Renaud Desferet
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Greater Than O (or equal)


GTO (game theory optimal) has been an increasingly hot topic over the last few years as you can see from the “gto poker” Google Trends graph. (Other “gto” based searches will roughly give the same graph - oddly enough, it seems that the term GTO, as part of game theory, is not widely used outside poker.)



With the exception of the easy “push or fold” situations, the live tournament scene is the furthest you can be from GTO poker and this will be quite likely the case for the many years to come.

Yet, in case this GTO thing pops up at your table live, you might want to know one or two things about it.

 (This pertains strictly speaking to headsup play, but, possibly, near solutions with more players will behave the same)

First, and this is quite fascinating especially for those not familiar at all with GTO, one can describe explicitly our whole way of playing from every position - if it is GTO - to our opponent, the best he can achieve is break even. This sounds natural for games like chess where there is no hidden information, but maybe not quite for poker. Just simply asking yourself “how can this work in practice for poker” may improve your overall comprehension of the game.


Mixing up - that is playing different hands the same way - is certainly part of a GTO strategy. Mixing up is often part of a good player’s arsenal as well. More technical people see this as a way to strengthen their range when standard plays lead to weaker ranges. Now, some players take this concept way too far.



When playing at the equilibrium (that is two GTO strategies playing against each other), the different lines used to play the same hands will yield the exact same expectation. On the other hand, in practice, players will sometimes have one standard way to play a hand and one way used less often in order to strengthen their range in a specific spot. The question you should be asking yourself is : “under which conditions would those two ways of playing the same hand yield the same expectation (or is it even possible)?”

Quite often, drastic slowplays that I see might yield the same expectation as standard plays only when heavy overbets are in the opponent’s arsenal while it is obviously not the case; or tricky lines used by one player will yield the same expectation as standard ones only if they are used as a bluff far more often than the player does. Generally speaking, many players I face use mixed up strategies that are not at all suitable for the context of the match.


Some people see GTO as the end of online poker. I don’t, at least not before quite a few years for the main variants - people have always been quick on seeing the end of online poker in the past anyway...I rather see GTO as an opportunity, because we are so far away from solutions (unlike what you may have heard), except for the simplest variants that are rarely played anyway.

Still, I believe GTO poker has already somewhat changed the overall picture of the game over the past few years. As recently as two or three years ago, dynamic and metagame were still considered as one of the main assets of a top high stakes player. Today, the most advanced high stakes player would gladly rather have an idea of what a GTO strategy might be, so that he can see where his opponent deviates and make money from those deviations. Metagame and levelling still exist obviously, but players thinking of them as their main asset are gradually becoming today’s weaker regulars at the higher stakes.


I will be blogging regularly here at RKH, bragging about my live tournaments performances, mostly offering an insider look at high stakes online poker (potentially including more concrete stuff  such as coaching videos/articles), stay tuned!

 @Renaud Desferet 


Excellent article, thanks a lot Renaud!

So ok it's not that GTO, I have to get used to it ;).

Thanks for this excellent article Renaud !




amazing and intense thanks bro

You know so much, it's humbling