When you think of the best strategy to win poker, there seems to be a lot of confusion about what Game Theory Optimal (GTO) is, and whether it’s a good option than exploitative play. Let’s find out – GTO vs Exploitative Play In Poker: Which to Select?
In reality, you don’t need to choose one of these options, but rather understand the basic principles of GTO play and when it should be applied.
Let’s find out every important detail about what GTO is and how it works in real-life scenarios.
What is GTO poker?
Game Theory Optimal (GTO) is when you play technically perfect poker so that your opponents make mistakes against you. This strategy balances your value hands and bluffs in a way that leaves you unexploitable.
People often assume that GTO is a perfect approach that is better than anything else out there. But that’s not always true.
The GTO module revolves around the style of play that makes you unexploitable.
You’ll be following the same strategy against all opponents no matter what they do. Even if you’re up against a loose maniac who’ll gladly call a 30 big blind 3-bet when you have pocket Aces, you’ll not deviate from your standard strategy, and leave money at the table against that particular player.
So, clearly, there are some upsides and downsides to this approach, but before jumping into the details, I want to address another topic.
No-Limit Hold’em Hasn’t Been Solved Yet
If you hear the word ‘optimal’, you immediately think of something perfect. However, there is still no such thing as a perfect poker strategy.
No-Limit Hold’em is a game with many variables and is yet to be solved, especially in non-heads-up games.
So, GTO is great for learning basic principles and understanding why certain plays make sense. It’s good for building a solid strategy that you can implement against tough opponents.
But it cannot be necessarily the best way to play poker in every possible scenario.
Can you use GTO And Exploitative Play Simultaneously?
There also seems to be some confusion among players about having to choose either one or the other style and stick to it, which is completely false.
Learning GTO basics is important for learning solid poker strategy foundations. After all, if you’re going to vary your patterns and exploit your opponents, you need to understand what their loose ends are and where they’re making mistakes.
Learning GTO is also very useful for situations where you find yourself at tough tables or against unknown players. When you are seated at a tough table in a tournament with players that are better than you, resorting to GTO might be your best option as the exploitative approach would probably hurt your chances of winning.
So, these two concepts are not mutually exclusive, and, ideally, you’ll want to learn both.
This will strengthen your skill against your opponent as you’ll be prepared to tackle different scenarios and able to adjust to new situations at the tables. Once again, you don’t need to try and learn the entire GTO by heart.
This should give you a pretty accurate idea of what to do in similar situations to keep your ranges balanced and your play close to GTO.
Exploitative Play is about Adjusting & Readjusting
Like game theory optimal strategy the exploitative approach has its drawbacks, too.
While GTO has its foundations in hardcore math, exploitative poker is more about guessing your opponent’s tendencies.
In real life, things usually aren’t as simple. You’ll have to find smaller leaks in players’ styles that you can use to your benefit.
A problem with making these adjustments is that you often don’t have enough information.
Seeing someone play a few dozen hands can give you some idea about their tendencies but you shouldn’t overvalue that type of information.
Although the exploitative style can be more beneficial, you need to make sure the information you’re basing your adjustments on is solid.
Be alert about other players
Another drawback of the exploitative style is that it opens doors for you to be exploited.
You can adjust to a loose opponent who opens many hands preflop by 3-betting them light in position.
Against that specific player, your play is quite reasonable and will result in profit in the long run. However, you can face some problems if you’re not playing heads up.
In case there are some other expert players at the table, they might take notice of what you’re doing.
So, when making your adjustments, it’s not just the player you’re targeting that you need to consider. You also have to consider others involved in the game and what they might do.
If you notice one or two of them are starting to change their pattern to attack your adjustments, you’ll need to redesign your strategy.
Always Mix Things Up
So, what is best – playing GTO or exploitative poker?
The answer is… both!
Neither is better. Each one serves a different purpose and depends on what kind of games you play.
The GTO approach will usually work better as you’ll have little space for your opponents to take advantage of your plays.
As most of the time, you’ll find yourself in situations with both weak and strong players at the table, you’ll be best off knowing both strategies.