As online poker continues to grow in popularity, more and more sites are providing ancillary services that may or may not be useful to the poker aficionado. One of the services that we find very useful is poker software that has real and immediate effects on your game. Two kinds of such technology that are highly recommended by our staff are odds calculators and practice software.
As you know, numbers are one of the most crucial things to think about when playing poker. We’ve devoted our By The Numbers section to understanding odds and percentages, and there’s a good bit of discussion about it in our Strategy section too, but the fact of the matter is that numbers are hard, especially when the game is fast-moving and the competition is tough. Even though you WILL get better at memorizing odds and percentages, it’s nice to have as much help as you can getÚjust like having a calculator when you’re taking an advanced math test. For that reason, we think odds calculators are a great idea, and every online poker player should use one.
First, how do odds calculators work? Well, there are different varieties, but most online odds calculators are very easy to use. You can determine the odds of almost any given poker situation by inputting the number of players in the game and the hands each player is holding (or the hands you think each player is holding). You can select cards to come up on the flop and turn. When you click on Calculate Odds, the calculator will present you with each hand’s percentage chance of winning. Anytime you want to reset the calculator and determine information about new hands or combinations, simply click on Reset. The result are more or less instantaneous, depending on your connection speed, and this can be a very useful tool indeed when you’re playing in a live game.
Here are links to some high-quality, free odds calculators. Test them to see which one you prefer!
CardPlayer.com Free Odds Calculator
This outstanding calculator comes in two variations, one for Texas Hold’Em and one for Omaha. No download necessary.
Hold’em Odds Calculator
Another good, free odds calculator. It’s not necessary to pay the $10 registration fee. Free download.
There are also some advanced odds calculators available on the Internet which are NOT free. While we think you can do just fine with free calculators, you might be tempted to pay $20-$50 for a better calculator that will help you while at you are playing at certain sites. The advantage is that the calculator will advise you during the middle of a hand, and it requires almost no work on your part. The following are good choices:
Hold’em Odds Calculator for Empire Poker and Party Poker
An enhanced version of the free model listed above, this odds calculator is designed specifically for beating the crowds at Empire and Party Poker. Registration costs $20.
A bit pricier at $39.95, Texas Calculatem is nevertheless an exceptional odds calculator that supports most major poker rooms and gives you a big strategic advantage. Recommended.
The second tool for greatly improving your online game is practice software. Practice software allows you to play against a huge cross-section of opponents (without money being involved of course), and some of it even allows you to customize your own opponents so that you can simulate almost any game situation you want. The great thing about practice software is that it is designed specifically to be as realistic as possible. That means your opponents will be able to bluff, steal pots, go on tilt and basically act exactly as many online players doÚfrom the sharks to the fish.
You might ask, why not just practice on very low-limit tables online or in your poker room’s Just For Fun section? Well, the difference is quite clear. With low-limit tables, you are generally assured a lower level of play. It’s therefore impossible to prepare for better opposition. And the same is even truer at the Just For Fun free tables. While these are good options for the poker beginner who is still learning how to play the game, practice software is for people who are serious about improving their game, challenging themselves, and taking their play to the next level. As such, it does a very good job, despite the cost.
Acespade Software is an established company that offers competitive software at the same prices as Wilson SoftwareÚwhich is to say, generally around $90 for one version. Due to the recent positive publicity surrounding Wilson, Acespade seems to have launched a counter-attack, with one part of their website devoted specifically to explaining Why Acespade Is Better (see http://www.acespade.com/whybetter.htm to read what they have to say). There’s no question that the two software packages are similar, and they both have positives over the other. But in our opinion, we simply think that Wilson Software is more professional all-around. Of course, we encourage you to investigate both, especially if you’re planning to spend close to $100. It can’t be denied that Acespade is an effective tool for sharpening almost all aspects of your poker game, and it deserves a closer look.