Skill #10. Taking On The Pros – P3: GAME-THEORY OPTIMAL PLAY

Game Theory Optimal play, or GTO, is now a buzzword. The theory suggests you can create an optimal strategy that can’t be beaten by any other strategy, and that beats any other strategy no matter what it is. This is the strategy the Computer Poker Research Group (CPRG) at the University of Alberta calculated for heads-up limit hold ’em in their Cepheus project.

The GTO strategy for heads-up limit hold ’em has been calculated by the folks at CPRG, but no one knows exactly what that strategy might be for multi-handed, no-limit hold ’em. (Indeed, technically, an “optimal” strategy doesn’t necessarily exist when more than two people play the game, despite countless articles today on how to play optimal poker.)

The optimal strategy is still a mystery. But you can work to understand what some features might look like. And incorporate them. As the theory goes, if you can play reasonably close to a GTO strategy, you’ll be able to get the edge on every pro with an inferior understanding to yours.

GTO play is beyond the scope of this book. But if the idea intrigues you, I recommend the following texts:

  • Poker’s 1% by Ed Miller. This is not a book about GTO, but it lays a foundation that will help you grasp the more difficult GTO ideas in more advanced books.
  • Mathematics of Poker by Bill Chen and Jerrod Ankenman. This book is a fantastic introduction to mathematical solutions for poker games. I’d recommend reading this after my Poker’s 1%. If you like it, continuing on makes sense. If it’s hard, the following books likely will be, too.
  • Applications of No-limit Hold ’em by Matthew Janda, and Expert Heads-Up No-limit Hold ’em (two volumes) by Will Tipton. These books contain a gold mine of information for those seeking greater guidance in optimal strategies.
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