One of the more interesting gaming trends that has recently emerged is that more professional women are now learning poker in order to improve their financial skills and boost their careers. Certain poker courses use the card game to teach women risk-taking and negotiation skills, which can be applied to workplace scenarios. Among female MBA students, the demand more than doubled from 100 spots offered, with almost 4000 women in more than 20 countries signing up to play Texas Hold‘em over Zoom.
If anything, this scenario goes to show how much poker is a game of skill. Strong players should have a background in mathematics, probability, and statistics. One of the key ways to apply this knowledge is through GTO poker strategy.
What is the GTO Poker Strategy?
There are two types of winning poker approaches: GTO or exploitative play, which we’ll delve into later. In poker terms, GTO poker stands for Game Theory Optimal (GTO) poker, which is a theoretically mathematically perfect way to play poker. It’s a defensive strategy that balances your value hands and bluffs in a way that leaves you unexploitable, so your opponents make mistakes against you.
The GTO model is rigid. You have to follow the same strategy against all opponents, without any adjustments. And because you’re not exploiting their weaknesses, you may not win big hands against them all the time. For example, if the GTO model dictates that the perfect three-bet size in any scenario is 13 big blinds, you’ll bet that size regardless of who your opponent is — even if they’re a loose player who’ll call a 30 big blind three-bet when you have pocket aces.
GTO vs. Exploitative Play Poker
On the other hand, exploitative play maximizes your expected value in any given situation by countering your opponents’ sub-optimal plays and weaker tendencies. While this opens you up to exploitation as well, you can still reap maximum profits from weaker opponents. For instance, one major vulnerability while taking risks is internal bias. Players accumulate all past card values and outcomes with a fading memory, and what happens most recently weighs on them the most. This allows you to predict how they’re feeling based on their most recent bets.
To summarize, the GTO approach is a specific way of playing a hand that’s correct. The exploitative approach is knowing that a certain hand may be correct, but you’re banking more on your opponent’s tendencies so you move to deal maximum damage — which is what most players prefer to do.
Limitations of GTO Strategy
While the GTO for less complex poker games have been solved, the strategy for No Limit Hold’em is not yet known by any human or computer. This poker variant has too many variables, so the GTO strategy hasn’t been solved yet. And even if the formula has been found, it would be too complex for human beings to memorize. There’s no way you can learn what to do in each situation by heart.
Moreover, playing with GTO solely is not the most profitable style of play either. It fails to account for the psychological aspects of poker. At best, some aspects of GTO offers players an incredibly solid foundation against tough opponents, but you need to incorporate exploitative approaches to become a truly strong player.
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