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How Much Do the Pros Actually Play a "Game Theory Optimal" Style?

How Much Do the Pros Actually Play a "Game Theory Optimal" Style?
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  • To "GTO" or not to "GTO"? That is the question put to several pros re: game theory optimal poker.

  • How prevalent is a "Game Theory Optimal" or "GTO" style, really? Several pros weigh in.

"Game Theory Optimal" — or "GTO" — is a term often heard in poker these days. Often the term is used imprecisely as a general reference to the "best" style or strategy in a given situation, though in truth it has a much more specific meaning than that.

To employ a "GTO" style means to play in a way that is impossible to be exploited by an opponent. It means always making "optimal" decisions that ensure you maximize your expected value in any situation. To play such a style perfectly would also mean that the very best your opponent could do against you would be to break even.

Such a style can be readily employed in simple games, but in more complicated ones like no-limit hold'em it is hard actually to play a strict "GTO" style. Besides, in poker players almost always demonstrate certain tendencies that suggest sticking with a "GTO" strategy isn't necessarily the best option — rather, an "exploitative" style that responds to opponents' weaknesses can sometimes be a better choice.

Our Laura Cornelius caught up with a number of poker pros to ask them how frequently they themselves could be said to play a "GTO" style. Their responses suggest the current "GTO" debate in poker is in a way an updated version of the old "math vs. feel" one.

Watch below and listen to reponses from Faraz Jaka, Mustapha Kanit, Luke Schwartz, Randy Lew, Fedor Holz, Jason Mercier, Celina Lin, Andreas Hoivold, and Bryn Kenney.

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