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 General Review of Wilson Software Products

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Number of posts : 1850
Age : 55
Registration date : 2008-03-08

PostSubject: General Review of Wilson Software Products   Sat 12 Apr - 20:07

Wilson Software [] makes several major poker programs. Currently, they produce:
* Turbo Texas Hold’em Version 6
* Tournament Texas Hold’em Version 5
* Turbo Omaha High Only Version 3
* Turbo Omaha High-Low Split Version 3
* Turbo Seven Card Stud Version 4
* Turbo Stud Eight or Better Version 2

You can read more specific reviews of various Wilson Products in our Poker Book and Software review section

All the programs cost $89.95, except Tournament Texas Hold’em is $59.95. An add-on for Turbo Texas Hold’em called Sidewinder Sid can be purchased. All programs have a demo version, including a demo of Sidewinder Sid within both the demo and full versions of Turbo Texas Hold’em. (If you upgrade Turbo Texas Hold’em, you do not need to re-purchase Sidewinder Sid if you still have the unlock number from the older version.)

They also have two booklets, The Little Green Book of Hold’em, and Insider Tips for Turbo Texas Hold’em, though these will not be discussed here.

Turbo Texas Hold’em is the most advanced and robust of the programs, with Tournament Texas Hold’em being the least. The other programs, while not as advanced as Turbo Texas Hold’em Version 6, are still high-quality. Not all comments here will apply to Tournament Texas Hold’em, because it is missing many features such as the advisor, simulation of hands, etc., though despite its failings, it is still the only Wilson Software program offering tournament play of any kind, and also the only one offering pot-limit and no-limit play.

Wilson Software programs are generally no-nonsense. If you want a program that can double as a nice recreational video game, they are probably not for you. Perhaps Poker Academy would be better suited to your taste, or especially Daniel Negreanu’s STACKED (which should be released soon, if it hasn’t been already by the time you read this). The programs are good at doing what they are supposed to do: providing tough competition and usually good advice.

Each Wilson Software offering features an advisor. (The one exception is Tournament Texas Hold’em.) If you don’t know what to do in a given situation, you can just look at the advisor and it will recommend a move. These recommendations are fairly robust: they are usually a simple “bet”, “fold”, etc., but you will occasionally see suggestions such as “good time for a semi-bluff checkraise”. Along with the recommendation, you will see the information the advisor uses to make its decision: whether you have the lead, how many opponents are in the pot, and so on, to help you understand why it suggests what it does. Unfortunately, the advisor does not tell you how much it weights each factor, making it harder to figure out how to arrive at the conclusion it does, and it does not provide suggestions for randomizing your play: sometimes it will say “Either fold, call, or reraise”, but fail to suggest how often to do these things, leaving you with no more of a clue than you had before! These situations are rare and marginal, and if you play at a large site like PartyPoker or PokerStars, with many opponents who come and go at a fast pace, you may not need to consciously vary your play at all. Just be aware that the software will not really teach you how to do it. The advisor in Turbo Texas Hold’em V6 has been improved to take into account your opponents’ personalities, but the other programs have yet to implement this.

The advisor in Turbo Texas Hold’em V5 (not V6) had the option for the advisor to recommend less raising or check-raising. Version 6 no longer offers this feature, probably in part because it is no longer needed so much now that the advisor understands your opponents, and in part because this discourages aggressive play, which is generally optimal.

The advisor is not perfect. I have seen Turbo Texas Hold’em’s advisor make recommendations I find questionable, for example, recommending that I raise KT offsuit in the big blind despite there being many limpers. (I could be wrong and it may turn out to be the best play given the players with some mathematical analysis, but the play seems doubtful to me. I should note that it does take the personalities of my opponents into account when it recommends this.) However, it rarely recommends a really bad move.

