Originally Posted by John A
Maybe someone can help me with something I may be missing. Why would you want to learn GTO play at nano/micro or small stakes? I'm not even sure how much it would really apply at mid stakes in the games I play. I mean, it does against certain regs, but still I play mostly exploitative. I'm asking that because of learning tools that try and teach GTO in no-limit holdem. I tried to convince myself it might be a good base to use and operate from, but as a learning model it's severally flawed and you'd end up leaving tons of money on the table if you applied GTO strategy to these games.
Am I missing something?
John --- I am a fairly accomplished amateur player (approaching $200K profit since 2002) and I am now primarily a HU NL Tourney specialist. My approach to the game in the beginning was not an intuitive one. Rather, it was very mathematically based (as I'm a reasonably bright guy with a Masters in Applied Stats). I started out playing limit hold'em and was very successful because I am patient/disciplined enough to use hand selection to my advantage and I had no trouble folding hands I opened if I missed and got played back at. After a while, though, I got bored with limit (even though I was making solid money playing it) and I ventured into NL play to mix things up.
As a math-based player coming from limit, I was (unsurprisingly) a rock. I fared well against calling stations and maniacs, but got exploited by good LAGs. In an effort to improve my game against LAGs, I decided to learn to play HU. Learning to be a successful HU player was great for my full-table NL game (six-max or 10) and reduced how often I was exploited. In fact, I enjoyed the action so much that HU NL tourney play became (and remains) my go-to game.
Having said all this, my poker "home base" has been and always will be math- based (as opposed to intuitive, tell-based, or exploitative). When I heard about GTO poker, I was VERY excited because I was looking for ways to further reduce the "exploitatability" of my play. So I devoured "The Mathematics of Poker" by Bill Chen and Jerrod Ankenman and "Expert Heads Up No Limit Hold'Em" by Will Tipton. I sometimes wonder why I bothered with "The Mathematics of Poker" because I had already come to the conclusion that you (and others) have --- that GTO poker is, IMO, only nominally useful. Despite my reservations, I read "The Mathematics of Poker" from cover to cover, being sure I understood the concepts and the math. When I finished it, I still felt exactly the same way about GTO poker that I had after reading Tipton's book (which I read first because the math is somewhat simpler than the math n Chen/Ankenman's book) --- GTO poker is theoretically interesting but has, IMO, limited practical value.
The reason that I think the value of GTO poker is so limited is as follows: the equity calculations are incredibly dependent on ACCURATELY ranging your opponent's hand --- a skill that is widely employed but, IMO, rarely executed well. While the statement above devalues the practical application of GTO poker, it also devalues one of the central tenets of your poker analysis tools (based on what I've seen from you here at CC) --- that of hand-ranging.
Please don't misunderstand what I'm saying, as I think that hand-ranging is a valuable and useful skill in many situations/contexts. Having said that, I also think that basing poker decisions (fold/call/raise) based on equity calculations that are based on hand-ranging is taking things too far for most players --- including the large majority of winning players. I say this for two reasons: 1. Few people can accurately perform equity calculations at the table (even after hard-core use of pokerstove or any other equity calculation tool); and, more importantly, 2. Few people's hand-range assignment skills are good enough that their equity calculations are particularly useful. Online players with good analytical skills and a significant amount of HUD experience have a shot at reasonable hand-ranging against players they have a lot of data on. In all other cases, though, I question most people's ability to accurately/effectively hand-range. There are clearly some people that can do it accurately, and those people don't need GTO play or equity calculators to make good decisions at the poker table. For everyone else, I question the value of hand-ranging.
Please do not interpret my statements above as an attack on you or your teaching methods. I'm certain that you're both a better player than I am and a better teacher than I am. Furthermore, based on what I've read from you, I have reason to believe that your hand-ranging skills are very good. As a result, GTO poker would likely help you against players you have little data on/are unfamiliar with. Once you have enough data on your opponents, though, I agree with the central theme in this thread --- that exploitative is much more effective/profitable than GTO play if you have properly identified your opponent's tendencies. Until that time, however, GTO play is a reasonable approach for those people with proven hand-ranging skills. For most everyone else, I think it's much ado about nothing.
Best of luck.
P.S. I wrote the missive about my background to open this post so that you would understand that I'm a mathematically inclined player with an real math education, as I think that background is important in evaluating the usefulness of my post.