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Poker for Dummies
with Richard D. Harroch
Contents and More Information
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 298 pages
Date: April 10, 2000
Publisher: IDG Books
ISBN: 0764552325

Order online from:
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Software Review: Sidewinder Sid Comes to Town

This article originally appeared in Card Player Magazine.

This marks the fourth or fifth time I've written about Wilson Software's Turbo Texas Hold'em in this column, never mind the substantial amount of space devoted to it in my latest book Poker For Dummies. So it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that I'm an enthusiastic and avid user of their software. One reason I'm a big fan of the Turbo poker software is that developer Bob Wilson and henchman Mike Gilbert never rest on their laurels. They have continued to refine, upgrade, improve, and add substantial value to their product over the years.

Each succeeding release is more sophisticated, and powerful than earlier versions. Not only do the games play better, each new release is also a superior research tool. And Version 4.0, which took more than 18 months to complete, is a major step forward for the software that is already so far ahead of any other competing product that they have lapped the field.

For those of you unfamiliar with Wilson software, let me bring you quickly up to speed. In a nutshell, Turbo Texas Hold'em allows you to play poker against a lineup of various "profiles" that can even be modified or tweaked is one is so inclined. One can specify the number of opponents, the number of raises, even whether the players will act more or less aggressively. So sophisticated are some of these profiles, that they are sensitive pot odds for flush and straight draws, as well as to the action of other opponents -- cyber as well as human -- and will adjust their play based on their determination of whether an opponent -- human or otherwise -- seems to have gone "on tilt."

An on-screen advisor can be called up at any time to offer an opinion about the play pf a hand. A variety of summary and detailed statistics are also available at the click of a mouse. In addition, Turbo provides the ability to run a multitude of high-speed simulations. It even has a "repeatable deal" feature that lets one run, for example, the same set of 5,000 random hands with each variable being tested. Results achieved this way are therefore independent of the luck of the draw, since each variable was tested against a given set of randomly preselected hands.

At a poker seminar I conducted recently on a Card Player jaunt to the Caribbean, many of the questions asked by attendees dealt with the suggestions and feedback provided by the software's advisor feature. These concerns led to two major improvements in Version 4.0. Extensive testing was done to upgrade the quality and realism of the automatic advisors. The advisor capability and functionality was also expanded, and many of the profiles now adjust their playing style based on the number of opponents. In addition, some of the profiles also adjust their tactics based on whether they have the lead, that is, whether they raised last on the previous betting round. Just like in live games, you can expect some opponents to be more aggressive if they were the one who put in the last raise on the prior betting round.

Sidewinder Sid is an optional program that provides a detailed hand-by-hand analysis of any errors in one's play. Using Microsoft text-to-speech technology, a talking cartoon character named Sidewinder Sid comments on your play and reviews any errors while the hand in question is "replayed." While Sid acknowledges that you won't necessarily agree with his analysis all of the time, he does point out that if he continues to notice a relatively high number of errors, you can take it for granted that your game needs refinement.

Sidewinder Sid is rather like having an expert sit by your side recording each hand you play. You can have Sid review your play in summary fashion, or he can provide a detailed analysis of each action you took during those hands he's called into question. When I test-drove Sid I purposely misplayed a number of close-call hands just to get an inkling of how sophisticated he was. Of course if you call in early position with a hand like Q-3 Sid is going to slam you, but he also hones in on relatively loose calls, like Jd 7d in middle position, or calling in early position with a pair of sixes. These are not the egregious errors of a maniac, but the kinds of errors made all the time by real-world players in games at every betting limits.

Sid will comment on hands played too aggressively as well as those played too passively, and he'll also point out whether checking or calling, or folding, betting, or raising was the preferred option. Sid also points out when your play was not aggressive enough, and he'll do this on every betting round -- preflop to the river -- and give you the benefit of his analysis.

Another feature new to Version 4.0 is called "Challenge Mike," named in honor of Mike Gilbert who has been working with Bob Wilson for years, refining and developing player profiles and playing strategy. The challenge is for you to win more money than Mike does -- or to lose less -- after 50, 100, or 200 hands. Mike goes first. After the deal button is clicked, he will quickly play the number of hands you selected. This takes about a second -- less if you have a fast machine. To make your task tougher, you will not have access to the "Advice," "Odds," "Peeking," "Look," "or "Replay," features during the challenge.

You are, in essence, playing "Duplicate Hold'em" against an "Advisor" profile, and at the halfway point in your challenge a screen will pop up telling you whether you're ahead or behind in the race. At the conclusion, the winner will be shown as well as the amount won or lost. The repeatable deal code is also shown, so you can use this to replay those same hands if you wish.

Version 4.0 is a major enhancement to an already terrific program, and the incremental cost of $14.95 for Sidewinder Sid is a bargain of the first order. I've been an unabashed fan of Wilson Software for years, and always recommend it to anyone who asks. And I'm not gonna stop now. Like their other products, Tournament Texas Hold'em For Windows, Turbo 7-Card Stud For Windows, Turbo Stud 8/ Or Better For Windows, Turbo Omaha High-Low Split For Windows, and Turbo Omaha High Only For Windows, these products belong in every player's poker toolbox. Software always comes with a comprehensive user's guide, and support is also available online and by telephone. Wilson Software's Internet address is http://www.wilsonsoftware.com.

Lou Krieger

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