How to Play Poker Basics
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Math is a beautiful thing. Using math to solve a problem results in an answer that is
either right or wrong. There are no gray areas of interpretation. This is especially true within a finite range of 52 values
that make up a deck of cards. The only time math can be questioned is in its application, and herein lies the dilemma with
“Calculatem Pro”. Calculatem is a Texas Holdem odds calculator designed to provide contemporaneous advice to online poker
players. While it does its job as advertised, it sparks a debate between relying solely on mathematical accuracy or one’s
own innate reading skill and bravado as a poker player. What matters most while playing poker: pure numbers, or “feel”?
Calculatem Pro is obtained by downloading the program and purchasing a yearly license (for $99.85 US). A player’s return on
investment will depend largely on the stakes being played, and how closely one chooses to rely on Calculatem’s “advice”. The
number of “extra” won pots that can be attributed to the information it offers, and which alters a player’s initial “gut
feeling”, will eventually pay for the program. There is a way to obtain a free license (for just one year). It involves
opening up brand new accounts at (a very limited number of) “partner” poker sites, making real money deposits and playing a
required number of hands before you can “unlock” the software for use at your preferred online poker site. This process will
surely be time consuming and a hassle to most longtime online players who have an established favorite site, but could be
the way to go for someone new to online poker with no previous affiliation.
Installation of Calculatem and getting it to work properly is a fairly easy process, but judging by the number of “FAQs” on
their website dealing with these issues, there are obviously some glitches that can be encountered. Depending on computer
hardware settings, and various individual poker sites, and/or combinations of both, some minor problems can occur. Most
appear to be easily resolved, but might involve changing certain settings on your computer and/or the way you view tables.
Consult with the website for solutions, but don’t hold your breath waiting for a response from their “Support” department.
Unanswered e-mails are a problem here.
Upon starting the program, users see the following simple dialog box:
At first, the word “Attach” is grayed out (left picture above), signifying it is inactive. However, when the box is dragged
over any supported Hold’em table, the “Attach” button turns blue. Clicking the button then assigns the Calculatem program to
that table. Note: Calculatem only works with dedicated Texas Holdem games. (For example, you cannot attach Calculatem to a
HORSE table during the Hold’em portion.) If you are “multi-tabling” more than one Hold’em game, you must start Calculatem
again by double-clicking the desktop icon (once for each table) and assigning the “new” Attach dialogue to each table. Once
you click the “Attach” button, you will tell Calculatem what seat you are sitting in by clicking the “I am here” buttons it
places next to each seat on the active table.
(Some minor glitches were encountered here depending on the number of empty seats and/or “sitting out” players, so be
careful to count clockwise from the “dealer tray” (or the #1 seat position on most tables) to ensure the green “Here”
corresponds to your actual seat/avatar.) Thereafter, Calculatem instantly begins receiving and displaying the
for the hand in progress, which lets you know it is working. A user’s hole cards are displayed once he is dealt into a hand.
Using Calculatem Pro for the first time can seem daunting. Anticipation is quickly replaced by confusion. Numbers abound in
such vast quantities on such a small “dashboard”; it instantly (albeit temporarily) becomes more of a distraction than an
asset. It can easily take 100 or more hands to finally figure out what you can ignore and what information can be useful.
It’s easy to think you are “missing something”.
The following picture is an example of a Hold’em table accompanied by its “Calculatem” companion in “Full Mode” (on the right):
The top portion of the interface remains constant and displays an easy to read layout of the cards in your hand and the cards in play
(i.e. - the community cards). The center portion of the interface is the “meat and potatoes” of Calculatem. On the left (see below),
it displays Calculatem Pro's “advice” on how to play your hand. This advice is shown in a convenient "meter" style graphic
indicating how you should play. An arrow will appear on the left side of the meter, pointing to the suggested action area. The user
(on the “Options” screen) can control the suggested course of action shown on the meter. This is done by setting minimum playable hands
(by percentage rank), by position, and can be changed anytime. These are just guidelines, and should take a back seat to “the odds”.
To the right of the “advice meter”,
you'll also see information on: odds you'll draw to win, total outs, pot vs. call odds (or
“pot odds”), odds you hold a winner,
as well as additional odds information about your hand, in these four key boxes of the entire program. The box that initially
displays “Hand Rank” on the deal will immediately change to display your number of outs after the flop. The “Best hand on the flop?”
odds will change to “Odds You’ll Draw to Win” after the flop. The “Pot vs. Call” box are the pots odds you’ll be getting on a call.
While you can merely compare the pot odds to your odds of winning the hand (the box below it) to determine a call or a fold, Calculatem
provides a color-coded text announcement for you, eliminating any human error. This area of the dashboard display is basically all you need.
Toward the bottom of the full mode interface is where you can find specific odds information about the game/hand you're
playing. This section allows you to toggle through four different views: Odds on the River, Odds on the Next Card, the
Table, and the Deck (see screenshots of each individually below).
As stated previously, due to the vast amount of odds data that is provided, it takes quite some time to feel comfortable
even consulting Calculatem, let alone deciding whether or not you agree with its “advice”. However, once you figure out how
to ignore all the superfluous information and graphics, user satisfaction and potential extra
profits boils down to one’s “style” of play (reflected on the “meter”,
and completely adjustable) and reliance on the odds numbers. Taking the time to understand the information and strip away the bells and whistles
can ultimately lead to a tool that will provide a sound basis for a tough decision.
If the “full mode” view of Calculatem is too overwhelming, users have the option of switching to a more basic “Mini Mode”
(shown in the next picture). This condensed view has been placed on the top of the poker table, but can be dragged below as
well. The “advice meter” remains, with check, call, raise, etc. text appearing above it when it is your turn to act. Hole
cards are placed in line with community cards (appearing from left to right), with “outs” and “odds to win” data in the
center. “Pot odds” notification is left of the advice meter. After using Calculatem for an extended period of time, many
users may find that this simpler view mode is sufficient for its intended purpose.
While deciphering the pertinent odds information is certainly not clear in the beginning, it is always straightforward and
accurate. Again, the beauty of math: Calculatem’s data are numbers derived from complex algorithms. However, no advanced
mathematical formula can account for crafty play by an experienced player, or
maniacal bluffs by a Gus Hanson wannabe.
Although you can “adjust” the program to “play” more “loosely”, and recommend more aggressive action, it is the actual
“odds” it provides that should be considered at the end of the day. For example (with default “style” settings), in a
6-handed game, it advised a pre-flop raiser who just flopped middle pair and a nut
flush draw to check, because it is
relying purely on hand ranking percentages and pure odds. This is not the time to debate
“continuation bet theory” vs.
“Calculatem’s accuracy”, but it is safe to say that only Tight-Passive players will feel they have found their poker soulmate
in Calculatem without investing some time to customize the default settings. Let’s face it, not often does a player get true
“pot odds” to call to, say, a flush draw. However, very often they are close enough on a situational basis, and thus investing
more chips in a pot is warranted. In over 200 hands, only once did a situation arise when Calculatem clearly announced in green text,
“Pot Odds are Favorable to Call”. In its defense, it is not human and can’t fudge the math of odds calculations to appear so. “It is what it is.”
So... Numbers or “feel” - what matters most? It is probably safe to say a lot of both. There is no doubt that Calculatem Pro can (and does)
provide the key “numbers” that can sway an important decision, but as any successful player will tell you - there is much more to poker.
Also Read this article on Poker
Software record keeping.