To HUD Or Not To HUD

To HUD Or Not To HUD

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Dara O’Kearney talks Heads-Up Displays.

Heads-Up Displays have always inspired controversy but there is no hard and fast answer for everyone, says Dara O’Kearney.

A friend in the US once told me about this guy who started turning up at their local casino sporting bizarre head-gear which effectively blinkered his vision. It meant that when the action was on him, he had to peer at his cards, then peer round the table to ascertain any other players or stacks in the hand. Despite this apparent handicap, he quickly became one of the biggest winning players in the region. When he moved to Vegas and started to be successful there in the same bizarre head-gear, people started to wonder if there might be hidden advantages and if they should give it a try.

Ok, so this guy doesn't actually exist. But his online equivalent does: mass multi-tablers who elect not to use a HUD. My friend David Lappin is one. David has somehow managed to be one of the biggest and most consistent winners in Ireland in online MTTs over the past 6 or 7 years despite never using a HUD. Well, that's not exactly true either. After a prolonged break to pursue other career options, David decided to use the opportunity to learn new tricks, and came to me for some help on how to use HUDs. He's a quick learner and became very good at interpreting HUD data in no time. It seemed to add something to his game, as when he returned to the online felt he crushed as if he had never been away.

I was therefore surprised when I dropped in on him a few weeks later to find him grinding once more without a HUD. He explained his reason for dropping the HUD: it forced him to drop the number of tables he could play simultaneously. Having 30-tabled for years, he just didn't like having to cut down to 16 tables, the point at which he had enough time on each table to process HUD data and factor it into his decision making. Over the years, through sheer force of volume, he had developed a simple, straightforward, and unexploitable game which allowed him to autopilot 30 tables, but which took no account of specific opponent tendencies.

Because of players like David, as well as other famous examples who are known to go HUD-less, I sometimes hear players questioning whether HUDs actually help at all. This is the second greatest fallacy that surrounds the use of HUDs (the greatest is that HUDs allow people who can't play to profit by telling them what to do). While it is obviously possible to be a profitable player without one, the key question here is would players who don't use them become even more profitable if they started using them?

I play fewer tournaments than my friend every year. Despite this, I have made a lot more than him every year. Over similar average buy-ins and game types, I consistently maintain a higher ROI. Is it because I'm simply a better player? I don't think so. In fact if you locked me in a room and strapped me to a polygraph, you might force me to admit that David is slightly better than me. So I believe the fact that I have a higher ROI and bottom line profit online is entirely down to the fact that I use a HUD. David also believes that he plays better with a HUD, but prefers the higher volume route that going HUD-less allows.

In my next piece, I will look at the third great misconception about HUDs, which relates to how to use them. In my experience most players who use a HUD only do so to a fraction of their potential, so I will outline the holistic approach I try to teach the students I coach.

Tags: Dara O’Kearney, David Lappin