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5 misconceptions about Game Theory Optimal (GTO) Strategy

Article by TADAS PEČKAITIS

“Nowadays you need to learn GTO to win at Online poker” “You need to play an unexploitable strategy to win”. 

The term GTO gets recently thrown around a lot in the poker community, but unfortunately rarely in a correct or constructive way.

For these reasons I have listed 5 common misconceptions about GTO Strategy.

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  1. Your goal is to play GTO poker strategy all the time

Firstly, it is simply impossible to do that. No one knows how exact GTO looks in every single spot and trying to reach that level going to take forever. You will not be able to memorize every possible outcome and scenario in poker and this is not your goal.

Instead of that, you should be focusing on weaker players in your games. I have heard many bad things about “Bumhunting” and I totally agree that it is not something you should be doing. However, playing in the games where everyone is better than you is simply stupid.

If you find yourself in one of those games – find another one. It is very easy to change your table in the card room and takes just a few seconds online. Until you find weaker players, using GTO strategy is great, but when you find them – exploitative strategy is the way to go. 

  1. GTO is superior to exploitative play

As we said in our first point, it depends on your competition. It is important to have a good idea how to balance your range and play vs good and competent opponents, but most of your profit will come from exploitative play. Best players use this approach all the time and they only try to adopt GTO strategy vs great competition.

Most of the time exploitative strategy is superior to GTO and helps you win more. Your job is to spot mistakes in your opponent’s game and then act on it. By putting pressure in that specific area where your competition plays poorly, you will put your opponents in hard spots and force them to make more mistakes. To be honest – this is how we make money in poker.

  1. GTO is useless

The fact that you need to focus on exploiting your opponents doesn’t mean that GTO is useless. I want to address it separately, just because I hear it all the time. This statement is as far from the truth as it could possibly be. It is true – GTO term is a bit overused in our days, but good strategy fundamentals are essential if you want to be a winning poker player and there are no better way to learn it than by studying GTO.

You need to learn fundamentally solid strategy and use it against good players and unknowns in your games. Only then, you should take next step to identify their mistakes and exploit your competition by changing your strategy in the way that would force them to make mistakes. This is, by far, the best and most profitable way to play poker and all professional players adopt it in their games.

  1. GTO is only relevant in high stakes games

Another false statement that I hear all the time. Of course, balancing your ranges and trying to be “unexploitable” is more important in higher stakes games, because your competition there is much stronger.

That being said, lower stakes games are getting tougher and tougher every day, so having a good and solid strategy in those games will help you a lot. Firstly, GTO approach is the best way to play against decent regulars and unknowns players. You simply cannot exploit new players because you do not have any information on them and do not know how they play.  It is obvious, that you going to encounter more new players in lover games, so it is a good idea to be prepared for it.

If you learn GTO approach, you will be prepared to play against anyone and this is something I highly recommend to every poker player, no matter in which stakes you play.

  1. GTO only applies postflop

Many players make this assumption because everyone talks about postflop spots, balancing your ranges there and having good bluff to value ratio all the time. But what about preflop?

While the postflop strategy is an essential part, leaving preflop aside would be a huge mistake. It is much easier to balance your ranges preflop and reach close to GTO point while leaving your opponents guessing all the time. Moreover, poor decisions preflop leads to many mistakes postflop and this is something you want to avoid. If you take some time, you can build a great preflop strategy for many different spots and save yourself from a lot of trouble on later streets. Something you should take into consideration:

  • Balancing 3-betting, 4-betting and 5-betting ranges
  • Defending your opening ranges in the most efficient way
  • Changing your blind defending ranges vs different opening sizing and much more

These are the crucial areas in your preflop game and you should build a solid GTO plan for all of those.

Learn more with me: 

If you want to take your game to the next level – study GTO strategy and learn how to change your lines vs weaker players. If you want to learn more about it, find and fix your own mistakes and improving your game, join my free course on “How to win at poker” and leave your competition behind!


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