There is more than one way to use the advisor. One is the obvious way: click on “advisor” to see a display telling you what move to make and why. Another way is to enable highlighting, so that bad moves are highlighted in red and good moves are shown in the standard yellow. I don’t like this feature because it tells you what move to make before you thought about it, but it’s there if you want it. Another is to right-click in the bottom area of the screen, and it will announce what it thinks the correct play is and move your mouse cursor to it (if there is only one suggested play). Finally, if the feature is enabled, you can click and hold on a move you are considering. If it likes the move, the cursor will not change, but if it doesn’t, it will turn into a hand, and you can drag the cursor away from the button and safely release the mouse button.

Challenge the Advisor
The advisor is not the only helpful tutorial feature. For example, you can choose to challenge the advisor. (The advisor is usually given a name. For example, Turbo Texas Hold’em has Challenge Mike, whereas in Turbo Omaha High/Low you will challenge Sherlock Holmes or Charlie Chan!) You play your standard ring game with settings of your choice for 50, 100, or 200 hands, with all advisor help disabled. This is helpful if you can’t help but peek at the advisor every time you’re unsure. The advisor will play through each hand against the given opponents, hidden from your view, and then you are dealt the same cards as the advisor was, and at the end your winnings are compared to the advisor’s. The results may be surprising: even if you play only a few hands differently from the advisor, your results can differ greatly. If you can consistently profit over the advisor, you must be doing well indeed. If you are using Turbo Texas Hold’em, and bought the Sidewinder Sid add-on, you can have Sid analyze the hands afterward.

Stack the deck
There are other powerful features. For example, you can stack the deck and/or freeze the button. If you have trouble playing AK in early position, or you’re never quite sure what to do with middle pair, this is the perfect feature to help you get it right. There is one serious flaw in the design of this feature, however. If you make a mistake in how you want the deck stacked, you must click “undo” and start all over. There is no way to return a card back to the deck. This is frustrating for setting up more complicated situations. It is still a very useful feature, but I expect this flaw will make many users use it less often.

You can also run simulations. This includes the traditional “hot and cold” simulation, where you can see for yourself how often 22 beats AK at the showdown. This is not very useful for limit play, but if you play no-limit hold’em as well, this is useful information for calculating all-in pre-flop situations. (Alas, Tournament Texas Hold’em lacks all simulation capabilities, so ironically you cannot use this feature in the program where it is most useful!) You can also simulate full hands of poker. For instance, gather a few computer opponents and have them play one million hands. If your computer is reasonably fast, it shouldn’t take too long for it to complete. It certainly won’t be done in a few seconds, but probably not longer than thirty minutes. (My 1.6 GHz Pentium 4 computer can simulate between four and five million hold’em hands an hour, depending on if I just let it sit or if I’m doing something else on the computer at the same time.) This is useful for multiple reasons. First, you can see just how big an effect things such as skill and the rake can have on a game. Just one or two players who play only slightly better than the opposition can make a shocking amount of profit off of the other players over a million hands. Second, if you design custom opponents, it’ll allow you to quickly evaluate their performance. Finally, you can use it to get an estimate of the value of a certain hand for a certain kind of player. For instance, if you want to know just how much AA under the gun is worth, stack the deck and freeze the button so that an average player is in that situation every hand, and watch his profit skyrocket.

User interface
All Wilson Software programs use the same general user interface, and I’m afraid to say it leaves some to be desired. The graphics are plain with flat colors, although the avatars that were introduced in Turbo Texas Hold’em V6 and Tournament Texas Hold’em V5 are reasonably well-drawn and add a little spice. Both of these two programs (but not the others) also start with a 3D intro video which, I imagine, is supposed to highlight the dramatic tension of Texas hold’em in glorious 256-color video. (That was sarcasm.) The user is required to hit the Escape key to exit the video; clicking the mouse and hitting a random key on the keyboard don’t work. I don’t know about you, but I don’t use my Escape key very often. Thankfully, it is possible to disable this silly video using the Turbo Texas Hold’em Display program that comes bundled with the software, but I wish it were possible to do so within the program itself instead of using an external program. Other Wilson Software offerings have a relatively simple splash screen along with a cheesy MIDI of “Take Five”, which you can simply click away.

