Has Poker Tracker Been Smacked Down By Poker Academy's Prospector?
Reviewed by BaddBeatBobb:
Poker Academy, the genuine Holdem Game designers that first allowed us to actually delve into our tournament play by thinking on a whole deeper level, has now added a self analysis tool called Prospector. Both of these programs are designed by the same group who recently devleoped an AI to compete against Phil Laak in the Man vs Machine competition that Phil eventually prevailed. To read more about this interesting challenge read the full story here, but for now, be it known these ARE the Dudes who made this Prospector as well and so you know it's gotta be worth some salt.
The software itself opens to an introduction screen with six tabs: Overview, Import, My Stats, Reports, Player Comparison, and Database. The online manual guides new users through the functionality within each of the six broad categories.
On first installing the software, finding and grabbing all my hands was very easy: I poker prospector pushed the oddly named “Rescan Now” button. Prospector had already found the poker sites I haunt, and the folders I keep my hands in, automatically compiling a search list. To really give the program a workout, I also exported my database from PT. This was very easy, which should give some comfort to users thinking of making the switch (It took 10 minutes to export 50K hands from PT and import them into Prospector on a pretty average laptop).
Beginning with My Stats, the user can choose to examine their stats for tournaments or ring games from any of the online sites they use. (There appears to be no way to meta-analyze aggregate stats from multiple sites, and this is probably Prospector’s biggest downfall. I hope this will be addressed in a future update!) The initial view gives overall stats, including total number of hands played, hours played, sessions played, and overall net $, up or down. The software, unlike Poker Tracker, automatically finds the names, dates, entry fees, and payout of all tournaments (MTT and STT) and ring games. You can track your bankroll to the penny, for better or worse, at least in ring games.
There appears to be some variability in Prospector’s capture and presentation of bankroll data. Poker Stars data had 100% capture for ring and tournament bankroll. The numerical data matched the graphs. Party Poker and Full Tilt data captured ring game bankroll but not tournaments numerically, but the graphs appeared to match my own personal bankroll data (my dismal, dismal data).
To examine data in depth, the user can select Detailed Ring Game Stats or Detailed Tournament Stats. These buttons launch new windows off the main Prospector application which offer detailed parsing and analysis of the user’s play. Prospector’s creators consider this “the most playback prospector powerful feature of Prospector,” one which “can provide an in depth view of a Player's poker history and skill.” Nine separate analysis of the raw data are provided. These include a customizable graph, an assessment of player actions by street and level of aggression, performance by position, performance by number of players at the table, performance by strength of starting cards, performance based on how the starting hand evolves by street, performance vs specific villains captured in the data, and numerical totals showing overall performance and performance preflop and by street
Yes, this is a ton of analysis, and this is really where Prospector hits its sweet spot. This all comes by default. You don’t have to tell it what you’re interested in. You don’t have to drill down into weird sub-filters. You don’t have to track down arcane user-created manuals to get the most out of this software. The programmers play poker and know what poker players need, and they simply provide it.
I fumbled with Poker Tracker for months, before accidentally stumbling into arcane and confusing user manual #1. Sometime later, I read another, totally different analysis of how to user PT, and this came with arcane manual #2. But then came manual #3, with its own philosophy about what is important. I do not doubt there are many more manuals and philosophies, all revolving around a single piece of software. Sure, you can do a heck-of-a-lot with Poker Tracker, but the 15% of total functionality which is actually important gets buried in an overly complex system of filters and options.
This is user unfriendly at its worst, and getting into the deep weeds of PT reminds me too much of my command line DOS days back in the 80s. Sure, I was “close to the metal,” and could wring maximum functionality out of the computer, but when I met my first Mac in 1984, a light came on. People much smarter than me had put constraints around what the user could do in theory, but in that process, they highlighted many of the practical things I genuinely wanted from my machine but could never quite figure out in a command line world. In theory I could do more, but in reality I did far less, because I was simply unaware of the machine’s true capacity, even though I had hypothetically limitless freedom. Hell, my first computer could be programmed directly in machine code, and I dutifully bought and studied the manual, but I never got anywhere.
Prospector imposes considered constraints, automatically presenting the user with detailed analysis, and the result is far more useful, because it is an analysis which answers the questions I didn’t even realize I needed to ask. This is wise programming. This is also Prospector’s real strength and competitive advantage against currently market-leading Poker Tracker. You don’t need to be a database programmer to use Prospector. You merely need to be a poker player who wants to improve. And who on earth doesn’t fit into that category?
The useful features of Prospector go on. My personal favorite is the Reports tab, which generates numerous reports showing you where your leaks are in all aspects of the game. Brilliant! Not me, but Prospector, which figured out pretty darn quickly that I am way too aggressive preflop (at all seats), struggle with positional awareness, struggle with c-betting, and so on! Tens of thousands of hands lay bare my patterns, in seconds. I wish Prospector had a “Humility” button to help me tone things down a bit. Sadly, I suppose software can only go so far.
One really fascinating datum tracked by Prospector is your luck. Do you believe you run bad? It might be true. Prospector considers all your pocket pairs and how often they hit sets, on a Gaussian distribution. It compares the amount of luck you have at converting vs an average amount of luck. It turns out I’m actually one standard deviation below the mean when it comes to converting my pocket pairs into sets, over a series of 55,000 starting hands. This isn’t an excuse to throw self-improvement out the window and wallow in “bad luck,” but it is a chance to sit back and realize, to some degree, I have been running bad, so I can cut myself some slack regarding my performance. Now, if you’re running good but getting poor results, it might be time to hone your chops. Prospector can tell you precisely where you stand in that regard.
With the two already noted exceptions about being unable to meta-analyze aggregate stats, and the odd mismatch between numeric data and graphical data in bankroll tracking, I can honestly recommend Poker Academy Prospector without reservation. This software isn’t perfect, but it is excellent, which is pretty darn close. It is feature rich, but you don’t need to be a programmer to tap those features. You only need to be a poker player committed to developing your game, willing to put in the time to follow an intuitive interface. Using Prospector is easy. Learning from the rich analysis it will provide about your game is the hard part, but in the same way that quitting smoking or losing weight is hard. At least now you have a software option that helps you discover the truth about your play quickly and cleanly. Don’t take my word on this. Read the online manual for yourself. Download the free demo. I predict you will feel pretty happy about plunking down the dough for this high-powered tool.
BaddBeatBobb’s final grade: A (could hit A+ in the future if the meta-analysis and bankroll data capture issues are resolved)