In the modern era of poker, the utilization of solvers is a must if you want to move up stakes and eventually become a true crusher. While poker has essentially been “solved” by solvers and GTO strategies, the ability to carry out said strategies in live and online poker rooms is dependent on how effectively you use solvers. Everyone has become obsessed with GTO solvers as solutions have never been more accessible, however, poker players have lost the fundamentals and are trying to replicate terrible outputs! In my opinion, poker has entered the Fake Poker Solver Era, with many poker players trying to replicate “solved” spots and strategies ineffectively. To truly implement solvers and be a profitable poker player, you must know how to leverage them the right way.
Use Poker Solvers properly and realistically
By using modern technology and the automation of advanced poker strategies, solvers can provide us with outputs and information that is impossible for most humans to calculate themselves. The technological ability of solvers makes them incredibly useful, but if not “guided” by relevant variables their usefulness is impacted.
One of the beautiful aspects of no-limit Texas Hold’em is the player’s ability to bet whatever amount they like out of their chip stack. If you have a chip stack of $500 in a $1/$2 cash game, in theory you have 499 different bet sizes at your disposal! Obviously, only a certain number of bet sizes make sense within spots of a poker hand, and knowing proper bet sizes is critical to winning at poker.
While solvers can be an incredibly useful tools when it comes to figuring out proper bet sizes in certain spots, if you are not using the proper settings you can get the following result:
The above simulation is terrible because there are way too many sizes used (causing tons of mixed strategies). Using a solver in this manner isn’t helpful, and is not implementable in both live and online poker. Even if you are two-time WSOP bracelet winner Justin “JustGTO” Saliba, it will be nearly impossible for you to implement so many bet sizes at the proper frequencies in real time. GTO strategies are best used in a way that allows poker players to easily implement Game Theory into their play. You will never be able to perfectly play a pure GTO strategy, but what you can do is learn how to take GTO concepts and carry them out at the poker table.
Here is the same situation, but instead of five different bet sizes, the solver only uses one flop size. Notice how you capture nearly the same amount of EV in the solver, while only having to implement one size into your strategy? By using the solver in this way, you can more realistically apply solver data to spots in poker hands. Solvers can certainly be difficult to comprehend, but by using them in a logical and methodical way they can make playing poker much easier.
Focus on GTO Principles & Fundamentals
If you’re all-in for 100% pot on the river, what should your value-to-bluff ratio be? If you’re facing an all-in bet on the river for 100% pot, how often do you need to call? By asking yourself such questions, you go beyond simply doing what a solver tells you to do, and instead understand why it is recommending you make a certain play. Solvers are amazing, but focusing on why they do what they do and understanding the underlying GTO principles is far more useful than following them blindly .
GTO principle: Use a large bet size on boards where you have the nut advantage, but equities run close.
GTO Preflop Fundamentals
Some poker players, especially recreational ones, can be intimidated by solvers and using them to implement a GTO strategy. It is understandable why a novice poker player who is accustomed to an exploitative strategy would be nervous about implementing GTO into their game, which is why I recommend starting from the very beginning: preflop.
Most preflop charts available to poker players (including the ones found in our Tools section) utilize GTO strategies and information. If you simply follow the GTO charts and study them, you can easily implement a sound GTO preflop strategy.
Members of PokerCoaching.com get access to a wide variety of GTO charts applicable to both poker tournaments and cash games.
Whether folded to, facing a raise, or considering putting all of your chips into play, implementing a sound GTO preflop strategy only requires access to quality GTO charts and a willingness to study. The best thing about implementing a GTO preflop strategy: you don’t even need to use a solver!
By being well studied in GTO preflop strategy and ranges, not only will you know the correct spots to put your money in preflop, but you in essence prevent yourself from making mistakes postflop. If you are able to recognize when it is time to fold a hand preflop, you will not have to worry about playing tough spots on the flop, turn, and river.
Focus on overall frequencies, not what one combo exactly does in a spot
Checking a solver to see if you played a specific hand correctly doesn’t confirm that the actual strategy you’re using is any good. You could be making huge mistakes with your overall frequencies and still make the “correct” play with one hand. Focus more on your betting, checking, bluffing frequencies across the game tree!
If you’re using solvers because you need something to tell you that you made the ‘right’ play, without critically analyzing the situation, you’re never going to reach your full potential. To properly implement GTO solver strategies, you must understand the “why” behind why a solver recommends certain plays at certain frequencies. The best GTO players in the world have not experienced success simply because they are the best at memorizing and remembering, they are the best because they intensely study solvers in order to understand the methods being used.
One useful way of approaching solvers and applying them in live play is working to implement the overall strategy as opposed to the exact strategy. For example, if the solver recommends betting two-thirds pot at a frequency of 72% with a particular hand, how realistic do you think it is that you will be able to hit that exact frequency over the course of 100 identical hands? Unless you’re one of the best mathematical minds in the world, it is unlikely!
Instead of attempting to implement exact betting and checking frequencies in accordance with solvers and GTO, simply use rough estimates and essentially “round up” solver outputs. That spot where you should bet two-thirds pot 72% of the time? Simply bet two-thirds pot the majority of the time, but know that you should implement checks occasionally. By framing solver-approved plays in such a way, it will be much easier for you to actually leverage what solvers can teach you.
Approach exploits from a GTO Point of View
Just because you are using a GTO solver approved strategy, it does not mean there is not room to play exploitative poker.
Let’s say that you jam $100 into a $100 pot on the river, and instead of calling 50% of the time, you think that your opponent is going to call 55% of the time. In this situation, how less often should you be bluffing? The adjustment is not to bluff 5% or 10% less often, instead, the adjustment is to literally never bluff! The EV of checking is higher than betting with all bluffs if they’re calling too much, so exploit players by checking with all of your bluffs.
By leveraging the knowledge GTO solvers provide you and properly adjusting to your opponents, you can better utilize GTO strategies to expertly outplay your opponents. Even if you are a GTO expert, if you fail to maintain the sound fundamentals of a quality poker strategy GTO will be of no help to you. Overall, working to understand the fundamentals is by far the most important task in poker. Solvers are an amazing tool and extremely powerful to improve your GTO understanding and intuition, but you have to have the right mindset. Do not simply replicate GTO, learn from GTO.
Escape The Fake Poker Solver Era
In no means am I telling you to throw out the solvers and not use them to study poker. However, remember that you must utilize the solver to properly replicate the strategy and games that you’re playing. Looking at large databases of GTO-outputs with ranges and bet sizes that aren’t applicable to your games will leave you playing bad strategies. Remember to go beyond blindly following solvers and work to understand the information they provide you. By comprehending the information a solver provides as opposed to memorizing data, you can better apply it at the poker table and know when to make proper adjustments. If you work to understand solver strategies and learn how to properly implement them into your play, you are well on your way to playing the best poker you possibly can.