I hear players asks the fundamental question such as what is GTO and what is OLD school poker. So here I will share with you what I know.

BEHOLD here are the basics here GTO vs OLD SCHOOL POKER!


A) old school poker is about psychology!
B) old school is based on taking advantage of your opponent’s weakness, such as mental weakness, un-blanaced ranges.
C) old school is about the mental game rather than mathematics!
D) old school poker is about categorizing your opponent into different styles such as calling station, the rock, passive-aggressive, hyper-aggressive, etc, etc.


A) GTO poker when it comes down to it is anti-old school poker!
B) GTO poker questions the fundamental concept of old school poker, if GTO and OLD school are to be represented by two people of different ideologies. Then the GTO person would ask? "1) you, the GTO player categorized players based on play style, but how do you know that person is that style given 80% of the time you do not see their whole card? 2) how do you prove there is such a thing as a play style? 3) are you sure when you exploit another person based on a certain play style, that you, yourself are not being exploited based on your own belief that the said person is playing a given style?
C) finally GTO poker dependant upon NASH EQUILIBRIUM, and is about playing a set of strategies that is superior to any other strategy!

The weakness of OLD SCHOOL POKER.



A) Unfortunately, NASH EQUILIBRIUM is an existential proof and does not tell us how to go about finding Nash equilibrium. Even with the most advanced computer, we can only get approximate of NASH STRATEGY.
B) Let’s say somehow we manage to find THE NASH STRATEGY, this said strategy will be so enormous in-depth and convoluted in theory, such that no human being can possibly come close to playing a perfect NASH STRATEGY!

If you ever manage to reach Nash equilibrium with another player, you will both be at 0 EV.

What this means is that you will have reduced the game to luck. At this point, you might as well just go play bingo.

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you are correct when both players are using Nash Equalibrium Strategy, then both players will eventually go broke. But not because of luck, but because of casino rake!

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Let’s look at how GTO performs in a game that HAS been solved; rock, paper, scissors. Yes, poker is far more complex, but the basic point remains valid.

Case 1: GTO vs GTO

The GTO strategy is to randomize your choice every time. If both of you follow this strategy, you will win 33%, lose 33% and tie 33%. Any deviation from these percentages will be the result of short term luck, and will even out over time. Net winnings… exactly 0.

Case 2: GTO vs Worst Possible Strategy

The GTO guy sticks to his random choices while the opponent throws rock every single time without fail. GTO guy throws scissors 33% of the time, and loses every one of them. He throws rock 33% and ties every time, and throws paper 33% and wins all of those. Net winnings… exactly 0

The exploitative player throws paper every time, and wins every time.

Case 3: GTO vs Detectable Pattern

So now your opponent throws rock 50%, paper 25%, and scissors 25%. GTO guy sticks to his random strategy, how does he do? Well, of those times his opponent throws rock, he wins 33%, ties 33%, and loses 33%. Against the 25% his opponent throws scissors, he wins 33%, loses 33%, and ties 33%. Same when his opponent throws paper. Net gain: exactly 0.

Exploitative guy still throws paper 100% of the time. He wins every time his opponent throws rock, so 50% of the time. He loses the 25% of the times his opponent throws scissors, and ties the other 25%. 50% minus the 25% is still a net gain of 25%.

But isn’t throwing paper every time exploitable? Well yes it is, but not if you stick to your “GTO” strategy. You can only come out ahead if you abandon GTO and play an exploitative game.

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Now someone is gonna say that the whole purpose of GTO is to be impossible to exploit. This is true.

So what should you do if everyone at your table is playing a perfect GTO strategy? Should you adopt the same and spiral down towards Nash equilibrium with everyone else?

Well, you could, I guess.

I would go find a better game.

I am very impressed with the above argument!!!

Very, very good point. Yes GTO is a unexpliotable set of strategy that is superior to all other sets of strategy. You are smart by the way! HAHA. However, what you just mentioned is also considered a fundamental weakness of GTO, the weakness is GTO does not maximize your exploitative advantage, especially even after your opponent exploitative advantage becomes obvious! Yes, in the scenario you mentioned above, if your opponent is indeed throwing rock every time, then to maximize your advantage it is definitely superior to throw paper every single time. BUt also do remember, rock, paper, scissors is a simultaneous game in theory and the player who makes the move first will lose 100 percent of the time. And realistically there is no such thing as a clairvoyant opponent. You made a very good point and this is where old school poker players have a tremendous edge vs GTO players! That is exploitative play vs amateurs!

A very good question! if I realize that everyone except me is playing perfect GTO, then I will stay as far away from those players as I can! LOL, but I would be a railbird and watch them so that I can learn something, and even beg on my knees so that they will teach me LOL!

So would I because there would be nothing to exploit. GTO players don’t play to win, they play to not lose. Trying to beat players who are playing to not lose is an exercise in frustration. Go find a game you can crush and you will be much happier!

