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Review/first impressions of Poker Copilot software for Mac OS X

I’m not an expert poker player, haven’t used a lot of other poker tracking software, and have only been using Poker Copilot for a week, so I’m not going to do an exhaustive review, just share some first thoughts. (If you are an expert, please chime in!)

Poker Copilot is currently the only actively developed poker software for Mac OS X folks like me, since Mac Poker Pro is apparent abandonware and Poker Tracker’s Mac port has been repeatedly postponed. Given that, I can say first of all, without hesitation, that Copilot is absolutely worth a look if you’re on a Mac and not using any analysis software at all (it’s a snap to download and install, and you can use it for 30 days without registering).

Poker Copilot can be used on its own, purely as an analysis tool for your past games. It maintains a database of all the hands you’ve played and calculates a bunch of standard summary statistics (% flops seen, % aggression) that you can use to study your own play and your opponents’, and analyze using both sortable tables and pretty line graphs. But Copilot also offers a HUD (or heads-up display) that overlays your opponents’ stats right on the poker table while you’re playing, which is the main reason I wanted it and the feature I use most. Here’s what the HUD looks like (click to enlarge):

Poker Copilot HUD screenshot

There’s also a short video of the HUD on the Poker Copilot blog. One thing you’ll notice about my screenshot is that the hole cards of the upper-right player are obscured by the HUD, which I found to be super annoying because the hole cards only flash for a second or so. I was about to file a bug/feature report about it, but then I found that Steve’s already fixed it in version 1.62 — and now you can drag and drop the HUD boxes anywhere you want. Awesome!

The HUD works perfectly well for my needs. I’d love it if I could input custom functions for analysis (I’ll say more on this later), and I suppose it would be cool if it integrated note-taking and did some other things Poker Tracker does, although those aren’t a priority for me.

One drawback is that when you click on an opponent (either in the HUD or main program), you don’t get nearly the same depth of information you can about yourself, or that programs like Poker Tracker provide. For instance, I’d like to see an opponents’ hand history along with things like position and hole cards, to try to figure out, say, how/why they’re varying their preflop raises. Ideally, from the HUD I’d be able to click an opponent and get a sortable hand-history window with columns like hole cards (if known), preflop action (raise/limp/call/RR/fold/raise+fold to RR etc.), total preflop bet, position, flop action and outcome (folded on turn, lost at showdown to QQ etc.). Minimally, it would be nice to just be able to use the main program’s Hands, Recent Hands and Position views for opponents as well as yourself.

As far as the main program goes, its summary statistics and line charts are pretty slick, as you can see from the video walkthrough on the Poker Copilot homepage. Here’s where I have to be honest and say that I haven’t used the program enough to give a useful critique — part of that is the statistician in me, wary of drawing conclusions from too little data (~1000 hands) or of projecting my own biases or conclusions onto data that could be interpreted in many ways (see the voodoo science of “technical analysis” stock traders, for example). So, I’ll wait until I have something more substantive to offer before critiquing the main program in depth.

In general, though, I will say that I’m initially a bit underwhelmed by the relatively simple aggregate statistics that most poker software (this isn’t unique to Poker Copilot) reports. These stats (VPiP, agression etc.) are fine for making overall judgments about your game (too tight, playing too many hands from the SB, not continuation betting enough), judgments mostly relating to hand selection. But poker is about so much more than picking what hands to throw away — it’s about playing your opponents, not your cards — and often these kinds of aggregate stats can be very similar for both a winning and losing (say, somebody like me who holds on to his KK too long) player. For instance, cbetting to loose players is basically throwing money away (unless you get lucky and draw out), but it’s usually a winning strategy against tight players who see you betting with a K on the board and assume that, if you’re betting, you’ve got a hand with at least another K in it.

Software can’t play the game for you, but it can do a better job of highlighting the most relevant information for you in a given game situation than just aggregate stats, which also have room for improvement (for instance, a statistic to identify a player’s slowplay tendency).

I’m something of a stats nerd, so personally I’d love to be able to plug in my own custom functions (for both analysis in the main program and for use in the HUD). Of course this is probably not a common feature request (and as a programmer I know it’s a lot harder than saying “make it work like Excel” … I’d be fine just using Java but there’s the obvious security/stability issue with letting people execute arbitrary code, and the “right” way of adding a language parser is far from trivial), but I would really love it!

As a programmer, one of the things I really love about Poker Copilot is that it’s a one-man startup project (good on you Steve!). I mean, the author even wrote something about the Listener or Producer/Consumer design pattern on his blog (nerdgasm!). But as such, along with the benefit of very rapid development (new features and improvements all the time), you get drawbacks such as sparse documentation that’s little more than a command reference. Happily, Copilot is looking for a technical writer, so hopefully the documentation will improve. Personally, I’d love to see more use cases and practical examples that explain how to use the stats to change your play and improve your game.

Conclusion

The underpinnings are all there in Poker Copilot for a very solid product, even if it doesn’t yet measure up to Poker Tracker 3’s feature set — if PT3 is Photoshop, then Copilot is iPhoto. It’s well-designed, very easy to install and get rolling with, and at least worth my $49. So, it’s already a viable niche product for us second-class Mac users. Only time will tell if it matures into a competitor to the serious pro software out there.

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2 comments »

  • I have just started using Poker CoPilot and find it helpful but like you discussed not as good as Poker Office that i used to have on the PC, Have you since found any other poker software for the Mac or are you still using Poker Copilot?

  • Things have changed a lot since you wrote that review: there are now two Mac poker software that are both much better than that: Poker Tracker 3 for Mac and, even better, Poker Lens.

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