My context: I played poker a bit, mostly online and mostly never for money, around 2010-2015. I remember there were some sites that showed like a hand strength evaluation or something. I tried looking around the site and even some articles online eg this, but I wasn't quite able to find an answer to the following question:
N00b question 1: If I were to ask whether or not calculators are cheating in online poker, then is the answer simply dependent on whether or not the site allows it?
N00b question 2: (Well maybe this one is the same question as like what I ask here.) In the absence of both such features available in the site and rulings from the site admins/mods, then is it ethical to use calculators (at least until the admins/mods reply)? Probably most popular poker sites have rulings, but perhaps the newer ones, in particular, the new variants, like choker, which I think doesn't explicitly say so on the website.
- When I say calculator here, I'm thinking only of some short-term and strictly numerical calculator that really says just '50% winning' (and most probably without specifics like '30% drawing to a flush'). This isn't some long term calculator that says like in this answer of Radu Murzea♦
You should call this, you'll win in 75 % of cases
You should fold, the player is very tight so you're probably not a favourite here
So nothing like those computers that are really designed to play the entire poker game by having programs for all those optimal bluffing strategies or whatever. What I mean by poker calculator here is like something that reduces that game to Kuhn poker. Basically, you know exactly how strong your hand is, at least for this particular round and independent of the money involved, and then what it comes down to is your bluffing, your economic/financial assessment, etc given that you know the probabilities. I mean, I believe it's not cheating to use a Kuhn poker calculator. (And going back to choker, I believe the choker probabilities are far closer in ease to the Kuhn poker calculations than to the standard poker calculations like say in texas hold 'em).
- I guess what I'm really trying to ask if it's really part of the game to require that these poker probabilities be done in one's head. What I think is:
2.1. for completely new players: they don't actually compute these of course but rather just kinda get a more accurate/precise feeling as to the strength of (i use texas hold 'em for the following examples) a 2-7 off suit pre-flop or K-8 when flop is Q-J-10.
2.2. for pros: they either are able to make a very good guess as to the approximate probabilities of the same kinds of hands they've already seen a million times (not in that they can give a literal percentage) or if they've seen a particular hand before then they've already computed the specific probabilities before.
2.3. Therefore, in my n00b assessment:
2.3.1. a pro wouldn't really benefit from a poker calculator, whether in online or in person/OTB.
2.3.2. Consequently, I don't think it's 'really part of the game'. This is contrast to using bots in esports like csgo or computers (specifically their evaluations) in abstract strategy games like chess/chess960. (I mention more next.)
2.3.3. However, there are of course practical reasons why we have these sort of 'technicalities' like rules prohibiting certain things for in person/OTB games (for poker, chess/chess960 or csgo) even if they're not 'really part of the game'.
- To use some analogies in other online games
3.1. In chess/chess960: you can't use scratch boards in OTB/in person (at least for FIDE) or in live online (at least in chess.com). But, you can in correspondence (at least in chess.com, which even has a feature for it). So, there's actually a variance as to whether or not the requirement to analyse the positions purely in your head are considered 'really part of the game'. A more pro-level example is the complete permission of the use of arrows in online live and online correspondence vs simply writing down a few notes in OTB/in person chess: A pro chess player wouldn't really benefit from arrows, whether in online or in OTB/in person.
- 3.1.1. However, it's definitely cheating to use a computer not only to tell you what good/bad moves are but also to tell you an assessment of the position (of course, evaluating would-be moves is 'really part of the game', but so is evaluating past or present moves.)
3.2. In csgo: some tournaments won't allow 'jumpthrow binds' (binds that allow your character to simultaneously jump and throw something. But, in the regular steam app, you can (make a script to do it, though there's not quite a button for this). So once again there's variance as to whether or not you 'really' have to develop the skill to press the jump and throw buttons and precisely the same time (like within a certain fraction of a seconds) as 'part of the game'.
- 3.2.1. However, it's definitely cheating to use a computer to aim for you or to see through walls, since the physical skill of aim and the mental and financial/economic skill of getting information are both highly essential components of the game i.e. they are 'really part of the game'.
I tag with 'variant' because I mention choker and Kuhn poker (not because I mention texas hold 'em, which I think is actually not merely a 'variant'). I tag 'etiquette' because in chess se, 'ethics' is a synonym of etiquette.
One tool I use to consider (but not really to conclude outright!) if something is 'really part of the game' is if there's a way to know (in the sense of gathering some evidence based on a possibility or unfair impacts to the game, not necessarily beyond reasonable doubt) if the other person is 'cheating'.
5.1. For example, there are ways to detect if someone is hacking in csgo or using computer (evaluations) in chess/chess960. But I don't necessarily know (in chess/chess960) if the other person is using a scratch board (possibly computer, and if so, then with engine turned off of course) or arrows (in some chess/chess960 which disables arrows).
5.2. For me personally: I don't consider scratch boards cheating/unfair/unethical in online live chess/chess960, even though chess.com doesn't allow it, but I don't use scratch boards. (They of course have no advantage in bullet/blitz games, but I don't and wouldn't use even in higher time controls.) I mean, I rarely think of someone as cheating in chess/chess960, but if ever I did, I'd hardly think that they were using a scratch board. I believe I would think the same in poker(/choker) for poker calculators.