Monday, January 09, 2012

One Year of the Odds Oracle!

Summing it Up

It has been just about a year since the first closed beta of the Odds Oracle 0.1 came out. As of the writing of this article, we are on version 1.8.5 and just on the cusp of 2.0. User feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, and from a business perspective things are going reasonably well. This couldn't have been possible without the constant support, suggestions, questions and encouragement of Odds Oracle users - I thank you all! Below is a summary of what we have achieved together, and what I feel are the good, great, and not-so-great parts of the Odds Oracle as it stands now.

The Good
  • "Show PQL" buttons everywhere help users to make the leap from the user-interface to custom PQL queries.
  • Multiple input/output sources (hand history importer, command line, spreadsheets) have made it more convenient to run simulations.
  • Saved ranges/macros save time for users with complicated pre-constructed ranges
  • Multi-core support has been a (ahem) core design principle from the get-go. This has made it relatively easy for the Odds Oracle to take full advantage of the latest hardware.
  • Hand vs. Range equity graphs. These are what people usually want when they graph equities - this is now the default graphing algorithm.
  • Interactive hand stats on flop/turn - while not pretty to look at, this allows slicing-and-dicing of hand types in a way that would be too cumbersome otherwise.
The Great
  • "Ask the Oracle". Being able to ask probability questions using pull-down menus is awesome.
  • PQL was a big gamble, and it has paid off. PQL powers almost everything in the Odds Oracle and the website. As a result, there is a fairly straightforward correspondence between elements in the UI and generated PQL queries (this is something that will be made more explicit in 2.0)
  • Generic range syntax has turned out to be a big winner. Having one syntax available for everything has proven a boon, especially for people who play multiple games.
  • The core re-write of December, 2010 was definitely worth it. I've learned a lot since opened its doors several years ago, and starting over with this accumulated knowledge has made the code-base smaller, faster, and easier to work with. For users, that means new features can come out faster.

The Not So Great

The focus on the 0.x and 1.x series of the Odds Oracle has been to create an ever-increasing set of questions that can be answered. As a result, not enough time and effort has been spent on creating a better user experience. Specifically:
  • The range pickers are rudimentary at best.
  • The feature set is too spread out over different windows (range pickers, hand explorers, main window, equity/graph/ask the oracle/common questions buttons...). As a result, the common denominator of most of the Odds Oracle (that would be PQL) is somewhat obscured.
  • Ask the Oracle is too limited in its current form. Ideally, there should be a 1:1 correspondence between PQL and the UI - any PQL query you can write you should be able to construct in the UI (no, the PQL runner and CLI don't count!)
What's in Store for 2.0

My goals for 2.0 in priority order are:
  • Create a streamlined UI, allowing users to do most of what they want in a single window without the need to write custom PQL.
  • Create best-in-class range pickers.
  • Continue to increase the power of PQL by adding more core functions and features.
  • Spend some time working on marketing.
  • Create more instructional materials (videos, docs, ebooks?)
  • Make the UI look prettier.

If you have comments, questions, complaints, burning feature requests, or just want to shoot the breeze, please feel free to leave a comment here or on the free ProPokerTools Forum.

Here's to a productive 2012!
- Dan @ ProPokerTools