My girlfriend Becky (not her real name) returned tonight from Tennessee, and brought back some really nice moonshine, which I must admit I have been sampling to excess. I don’t see anything in the “Community Playbook” about posting while drunk, so screw it, let’s talk about the pipe dream of game theory optimal poker.
Ain’t gonna happen, ever, period.
It’s like asking someone to design an optimal race car. Optimal for what? Optimal for driving 1/4 mile in a straight line? Optimal for a road course? Optimal under NASCAR rules? Pro crews set up a race car for a race type, for a specific track, for specific race conditions. There’s no “one size fits all,” and there never will be… they have evolved past all that.
Eh, it would be easy for me to ramble on for 6.000 lines on how I feel about this subject. As someone pointed out in another thread, NLHE is a long way from being “solved,” and as far as I’m concerned, it never will be. Math and game theory will only take one so far. Yes, you should have a solid mathematical and theoretical foundation… no doubt about that, but in the end, you’re playing other people.
In the interest of brevity, let’s jump start this with a look at a game that IS solved… rock, paper, scissors. The GTO “solution” would be to throw rock 1/3 of the time, paper 1/3 of the time, and scissors 1/3 or the time, and to do so with no discernible pattern. Such a strategy will be unexploitable.
If both players used this strategy they would, on average, tie. They would be at Nash equilibrium, and any wins would be purely the result of luck. But what if only 1 player was using this GTO strategy?
Let’s say player 2 was throwing rock 50%, paper 25%, and scissors 25%, and look at it over 1200 throws…
The 600 times player 2 throws rock, player 1 wins 200, loses 200, and ties 200, for a net gain of exactly 0. The 300 times player 2 throws paper, player wins 100, loses 100, and ties 100, again for a net gain of 0. Same when player 2 throws scissors. One size fits all GTO gets you nowhere. It’s like Mohammed Ali’s “rope a dope,” a defensive stance.
The theoretical “exploitative optimal” strategy here would be to throw paper 100% of the time. You would win all 600 times your opponent throws rock. You would lose the 300 times they throw scissors, and tie the 300 times they throw also throw paper, putting you 300 units ahead over the 1200 throw series.
But c’mon, nobody is gonna let you throw paper 1200 times without making an adjustment to their own game. From this we can learn at least 2 things…
Undisguised exploitation strategies can themselves be easily exploited.
“Unexploitable” strategies are basically defensive.
For me, the take-away is to develop a solid base-line strategy, but be willing to deviate from that strategy as needed in order to benefit from the situational opportunities that arise from the human factors, tournament stage, and a myriad of other factors.
Most mistakes are frequency-based. You fold too much or call too much, or raise too much or whatever. Learn to spot your opponent’s frequency mistakes while minimizing your own, and you will be on the way to better poker.
Yeah, math and game theory are the foundation, but as Doyle Brunson says, “You ain’t playing solitaire kid.”