Exploitative players can themselves be exploited, but are willing to accept that risk. To me, this is what makes the game interesting.

i think i follow the various points you guys are making, but i gotta ask…Are you saying that in higher skill levels, where luck plays less a role, the people who end up at the final table are playing not to lose?

In some spots, yes.

Except for heads up, poker hasn’t been solved, so there isn’t really a GTO strategy for tournament poker. On the other hand, there are some general principals that came from a GTO approach, and these can sometimes be applied to your game.

If holdem ever gets “solved,” nobody could ever memorize all of the solutions, For each and every situation, there is an optimal range, betting pattern, and so on. Although there are far too many situations to memorize the actual “optimal” strategy for each, they can be reduced to a manageable number of more general situations, with a “close to optimal” solution for each.

I think that, at the highest levels, people do play to not lose. Against players who can and will exploit every mistake, one can’t afford to give your opponent something they can exploit. I see GTO as a basically defensive approach, so yes, playing to not lose.

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Luck is the determining factor in the short run, for example, we play 1 hand and then stop playing! and if both players were to play an infinite number of hand, then the person with better skill will always win all of the chips of the lesser player! Somehow I think you are referring to tournament? I have not played a turnament for so long, I really don’t know the most modern and sophisticated strategy.

yes! you got the idea. RIght now, all top players play a style of poker that is basically anti-exploitation. However, I also think most top player knows just playing anti-exploitation is not good enough, give the enormous complexity of GTO, top players also employ, traditional poker strategies!

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I think it’d be real interesting to read about how poker strategy evolved over the years. I’m sure the game was very different before people started analyzing the game’s math, and before it became easy and normal for people to share strategic information about the game. How different was the game played 50, 70, 100, 150 years ago?

yes! indeed. I will write about the history of poker from my point of view and understanding. But right now I can tell you this, Doyle Brunson, in his book the super system introduced the revolutionary idea of playing your opponent and not the cards. And from that point on till about 2012, poker was basically all about psychology. And now since the invention of GTO, it is now really a mixture of psychology and mathematics!

What was “playing the cards” if not a math based approach? I’d assume, a naively math based approach, based on the (perceived) strength of the hole cards, but not backed by strong analysis and understanding of probability? I would also imagine a great deal of superstition, always playing favorite or “lucky” hands that you won a big pot with one time, listening to the voice in your head telling you to play a hand that you normally would fold because you get a premonition that it will hit the flop perfectly, and that sort of thing?

no, you misunderstood. All the great players know their math. It is just that its not math that makes them great!

I’m not just talking about the great players, though. I’m talking about the prevailing strategic thinking of the day, throughout different eras. There’s no doubt that the understanding of the underlying math in poker has changed over time, changing the way poker is played.

The basic math has never changed, but yeah, people look much deeper now. As one example, I think the old time players thought in terms of hands instead of thinking about possible combinations.

For example, let’s say you are holding QQ against an opponent who only shoves AA, KK, and AK. Since he is only shoving 3 hands and 2 of them beat you, it’s easy to think you will be behind 66% of the time. But there are only 6 combos of AA and 6 combos of KK, while there are 16 combos of AK, so your opponent will only have a big pair 43% of the time.

Of course, this is only one example, but yes, I think modern players have a much deeper understanding of the math behind the game.

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Not to show my old age, but the “old time players” didn’t play Hold’em (I had never even heard of the game until the 1980s–and I wasn’t impressed when I did). They did play five card stud and seven card stud, though, and the starting hand requirements for them were quite similar to those of today’s Hold’em games, though it wasn’t based primarily on math, it was based more on practical experience gained the hard way.
As to Brunson’s Super System, the earliest rumor of it that I ever heard was in the middle to late 1980s. But the concept of “playing the other players” was already old. Footie Valerie, a player I knew, explained the concept to me in the middle 1970s. The first detailed written reference to it I know of was from psychologist Frank Wallace’s “Poker, A Guaranteed Income For Life,” copyrighted in 1968 (he may have had an earlier version, that wasn’t copyrighted as well). Wallace sold the book through ads in the back of “men’s” magazines for prices ranging from $25 to $99, and made a bundle of bucks.
The thing about Intellectual Property–copyright–is that you can copyright the words, but not the idea or concept behind them. Once the idea was out there, many people jumped on the bandwagon supporting it, but each in his/her own words.
The concept of “playing the other players” was mentioned in passing as “an advanced strategy” in many early (1940s & 50s) poker books by John Scarne among others, but it wasn’t emphasized.
Almost all of today’s poker math can be traced back to Mike Caro’s early computer simulations and trial runs in the late 70s and early 80s. He started with Hold’em because it only had a two-card hand, rather than five for Draw Poker. Known as Poker’s Mad Genius, Caro may have been the finest Draw Poker player who ever lived. He dominated the California card clubs at the time. The last I checked, he was still alive and still writing about our favorite game.
Poker has seen a lot of changes, almost a revolution, in a comparatively short time, mostly the last 30 years or so.