Exploitative game versus GTO game

02 Mar 2024
Holdem Strategy
02 Mar 2024

In poker it is important to understand the theory before delving into an exploitative game.

GTO strategy (Game Theory Optimal) is a mathematically unexploitable strategy, but it may not always be the most effective way to win more money.

How does an exploitative poker relate to GTO?

While an exploitative game may be more profitable in certain situations, it is crucial to have a solid foundation and understand at least the basics of game theory.

Definition of GTO

The GTO game is an unbeatable strategy that cannot be outplayed in the long term

It involves mixing different actions with the same combos, and it is so complex that no human can play GTO perfectly.

The GTO strategy achieves a perfect balance between value and bluff, making it, at best, possible to have a 0 EV (without rake).

If two opponents played GTO perfectly, they would break even against each other.

Here is an example of a GTO range in the SB versus BB scenario with 15 blinds deep, where you can see a variety of combos mixed between limp (purple), open-raise (orange), and open-shove (blue).

SB vs BB 15 bb

Why is it necessary to understand GTO to play an exploitative game?

To exploit an opponent, you first need to identify how they are exploitable — in other words, how their game deviates from a theoretical optimal one.

To take advantage of an opponent's mistakes, you need to spot where they differ from the GTO. Once you identify these differences, adjust your game accordingly. But to make these adjustments effectively, you need a solid theoretical foundation. That's why understanding poker theory is crucial.

When to use GTO and when to use an exploitative poker game?

GTO provides overall stability and invulnerability, whereas an exploitative game involves unbalancing one's strategy to exploit identified tendencies of opponents. An exploitative game is best suited against specific players and can be more profitable if executed properly.

Although top regulars may play GTO as closely as possible, no human can perfectly implement it in a real game due to its complexity.

This is why it is more profitable to exploit opponents' leaks, especially against recreational players whose strategies deviate significantly from the optimal. Generally, we should employ a GTO-like strategy primarily against unknown regulars whose leaks we have not identified yet.

In summary, the closer an opponent plays to GTO, the more inclined we should be to adopt a similar strategy. Conversely, when our opponent shows us a more unbalanced moves, it becomes more optimal to adjust and exploit his deviations.

That being said, you should be careful. When exploiting opponents there is a risk of being counter-exploited. By definition, and unlike the GTO game, an exploitative strategy is also vulnerable to exploitation in return. However, this is not a significant concern against less skilled players (aka fish).

Developing an Exploitative Poker Strategy: Key Focus Areas

As mentioned earlier, an exploitative poker strategy should evolve from observing deviations from a basic GTO game. While the theory is undoubtedly complex, we'll discover that it's not mandatory to have an in-depth understanding to implement exploitative strategies!

Which situations should be studied as a priority?

The answer to this question is pretty obvious:

Explore at first situations that are more significant to your long-term winrate

Generally, the most profitable scenarios are those that are encountered frequently, such as preflop spots (played every hand), followed by the flop, turn, and river.

Even within preflop, some situations are more common than others. For instance, in Spin & Go, when you're in the BB, you'll often face a 2 bb open-raise from the BU with a fold from the SB more frequently than facing an open-raise and a 3-bet. Consequently, it's crucial to prioritize working on the BB vs BU spot rather than BB vs BU+SB (3-bet).

Preflop game

Prioritizing the preflop strategy is crucial for winning the most chips. To begin, it's essential to start with GTO preflop ranges. However, due to their complexity, these ranges are often not directly applicable and need to be simplified. Therefore, adjustments is key as they must be adjusted to exploit the deviant tendencies of our opponents.

Studying the frequencies of opponents' actions in a specific situation is a crucial step in adapting to it. However, it's equally important to closely examine the types of hands played in different ways. For example:

The theory:

We will use the GTO Wizard software to study a situation. In BvB, when you call and get raised all-in, you are supposed to call 20% of the time.

  • Theoretical limp range in SB (19.5%):

  • Theoretical ISO AI (Isolation All-In) range in BB (12.8%):

  • Theoretical AI limp/call range in SB (20%):

Fish Frequencies:

Based on data, recreational players (aka fish) go all-in after limping 20% of the time, which quite matches the recommended frequency. However, it's noteworthy that their VPIP in the SB is 70%, compared to the 62.3% in theory, and they limp 40% instead of the theoretical 19.5%. (These results were obtained through the Range Research in the Hand2Note database.

We could conclude that, given their higher VPIP and limp frequency, it's sufficient to raise more to exploit the marginal hands they have. However, we need to delve into their range.

  • Fish limp range in SB (40%):

  • Fish Limp/Call All-In range in SB (20%):

The limp/call-All In frequency is correct, but the whole range is too wide. We notice the presence of very strong hands that shouldn't be there (particularly QQ+). These hands counterbalance with many limp-calling hands that should have been folded. Additionally, medium-strength hands are frequently called against an ISO AI.

Considering these factors, we can modify our approach — raising more hands all-in, but in a more selective manner.

Source: spinelite.fr

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