Returning to more important issues, the user interface of the Wilson Software programs seems a bit antiquated, reminiscent of many Windows 3.1 programs. (Windows 3.1 was what computers used between the fall the Tyrannosaurus Rex and rise of the caveman, approximately 70 million to 50 million B.C.) I doubt this will change anytime soon, because changing this probably requires rewriting the programs in C++, and they are currently written in Delphi. In English: it would be a lot of work. What I mean by an antiquated user interface is that the buttons are “Borland-style”, a large blocky style with cute little images like a green checkmark inside the “OK” button. They were a big improvement over what Windows 3.1 offered, but they just look cheesy today. Still, this is not Wilson’s fault so much as Borland’s.

But that is still a minor issue. There are a few things that I really don’t like about the interface. For example, at the top of Turbo Texas Hold’em V6, there are these menus on the menu bar: Hold’em, Game Setup, Profile, Lineup, Tips, Help. They’re descriptive enough (though “Hold’em” menu is just the standard “File” menu in disguise). However, “Profile”, “Lineup”, and “Tips” are not really menus at all! They are commands. If you click Lineup, you will not be presented with a drop-down menu. Instead, you will be taken to a screen where you decide who your opponents are. Commands belong in drop-down menus, not on the menu bar itself. “Profile” and “Lineup” could have been put under a single “Profile” menu, with “Customize profile” and “Choose lineup” as sub-options. Alternatively, they could both go under “Game Setup”. “Tips” clearly belongs under the “Help” menu.

The layout of the various configuration screens and dialogs doesn’t seem to be the best, either. It’s not horrible, but not that great, either. Buttons and other things to click on are too large.

One of the more serious interface quirks may seem the most minor: the program will automatically move the mouse cursor around. For example, if a dialog box has an “OK” button, it will move the mouse cursor to the OK button, or after clicking OK, it may move the mouse cursor to the middle of the screen. My complaint with this feature is it feels very unnatural when you’re used to programs that do not change the cursor’s position. Imagine using a program and after you click something an invisible robot arm magically moves your hand to where it thinks you might want it. It’s disorienting. You can turn the feature off, but unfortunately there are a few situations where it will still move the cursor whether or not the feature is disabled.

The Wilson Software programs come with a good installer. However, none of the Wilson Software offerings come with an uninstaller. It will not leave traces of itself on your system if you simply delete the folder, desktop icon, and Start Menu folder, but it is still mildly annoying to delete all of them manually. This same inconvenience applies to the demo versions, which you are likely to want to uninstall at some point.

I notice that most the Wilson Software programs I’ve used so far are bad at shorthanded play, with Turbo Texas Hold’em being a shining exception. It handles even heads-up situations pretty well. But if you want to get Turbo Seven-Card Stud Eight-or-Better to learn how to play heads-up while you wait for others to join, forget it. See the article for the appropriate program to see why that particular program isn’t good enough just yet.

The “bad” things I mentioned are virtually a footnote compared to what these programs can do for your game, unless you play shorthanded a lot (but Turbo Texas Hold’em is good at that, too). Take my advice: buy them. You don’t have to get all of them, just the games you play, but they’re good for expanding your horizons, too. If you play hold’em at all, be sure to get Sidewinder Sid, too. Don’t worry about how much they cost. In the end, they don’t cost money. They make money. But you have to use them, so if you have any doubts, check out the free demo versions first. Don’t get me wrong: they are not the be-all and end-all of poker software. I can think of tons of features that would be nice to have but are not in any poker program I know of. We’re just scratching the surface, folks. But for now, these are the best damn programs on the market, and that’s good enough for me.

Don’t forget to check out the competing Poker Academy Pro, too. It only has limit and no-limit hold’em, but it has a few nice features that Turbo Texas Hold’em and Tournament Texas Hold’em don’t have, most notably tougher competition and the ability to play with other Poker Academy users online. I recommend that serious limit hold’em players get both Turbo Texas Hold’em and Poker Academy Pro. (No-limit players can skip Turbo Texas Hold’em, as it supports limit only.)
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