GTO Poker: what it is and basic strategy to play it

GTO in poker stands for Game Theory Optimal, a term that refers to the optimal strategy to maximize a result in the long term, with proper decision making.

To give you some more context and to understand what GTO in poker is, we will briefly review some of the basic concepts to achieve it and to understand how to apply and what is needed to shape the GTO strategy in a game.

What is GTO in poker

The term GTO in poker has a clear meaning and refers to the theory of poker games. We must keep in mind that poker has evolved over the last decades, and that it is a concept associated with modern poker.

Through GTO, a player can seek a balanced approach to his strategy, basing his decision making on the fact that the opponent cannot exploit his weaknesses against him. This is independent of the cards held in a hand, because what GTO seeks is to distribute the actions of the game in a balanced way, overshadowing the game and avoiding to x-ray it.

Thus, the opponent will not be able to take advantage of a call, bet, raise or fold of the player. By not having an easily identifiable advantage, it is impossible for the opponent to exploit this weakness. Therefore, we will have a clear advantage by erecting an invisible wall between the opponent’s decisions and our game.

To know what GTO is, poker must be understood as a changing game. A few decades ago, poker was based on exploiting a weakness and doing so persistently until the opponent was eliminated. On the other hand, poker today is more subtle, richer in nuances… and more dangerous, because now taking advantage of an “exploit” blatantly exposes us. The GTO emerges as an alternative for those looking for a balanced, solid and viable long-term game in the framework of modern poker.

GTO poker strategy explained step by step

In order to correctly apply a GTO strategy in poker, several aspects must be taken into account. We are talking about concepts that are often associated with high-level poker or, at least, with an intermediate level poker, so an amateur or a newcomer should not try to apply a GTO strategy from the start, without mastering all this:

  • Understand and master hand ranges. The basis of a GTO strategy is the strength of a hand. If you don’t master hand ranges, no GTO game will go well. You must know how to play in different situations, measure the range of hands in each moment and know how to classify your hands according to whether they are weak, marginal, good or premium. Some people also work with “monster hands”.
  • Measure the size of the bets. The size of the bets is important in a GTO game. If you bet too big or too often, your opponents may get scared and leave the table. It is usually better to bet less, but on a recurring basis. Use your own bets as a hook to keep opponents in the game.
  • Balance the range of hands according to the situation. By balancing the range of hands, we mean the need to carry out the same action with both strong and weak opponents. This serves to keep your game opaque and avoid being predictable. If you let yourself be exposed, goodbye to your GTO strategy.
  • Bluffs? Yes, but in moderation. Bluffs are of paramount importance in a GTO game, but it is important that you know when to bluff and that you don’t overdo it. To know when to bluff, measure the situation, the frequency and the range of hands.
  • Pot size will define your decision making. Pot size has a direct impact on decision making. When you are under a GTO strategy, it is necessary to recurrently evaluate the pot size to adapt your range of decisions to the game situation. Failure to do so can put you directly out of the hand.
  • Maximum adaptation. All this boils down to one essential characteristic: adaptability. What the GTO looks for in poker is a balanced and solid strategy, and for it to work you will have to demonstrate that you have those same qualities. Keep in mind that a rigid and robust strategy is more likely to be exploited to your advantage, so it pays to work on your ability to adapt to all kinds of games and circumstances to improve your GTO poker strategy.

If you don’t think you have the qualities to start playing with GTO strategies, perhaps you should expand your education. There are many physical and digital resources that can help you discover how to learn GTO for online poker and that will allow you to expand your training and level of player.

GTO poker table

A GTO poker table is a resource that allows you to start working with GTO strategies. It is very useful when you have just discovered this concept and, after a few hours of training, you want to move from theory to practice.

There are many types of tables, and some vary depending on the number of players. A GTO 6-max poker table is usually taken as a reference, and a color code is used to differentiate the positions on the table. In our case, we will use the following:

  • Green: UTG.
  • Orange: Hijack.
  • Blue: Cut-off.
  • Yellow: Button.
  • Red: Small Blind.

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