Game Theory Optimal AKA GTO Poker Theory Explained

GTO Poker

Game theory optimal (GTO) poker is a term advanced poker strategists coined some years ago to essentially create perfect poker playing. It’s a theory that has swept the poker world by storm with it being advocated by countless professionals. In this article, I’m going to explain what GTO is, why it’s popular, highlight why I think it isn’t ideal for low stakes games and also suggest some appropriate software. Hopefully by the end of this post you’ll have a good idea of GTO is and whether it is a strategy you want to adopt in the future.

What is GTO poker?

In simple terms, it is a strategy that makes a player unexploitable. By balancing frequencies, the player adopting GTO is trying to play perfect poker in the mathematical sense so as to achieve maximum profit and the best win rate possible.

Why is GTO poker popular?

Unlike some games which can stagnate and become boring, poker is a complex game that is constantly evolving. After two decades of internet popularity, players like the notion of “solving” poker. GTO poker strategy is basically solving the game.

With no Americans and proliferation of advanced software to assist, people want strategies that can work effectively against strong regulars and people you don’t know too. These are the common scenarios part-time poker players will find online. You’ll either be playing against tough regulars or anonymous on a fast fold poker format. In these environments, exploitative strategy is considered less desirable to the wannabe professional. That’s where GTO strategy has come in and answered the call.

Another reason for the popularity is the famous faces that have made it mainstream. Daniel Negreanu has almost re-branded himself in recent years by adopting the GTO strategy in games. He has a vast following that hand on his every word. Check out the video below with over 1 million views as proof. What his viewers should remember though is that he plays in the highest stakes games against the same opposition, something they won’t be doing often in major online sites where the micro and low stakes games have the highest traffic.

GTO doesn’t work at low stakes?

This may be a controversial point among readers but I firmly believe GTO doesn’t work as the best method of playing in low stakes games. Speaking from experience of players we’ve coached and mentored; GTO is far from ideal in low stakes cash and tournaments.

Low stakes games are filled with poor players. Granted, they calibre is higher than 10 years ago but the standard is still poor. You’ll find yourself playing against people who aren’t focused, probably watching TV or just lack the fundamentals of Texas Hold’em. Even the capable opponents in low stakes games aren’t great otherwise they’d have moved up stakes already. What does this all mean? It’s simple, playing a defensive strategy like GTO to avoid being unexploitable is a waste of time. The players in the low stake’s games are so bad and have so many leaks, that an exploitative strategy is more likely to earn you more money.

Fire up any NL $25 or below game and watch the poor plays. Observe the unique and quite frankly terrible plays and you’ll quickly realise that earning money at low stakes is about making personal adjustments in real time with aid of a heads up display. One player may be too passive pre-flop, another may c-bet too frequently, or another only 3-bet queens or better. Whatever fishy tendency your opponent(s) have, you can quickly and effectively fashion an exploitative approach that will garner better results than a robotic and standardised one that GTO would promote.

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GTO poker software for advanced players

Look, I am not entirely against GTO poker across the board. There are games where it has massive value and is proven by the high stakes experts who employ this strategy. I know a decent portion of my readers are advanced players who play NL $400 and up where player pools are smaller and games are tougher. In these games, GTO is a method of playing that is probably going to yield better results than exploitative.

If this is you, then you need to have the right software to assist you. GTO solvers are essential to the modern theory poker players trying to hone their GTO game. Our research shows that Simple Poker is one of the best to use. Click below for poker software we recommend and don’t forget to get 10% off Simple Poker via our link.

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Narciso Baldo is the Director and Head Coach of Texas Hold'em Questions. He has been playing poker for over 16 years. After spending many years as a professional, he now runs UK poker training site Texas Hold'em Questions. Narciso regularly writes poker articles sharing tips, strategy, news and experience with gambling enthusiasts. Narciso also writes for reputable gambling portal Casino City Times, (bio here). Contact: info@texasholdemquestions.com