Here's part 2 of the PokerStrategy.com interview with HM CEO, Jim Varnon.
Hold'em Manager 2 goes mobile
PokerStrategy.com: It seems that mobile poker is the next big thing, and Hold’em Manager 2 has a mobile app. Can you explain this app for our users, and how do you envision it developing further?
Jim Varnon: The free Hold’em Manager iPhone application is integrated into HM2. A single click uploads hands in your HM2 database to the Hold’em Manager iPhone application. Your ability to review, replay and study key hands is no longer tied to your computer.
Most importantly, through the Hold’em Manager iPhone application you can also share and comment on hands within a private group that you establish (or are invited into). Coaches and students have found this capability invaluable for feedback and others are creating private groups that include their close circle of poker buddies.
You can also create your own Public Channel on the Hold’em Manager iPhone application which you can use to share, comment, and solicit feedback on any of your hands. Public Channel content can be viewed by anyone using the Hold’em Manager iPhone app.
More good than harm – "tracking software has benefited online poker".
|The PokerStrategy.com HM2 HUD.|
PokerStrategy.com: Some have been concerned about the prevalence of tracking software, HUDs, third-party apps etc., believing they may harm the poker economy in the long term. Is this a concern of yours, or do you completely disagree with this view?
Jim Varnon: To properly answer that question, I think you have to separate databases of hands that you have actually played from databases of hands that are purchased from 3rd parties.
Tracking software and the use of HUDs, when used with databases of hands that users actually played, have benefited the online poker community in my opinion. They provide new and average players with tools to more quickly improve their results to a point where they can reduce their loss rate, or go from being a losing player to a break-even or winning player. These players stay “in action” longer.
Obviously the sharks don’t like to see the new and average players improve. But that is a short-sighted perspective. And likewise, a fish would prefer that the sharks not eat them. I submit that the sharks are always eventually going to eat the fish. However, more public awareness of products such as HM2 has reduced player churn and extended the life expectancy of many fish and average players that utilize our software.
When it comes to players purchasing public databases of hands that they did not actually play and using that data in a HUD, I think that has hurt the games. It gives players purchasing those hand histories an unfair advantage of information that they should not have about their opponents.
In order to effectively put a stop to the practice, it requires some level of cooperation between the poker sites and tracking software companies such as Hold’em Manager that respect the terms and conditions of the sites. We have previously reached out to some of the largest poker rooms expressing our willingness to work with them in implementing systems to authenticate valid hand histories. Unfortunately, anything that we do unilaterally in this regard can easily be circumvented by the hand history vendors.
Working with poker rooms
|HM2 and OM2 are compatible with
a wide variety of poker rooms.
PokerStrategy.com: Did you work closely with the poker rooms themselves in developing this software? If so, is the trend of poker rooms taking steps to prevent tracking/data mining (anonymous tables, certain sites not allowing HUDs, etc) making life difficult?
Jim Varnon: With many of the rooms, we do get advanced notice of certain changes that they are about to release in software updates, and we also send them preview versions of Hold’em Manager before new versions or features are released.
As for poker rooms' positions on data mining, I mentioned above that many of the measures that poker sites have taken against data mining of hands have not been successful because third party hand history vendors have circumvented them. We would be happy to work with rooms to cooperatively implement measures that prevent their use.
With respect to your question about poker rooms and HUDs, I personally believe that if a room does not allow HUDs it will discourage regulars that are critical revenue generators and game starters. Also, it hurts the fish and average players who are motivated to improve more than it diminishes a shark’s ability to do what sharks do.
Ultimately, that is a business decision of a poker site and we would respect their policies and not support a HUD for their site if they so requested.
With respect to anonymous tables, there is a percentage of online poker players that, for various reasons, are not comfortable playing at anonymous tables – and there are also some players that prefer them. Hold’em Manager’s position on anonymous tables is a non-issue because their fate is something that the market will decide.
The reaction of the recreational player
|HM2 can help fish become sharks.|
PokerStrategy.com: Do you think your product is known to recreational players? If not, do you think they would react positively or negatively to learning it exists?
Jim Varnon: A much higher percentage of recreational players are familiar with products such as HM2 today than was the case 5 years ago. That is pretty easy to conclude based on comparing our sales growth vs. the industry growth as a whole.
There isn’t a single answer to whether they react positively or negatively. There are some recreational players that don’t care. There are others that seek out the use of products such as HM2 as a vehicle for improving their game (or reducing their losses). And then there are some recreational players that would rather such products did not exist once they become aware of them.
PokerStrategy.com: How many copies of Hold’em Manager have been sold? We ask because it would be interesting to estimate what percentage of online players use tracking software.
Jim Varnon: Our sales data is confidential and there is no definitive way to determine what percentage of poker players use Hold’em Manager vs. a competing product since we are not privy to competitors' sales. However, based on several metrics that we follow internally, we believe that Hold’em Manager has accounted for approximately 60% to 65% of tracking software sales over the last three years.
Plans outside of the poker world
PokerStrategy.com: Outside of HM2/OM2, are you working on any other poker-related products (or non-poker-related)?
Jim Varnon: Key members of the Hold’em Manager management team and investor group are online poker players that previously founded and developed the CardRunners.com training site before participating in the purchase of Hold’em Manager in October 2009.
In September of 2011, several common members of our management team and investor group launched DraftDay.com. DraftDay is a daily fantasy sports site that offers real money, one-day fantasy sports games.
My day-to-day responsibilities are 100% focused on Hold’em Manager but I obviously closely follow and am excited to see the amazing success DraftDay has had in just its first 6 months.
PokerStrategy.com: Thanks for your time, Jim, and good luck in the future.