HUDs and Player Tags: An Honest Guide for Poker Players

  • HUDs and player tags can cause confusion, so VSO News has provided top tips
  • Don’t be afraid to use your own terminology to make things clearer for you
  • We all make mistakes so show respect for opponents who make the odd error
  • Not everyone maintains the same strategy forever so be wary of changing players
Person playing poker online
To prevent confusion over HUDs and player tags, VSO News has provided an honest guide for poker players. [Image:]

There’s been a lot of discussion about the use of HUDs in poker in recent years. While some recreational players consider them akin to cheating, they’re still common on a ton of sites, and using one is a bit of an art form in itself.

Where HUDs are banned, you’ll have to rely on old-school player tags, which are common almost everywhere. Here’s a useful guide to make sure you know your enemy.

Do what works for you

A while back, I was observing a recorded session from a former backer of mine, and noticed that he had two tags for different kinds of bad reg. The two descriptors had seemingly nothing to do with poker, and cannot be repeated on this family-friendly news website. When I asked what the distinction was, his response was something like: “Oh you know. Like that half-pot bet there. Or when he check jammed the turn.” I didn’t have a clue what he was on about. But it made sense to him.

If you know what you mean, don’t be afraid to use your own idiosyncratic terminology

Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein once questioned whether or not we spoke a “private language” in our heads, rather than thinking in our mother tongue – something inherently untranslatable and unable to be expressed to others. If we do, then poker is a good case to deploy this. If you know what you mean, don’t be afraid to use your own idiosyncratic terminology. And if you can translate it and express it to others, that still doesn’t mean people want to hear the bad beat stories that caused you to label a guy “beluga clown b*stard slowroll at any opportunity” anyway.

Bear in mind that we all make mistakes

It’s quite easy to label someone a whale or a bad reg because of one isolated incident, especially if it’s a spot you happen to know well. However, if you’ve ever had a backer or a coach, you’ll also know that every session with them you’ve ever had consists of them going through your inexplicably bad plays while you sit there sheepishly mumbling “oh, uh, yeah, not sure what I was thinking here” or “I had a vibe” or “well he showed down 75s last Easter and so eh.”

We all make a lot of mistakes. Try not to label a basically solid, winning reg as a drooling moron because they bet 70% instead of 50% on the turn that one time. Show some respect.

Remember that people change

If you’re a proper old veteran of the site you play on, or have sneakily forked out for hand history databases, you might well have tens or even hundreds of thousands of hands on some regulars, maybe even going back years. This can actually be more trouble than it’s worth.

Someone might have been extremely nitty two years ago, but suddenly discovered the joys of bluffing

Do you play the same as you played two years ago? Well, you’re reading this article and not Upswing Poker or RaiseYourEdge, so you might not have changed your game at all since Lance Armstrong was considered a paragon of sporting integrity. Bad example. The chances are, though, that most people will have adjusted somewhat. Especially regular players, who will be the ones you have the big samples on. Someone might have been extremely nitty two years ago, but suddenly discovered the joys of bluffing, and completely transformed their game. It’s worth taking a look, especially if it’s someone who’s always sat down in the same games as you.

Make some distinctions

There are good regs and good regs, bad regs and bad regs. Some people are bad regs because they’re straightforward, game select aggressively, and are happy to play a billion hands a month grinding out a small edge. Some people are bad regs because they play far too exploitatively and don’t adjust to good players who have their number.

The most important thing is to simply know whether you’re up against a reg or a rec. But it’s also important to know *why* you labeled someone a whale. In real life, you wouldn’t mistake the old man who has to look up from the Times crossword to pay his big blind for a maniac. Make sure you’re not doing that online.

Don’t clog your display

Stick to the actual useful stuff when you’re making your HUD. Some stats will get to a healthy sample fairly quickly, and others will never fill up enough, ever. Being able to see the actual table turns out to be quite important in poker.

how often they folded to a turn checkraise in a multiway 4bet pot when Mercury was in retrograde

The main things you need to know are – how many hands they’re playing from what positions, how much they’re 3betting, how much they’re folding the flop, how much they’re check-raising, and how often they’re barreling. All of these are situations that come up extremely frequently. What isn’t useful to know is how often they folded to a turn checkraise in a multiway 4bet pot when Mercury was in retrograde.

Remember to actually be good at poker

HUDs and player tags may help you along, but it turns out actually being good at playing poker is still more important. A thinking maniac is still going to run you over if you simply don’t arrive in a situation with enough hands to call them down.

Oh, and remember – wherever HUDs are allowed, they’re doing the exact same to you. Of course, this never matters, because you’re perfect and never stray from perfect mathematical equilibrium in any situation, right? Thought so, just checking…

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