The Heads-Up Display (HUD for short) gives statistics about your opponents on top of the poker table(s). A quick look at these stats allows you to play your poker hands in a better way.
The first reason to use a HUD while playing online poker is very simple: some of your opponents are not using a HUD and by using one, you’ll gain a clear edge on them!
The second reason to use a HUD is very simple too: some of your opponents definitely are using a HUD and you don’t want them to have an advantage on you. By also using a HUD, you’ll level the playing field!
Here’s an hypothetical hand: you are are in early position with JJ (pocket jacks) at a $25 No-Limit Hold’em table. The action preflop goes like this: you raise to three times the big blind ($0.75) and the opponent to your left re-raises you to $2, everybody left to speak folds and it’s up to you to act again.
Pocket jacks is a good poker hand and in a lot of cases you may be tempted to raise here. But is it really the correct way to play that hand? The answers is... It depends! It depends on your opponent. And that is precisely what a HUD does: a HUD shows different stats, depending on your opponent, allowing to have a “read” on them. And based on your analysis of the situation, you decide which move to make. A tracker and a HUD like Poker Lens allows you to make better moves.
On the screenshot above, you can see at the left how the situation looks like for a player who’s not using a HUD. On the right, you can see how one (of the many) Poker Lens HUD layout would show stats on your opponent.
If it’s an opponent you’ve played against a few days ago and if he’s very tight, you won’t necessarily remember him: you’re probably paying more attention to the ones giving more action at the tables. You may even have forgotten your opponent’s name (or worse, he may have a name similar to another opponent with a completely different playing style, and you may be confusing the two!)
That is why a HUD is very useful. Here’s what Poker Lens may show you about that person (who’s called “villain” in our example):
We’ve simplified the HUD as much as possible in this example, by only keeping four stats: VPIP/PFR/PF3B and AFreq. These are fundamental stats that you have to know (see Stats explanation...). We have 840 hands on our opponent in this example and we can see that he is “9/6”: he has a VPIP of 9% and a PFR of 6%. He only plays 9% of his hands voluntarily (if he’s the big blind and didn’t put any more money in preflop, this doesn’t count as “voluntary”) and he only raises 6% of the time preflop 6% : this is very tight. This is “super nitty”. Even more relevant : his “PF3B” (preflop 3-bet or “preflop re-raise”) is only 1.4%.
The PF3B is probably the third most important preflop stat: after the VPIP and the PFR. A PF3B of 1.4% is more than hyper tight: AA, KK and QQ correspond on average to 1.35% of the hands you’re getting dealt (see “How much ‘math’ is needed” below).
In 840 hands, that person re-raised only 12 times (12/840 gives 1.4%). Extremely tight. The probability that he’s now re-raising with a very good hand is very high.
So now, thanks to Poker Lens’ HUD we now that the player re-raising us preflop (doing a PF3B) typically only does it with really premium hands. Do you really want to re-raise here knowing that his range of hands here is probably crushing your JJ? You’d re-raise and he’d then probably re-raise again (maybe all-in) and what would you then do? Call all-in with your JJ, knowing he’s a super nit only re-raising monsters (PF3B: 1.4%) preflop?
Note that Poker Lens is much more advanced than the simple case explained above (which is really just a basic introduction as to why a HUD is very useful): for example, Poker Lens offers a “pf3b-vs-pf4b: fold%” stat, which you could also use on your HUD. That one will tell you the percentage of time a preflop re-raiser will fold when re-re-raised.
The more math, the better, but poker ain’t just about math. There’s math, there’s psychology, there are various luck factors... And there’s the technological edge you gain if you use a HUD!
For the simple case explained above, the only math needed consist in transforming 1.4% into a “range” of possible cards the villain may have. In Hold’em, you’re getting dealt a specific pocket pair one time every 221 hands, or 0.45% of the time. So the probability of getting dealt AA or KK or QQ is about 1.35%. We can hence conclude that our opponent’s PF3B stat of 1.4% is very tight and that, in this case, he’s probably re-raising us preflop with a really premium hand (and that we should hence proceed to play that hand very cautiously).
You should also remember that very often you can directly compare the stats from one person to those of another: they all appear on the HUD at once. Doing that, it becomes easy to spot “outliers”. For example, you don’t need to know which range of hands an ATSB (Attempt To Steal Blinds) of 60% represents : all you need to know is that it is a very wide range and that, compared to the other players, it is very high. In that case if that person open-raises from the button, you know it is very probable he’s just trying to steal the blinds with a mediocre hand.
For the “Afreq” (postflop Agression Frequency) and most of the other stats, it’s very similar : you’ll quickly get to recognize if a stat indicates “tight” or “loose”, “passive” or “aggressive” and you’ll quickly get to know how the various stats are influencing each other.
In addition to being able to convert percentages to hand ranges, you’ll also want to know a few poker odds, like your drawing odds. Poker Lens does not give any calling odds in real-time (like, say, the odds to hit a flush draw), because that would be against the poker rules fixed by the sites. However, Poker Lens allows you to see these odds in the replayer, when reviewing the hands you played earlier.
It is important to realize first that the HUD does not tell you how to play hands: a HUD doesn’t say ”I suggest you raise here” nor ”You have a clear fold here”. That would be against the poker rules defined by the poker sites. The various poker sites are very clear on that subject: you are allowed to use the information from previous hands you played(and the statistics that a tracker like Poker Lens provide from those previous hands) but it is up to you to make the decision as to how to play every single hand.
As you can see, the HUD didn’t tell you what you to do. The HUD gives you statistics about your opponent that can both prevent you from taking a bad decision (re-raising here with your JJ would be a recipe for disaster: the stats given by the HUD on your opponent shows that he’s so nitty that you are way behind his range) and help you make a good one. Note that depending on the setup, there may be more than one valid way to play a poker hand and once again, the HUD doesn’t take any decision for you: it just helps you make better ones!
Poker Lens allows you to start simple: just pick a minimalist HUD at first, only displaying a few stats, so that you can get used to them.
Then later on, you can gradually start to add more and more stats to your HUD (Poker Lens is fully configurable and allows you to visually edit your various HUD layouts), and end up with a complex fighter HUD (*), providing you with all you need to know to crush your opponents!
(*) Head-Up Display were first used in military aviation, presenting additional data to fighter jet pilots.