The game of poker has changed quite a bit over the years. Skills and knowledge that may have been enough to make you a massive winner some 20 years ago probably won’t be enough to make you even a breakeven player today.
Beating Texas Hold’em games today, especially in the highly competitive online environment, takes a lot. Players and students of the game have come up with new ideas and strategies, and the GTO strategy seems to be all the rage.
Even among professionals, opinions on the GTO approach differ, but there is no single good player out there claiming it's bad. So, what is this strategy all about, and what are the benefits of learning the GTO strategy in 2021?
GTO in a Nutshell
The term GTO is actually an acronym for the Game Theory Optimal. As the name suggests, this is a scientific approach to poker that strives to find the best possible math-based solutions for every situation you can come across.
In the simplest of terms, GTO is trying to solve poker.
A perfect GTO poker strategy would mean that you’d always know the perfect answer for every possible scenario, be it preflop or after the flop. And, “perfect” in this sense means +EV, i.e., the play that will win you the most money in the long run.
Of course, Hold’em is a very complex game, and it is still far from being solved, especially for multi-way scenarios. But, even if imperfect, GTO offers some very solid and fundamentally sound ideas that can massively improve your results.
Beating Games in 2021 Using GTO
Poker has been getting harder to beat for some time now, especially as you move up to any sort of meaningful stakes. You won’t come across many bad players at NL200 and beyond these days.
Sure, a loose cannon will make an appearance every now and again, but that’s not enough if you want to make living playing poker.
A majority of your opponents will be at least solid and have very good fundamentals, so how do you go about beating them?
The answer is GTO!
One of the best things about the GTO strategy is that it works against all players and across all stakes. It doesn’t care too much about reads and tells. GTO looks at the game through math and numbers and offers solutions that simply work.
I'll be first to admit that it's not the most entertaining way to play the game, but having fun and making a profit are often at two opposite sides of the spectrum in poker.
Plus, GTO is not at all as boring as people sometimes make it out to be, and as you start learning and understanding this strategy, you’ll realize that as well.
What Will I Get from Learning GTO?
To answer this question, you should first try and answer a different one. How often do you find yourself in a spot where you just have no idea what to do?
Folding seems fine, calling should be okay, but there is also a case to be made for raising.
This is quite common, and it happens even to the best poker players. Texas Hold’em is a confusing game at times as there are so many variables and moving parts.
As you learn GTO, you’ll notice the number of times you find yourself in these spots decreases. This is because the strategy offers straightforward answers to the kind of questions listed above.
It tells you how often to fold, call, or raise in a given spot.
Is it easy to learn? Of course not; otherwise, everyone would learn it in a few days and play almost perfect poker. Can it be learned? Absolutely!
The thing is, in 2021, many of the opponents you come across will have some knowledge of the GTO. Some will even have a very deep understanding of it. If you’re the odd one out, i.e., the one who doesn’t know GTO, you’ll struggle to keep up.
You can't really try and exploit a GTO player because there is very little to exploit. The whole idea behind the approach is that you can't be exploited. No matter how your opponents adjust, your decisions are always close to optimal.
It's worth noting that learning the GTO strategy doesn't mean that you'll have to play it at all times.
If you ever find yourself in a particularly loose and crazy game, there is nothing preventing you from going back to the exploitative style if you feel it would be more profitable.
How to Learn GTO Strategy in 2021?
One of the reasons people never take up GTO is that they don't know where to start or how to go about learning it. And, to be completely honest, it’s not the easiest thing in the world, but it’s well worth the effort.
The best way to learn will depend on your personal preferences and the type of person you are. We don’t all acquire knowledge the same way, and you should find a method that works best for you.
The most common option between PROs is to use solvers directly and run their simulations for different spots.
However, it requires significant investment and, most importantly, a lot of time. If you need up to 24 hours to solve one situation, and you want to check 100 spots or more, just do the math, and you will see it will require some time to power through it.
Luckily there are more options.
For example, a site like GTOSims will provide you with preflop charts for specific game formats (MTTs, sit and go, 6-max cash games, and even Spin&Goes). So if you do not want to do all of the work yourself, that might be a great option to try.
Also, you can join one of the best poker training sites to study GTO strategy in 2021. You’ll find many great video lessons where fundamental ideas behind this approach are broken down and explained.
So, if you’re the type of person who’s not satisfied by knowing something works but also wants to know why it works, these lessons offer the answers you seek.
The bottom line is, if you want to learn GTO, there are plenty of resources out there.
Whatever you pick, you’ll have to put in some time and effort into it if you want to reap the benefits.
You might be reluctant at first as you might feel overwhelmed. Power through those feelings and don’t give up.
Eventually, you’ll reach a point where you’ll know exactly what to do in every hand, and every poker position, so your results will skyrocket!