look at your opponent’s fold to flop continuation bet statistic.
If your opponent has a high fold to flop continuation bet, such as 60% or more, it makes sense to start exploiting your opponent by “over-bluffing.” This means increasing the amount of bluffs that you are betting on the flop to take advantage of the fact that your opponent folds too much.
2. Improved multi-tabling
As you play more tables, a HUD goes from being a benefit to a necessity. There is simply too much information to process once you start playing more than two or three tables at the same time. Most players purchase a HUD because they are playing multiple tables and want to be able to focus on important decisions without missing out on what is happening on the other tables.
When you only play one table at a time, it is quite simple to see who is playing very loose and who is only playing premium hands. However, as you play more tables, even simple information, like how often your opponents are raising preflop, is easy to miss. Your HUD takes care of that for you.
The benefit to self-study is often overlooked, but, in reality, it is one of the most important features of a HUD. The more serious a poker player you become, the more hands you play. Using your HUD, you can look at your own statistics to see if you have flaws in your strategy. Fixing simple deficiencies in your game, such as the percentage of hands that you are opening from each position, will improve your win rate quickly.
Your HUD will automatically save hands in an easy-to-view format so you can review them afterwards. During a difficult hand, you can “star” your hands for a quick review afterwards.
Is it possible to win without using a poker HUD?
It is possible to win without using a HUD, but you are putting yourself at a large disadvantage by not using one.
First, however, you should be able to beat the stakes that you play at without a HUD. If you are unable to win while playing on 1 or 2 tables without the assistance of a HUD, then you need to move down in stakes or work on the fundamentals of your game. The purpose of a HUD is to allow you to increase your win rate and to let you play more tables simultaneously.
Think of poker like the job market: a basic understanding of poker is the equivalent of a high school degree. A job that you could get with a high school diploma twenty years ago may require a college degree today. Similarly, games that could have been beaten easily with a simple understanding of poker strategy ten years ago may now require additional tools such as a HUD.
What are some dangers of using a HUD?
HUD software is widely understood as essential in today’s online games. However, those who choose not to use HUDs often have the wrong idea about them, thinking that they allow you to play robotically without thought. Remember, a HUD is a copilot—not an autopilot. Basing your decisions solely on the statistics that your HUD displays will equal disaster.
1. Making decisions without a large enough sample size
A major mistake of players is using a HUD for decisions based on insufficient data. Basic preflop statistics, such as an unopened preflop raise that measures the percent that your opponent raises when the action folds to them preflop, can become useful after just a hundred hands. But statistics like preflop 3-bet, which tracks the percent an opponent re-raises preflop, needs at least 500 hands and preferably over 1,000 hands to become reliable. Postflop statistics require thousands of hands, if not tens of thousands, to become dependable.
For example, if you have 100 hands on a player and have seen that they fold to a flop continuation bet 100% of the time, it is very enticing to fall into the trap of continuation betting any two cards. But if you look closer at the statistic, you may find that your opponent has only faced two continuation bets in the small sample!
2. Basing decisions completely on percentages
You cannot just blindly trust percentages when playing poker. You need to understand the range of hands your opponent is playing and how this range of hands interacts with different flops.
For example, which board below do you think you will get more folds when you raise from first position and are called by the big blind?
Board 1: 8♥7♥2♦
Board 2: A♦J♥6♣
The answer is the second board. When your opponent has a fold to flop continuation bet of 60%, it does not mean that they are folding 60% of the time. On the first board, they are likely to call with flush draws, straight draws, pairs, and even the occasional overpair that they did not re-raise preflop.
On the second board, your opponent does not have any flush draws to call with, has weaker straight draws that have fewer outs than in the first example, and will be in a difficult spot with underpairs (a pair of cards lower than one of the board cards). If they are a player with a fold to flop continuation bet of 60%, they are almost certainly going to fold hands like 99 and TT on the second board that would happily call on the first board.
If you start continuation betting based on their fold to flop continuation bet while ignoring board texture, you are going to make costly mistakes. This is a prime example of when not to use a HUD as your only reason for a bet.
3. Getting overwhelmed by too many statistics
It is better to use no HUD at all than to be overwhelmed by statistics. Beginner players should use just a few statistics to start with and add more as they become more comfortable.
4. Using a HUD as an excuse to stop paying attention
A HUD will hurt you in the long term if you use it as a method to divert your attention away from your games. Poker requires intense focus. If you start basing decisions on statistics and not on the reasoning behind your play, you will never attain the highest win rate possible, and you will improve much slower.
Is using a poker HUD cheating?
No. Using a HUD is not cheating because a HUD takes information only from hands that you have played. A HUD analyzes this information in a way that could be done manually, though it would take a huge investment in time.
What this means is that buying a HUD will not suddenly give you statistics on every hand that your opponent has ever played online. It will only give you statistics on hands that you are present for.
No matter how many statistics you have on an opponent, your HUD cannot tell you exactly what to do. It can only give you data to aid your decision. A fundamentally strong strategy paired with paying attention, taking notes, and using a HUD for poker statistics are all required for obtaining the highest win rate possible.
While using a HUD is not cheating, it does provide a strong advantage against those who do not have one. By using a HUD, you can instantly see who the weak players are at the table and exploit them mercilessly.
Do poker rooms allow HUDs?
Mostly. The majority of poker sites allow HUDs, and the majority of winning players use a HUD. However, there has been a trend of some sites removing the ability to use a HUD. So make sure to check with the customer service of the site that you wish to play on to get up-to-date information.
Some sites that allow poker HUDs:
- iPoker network
Sites that allow HUDS with restrictions:
- PartyPoker - HUDs may be used for tournaments, but not for cash games.
- 888poker - HUDs may be used for all forms of poker except the Snap cash tables.
- America’s Cardroom and Winning Poker Network - HUDs may be used for all forms of poker except Jackpot Sit and Go tournaments.
Some sites that do not allow HUDs:
- Sky Poker
- Ignition Poker
Should I get a HUD?
If you are spending a significant amount of time playing poker, then a HUD is the best investment you can make into your game. Whether you are a recreational player who only has time for a couple hours of cash games or a few tournaments a week or a hardcore grinder, a HUD is a necessity in today’s online games in order to achieve your full potential as a poker player.