Table of Contents
Before going into reviewing the best books to learn GTO poker strategy, let’s clarify a few questions, as for many players this concept is still unclear.
What is GTO (Game Theory Optimal) in poker?
At its most basic level, GTO in poker is playing the best possible way in terms of:
- balancing your bluffs and value hands
- opponents tendencies
- protecting ranges
- understanding of the opposition thoughts
- and any other poker strategy concept that is +EV in the long run.
In theory, the GTO strategy can’t be beaten in the long run.
This strategy is achievable in NLH, but it hasn’t been used or uncovered by anybody, not even AI (Artificial Intelligence).
The history of Game Theory
Some people believe that the analysis of GT (Game Theory) started with the works of Daniel Bernoulli in the 18the century.
Others think the first tool known to theorists was “Bayes’ Theorem,” published in the 18th century. Yet still, others believe that Antoine Augustin Cournot first introduced GT.
Recognized by many poker players as being the father of modern GT is John Forbes Nash, Jr. (diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic).
Nash is most known for a 28-page work – “Nash Equilibrium,” about strategic behavior in non-cooperative games, which is at the heart of GTO poker strategy.
Today many poker players use ‘Heads-Up Push/Fold Nash Equilibrium Charts’ that show push-or-fold NLHE strategies for two players.
For which stakes is the GTO strategy best?
This strategy is best to be used against experienced, high-stakes players. It makes less sense to utilize it in micro-stakes where the opponents are, in theory, weak.
Against weaker opponents, it’s better to use exploitative play to take advantage of the mistakes players in those stakes tend to make.
Should I stick only to GTO poker?
You should always mix up your game to exploit your opponents. Sticking only to one way of playing will make you an easy target for the sharks at your table!
What is the best way to learn GTO principles?
You can begin learning it by reading poker books and using solvers to analyze your hands.
Poker solvers are programs that have been created to calculate solutions to any poker situation. Solvers’ answers are close to the game theory optimal play.
The best poker books teaching Game Theory Optimal
- Mathematics - intensive
- You get tools required to analyze your sessions
- For advanced players only
- Formatting errors
- For intermediate players
- Great examples and exercises
- Well explained
- Utilizes simplified games (i.e., 3/10 card deck poker) to show how GT arrives at solutions
- Not too many examples related to No-Limit Holdem
Play Optimal Poker is one of the best books on modern poker theory and its practical applications.
The author, Andrew Brokos, is a professional poker player. He regularly final tables big online tournaments. Andrew finished three times in the Top 100 in the World Series of Poker Main Event.
In Play Optimal Poker, Andrew takes you step-by-step through the fundamentals of poker. He explains the most crucial game theory doctrines and shows you how to use them in real poker situations.
“If you don’t understand the basic game theory that underlies poker, then you don’t really understand the game at all. At best, you’ve developed, through trial and error, strategies that work against certain types of opponents. You may be comfortable in situations that you encounter commonly, but you probably struggle in less familiar situations, and as your opponents become more adept with game theory, they will increasingly put you in difficult spots.”
You will learn how to:
- Utilize effective game theory ideas like equilibrium and indifference.
- Use GTO principles when making poker decisions.
- Benefit from aggression and passivity.
- Manage your ranges to exploit typical mistakes.
The book contains eight chapters and 234 pages.
- Chapter 1 covers fundamental concepts referenced throughout the rest of the book (especially equilibrium).
- Chapter 2 talks about the polarized vs. condensed ranges
- Chapter 3 analyzes reciprocal ranges.
- Chapter 4 analyzes a PioSolver situation of a UTG range vs. BB range on a As9h6s board in NLH.
- Chapter 5 covers a 4-step strategy for exploitation in the AKQ game.
- Chapter 6 presents “complex ranges”
- Chapter 7 builds on the “Ace-to-Five” game by allowing for one raise.
- Chapter 8 (pages 213-227) “Putting It All Together”
Is Play Optimal Poker for beginners, intermediates, or advanced players?
It is for intermediate players. There are no basics included, like pot odds and counting outs, though the author does explain the equity and expected value.
Not too many No Limit Holdem examples included
The book uses simplified games (i.e., 3 card and 10 card deck poker). Starting with something so complex as Texas Holdem to present GTO samples would have been too much for the readers.
The author shows how Game Theory arrives at solutions and why it matters through examples. He leaves it to you to decide how and why to apply those concepts to your cash and tournament play.
It is very accessible
Some books on poker are too dense on the game theory and too light on the actionable implication, but not Play Optimal Poker! Andrew is thorough in explaining the sample games but does not overwhelm you with calculations.
- For advanced players
- Very informative
- Advanced math
- Dense and steeped in theory
- A theoretical approach to bluffing
- Some spelling and grammatical mistakes
- Not for beginners
This is a perfect starting point! It will help you understand when Game Theory can/can’t be used at the poker table.
Who is Matthew Janda?
The author, Matthew Janda, makes poker videos for CardRunners. He utilizes poker software to show what action to take with each hand.
All of his training pieces are based on theory.
What will You learn from it?
Applications of No-Limit Hold ’em will teach you theoretically sound poker.
After reading it, you will be able to play the correct ranges and bet-sizing to beat other players.
The author hasn’t designed this book to make poker look too complex.
Many confusing ideas (overbetting, balancing, bet-sizing, ranges, donk betting, and check-raising) are well explained. And after reading it, you should understand these concepts and be able to incorporate them into your play.
Not for beginners
It would help if you had a sound basis in poker before you start reading Applications of No-Limit Hold ’em.
It is a challenging read, hard to understand at first. Please take your time and re-read any difficult to grasp concepts.
This is for those who want to play beyond the standard 3/5 and 5/10 reg poker games.
Bible for advanced players!
- Easy to read
- Well structured
- For online 6-max cash games
- Loaded with figures, flow charts, and detailed thought processes
- Contains a fair explanation of different HUD stats
- Too specialized for some readers
- Some parts are outdated
- Many graphs and charts
- Well written
- Deeply informative
- Authentic - includes many ideas and methods not seen elsewhere
- For both cash and tournament games
- More methods of application should be included
- Only for advanced players
When Acevedo says Modern Poker, he’s not joking. He really shows how the game is played today.
Who is Michael Acevedo?
Michael Acevedo is a pro tournament player, mathematician, and coach.
He has helped with the creation of Pio Solver. This strategy book illustrates the effects and demonstrates the math underlying GTO play.
Modern Poker Theoryexamines the meaning of game theory optimal play and its application at the table.
The book is divided into three sections:
- Elements of Theory
- Preflop play
- Postflop Play
Modern Poker Theory is a thorough, strict guide to the essential parts of No-Limit Hold ’em. Much of it is for 6 Max play.
Modern Poker Math
The poker math included in the book is lovely! Easy to understand with colored pie charts and graphs associated with step-by-step explanations of all the mathematics you must know.
Each position, playing style, and technique is perfected in this book.
It is interesting to see and comprehend the strategies that hours of meticulous work with GTO solvers have created.
This book is authentic!
Modern Poker Theory includes a range of ideas and techniques not seen elsewhere. It covers both tournament and cash game plays.
Of course, this is a massive memorization project. But, understanding GTO, frequencies, balances, etc., is crucial if you want to be a profitable poker player.
Are there any GTO poker books I have left out?
If that’s the case, please let me know in the comments below.