I received a Facebook PM from a player the other day:
“How can working on your frequencies can be better than working your hands through CardrunnerEV and making the most +EV plays based on your assumptions?”
If you’ve followed my work through the years, you know I’ve said little about GTO/Balance. I’ve always focused on pounding away on my opponents’ weakness. If there are no/little weaknesses present, I find greener pastures.
Over the last eight months, I’ve spent much time on GTO ideas, and I think this focus is surprising to many of my readers. So…a public answer to this question.
Before I start with this answer, I want to provide a caveat. I’m still in my infancy with understanding GTO and what a balanced strategy looks like. So, my answer below doesn’t come from experience; simply what makes sense to me from my current understanding of theory.
I don’t think using words like “better” is the correct way to approach this topic. In a recent rereading of The Mathematics of Poker (MOP), this sentence popped. “We are searching for strategies that are near-optimal, or at least balanced, which can be profitably played against a wide range of opposition with little or no information.” So, we ask, “Why are we searching for such a strategy?” Simply put, there are benefits to the effort that often make it worth a player’s time. Here are a handful of benefits of attempting to find “at least balanced” strategies. MOP gives several great reasons on page 101. To simply list those ideas:
• We often deal with unknown opponents
• Game selection is not an option (think tourneys)
• Good games often still have a tough opponent or two.
However, I’d like to add a couple ideas.
1. Playing a fixed strategy is less-taxing at the tables and easier to mass-produce. Finding weakness in an opponent’s strategy is hard work and can be exhausting. A fixed strategy, while perhaps making less money, is less-taxing and easier to multitable.
2. Learning about balance shines a brighter light on weaknesses. It’s not necessary to understand a balanced strategy to spot glaring holes in an opponent’s strategy. However, as opponents patch the most glaring holes, we have greater difficulty understanding how to exploit. Being familiar with a balanced strategy gives us a better idea of when opponents stray from “safe zone” and what adjustments we must make.
In the meantime, an exploitive strategy makes more money than an unexploitable strategy, and many unskilled opponents remain in the player pool.
So, I don’t think “better” belongs in this discussion. However, I do think a player who puts effort in “attempting to find near optimal or at least balanced strategies” has the advantage in the game. I think it at least develops a deeper understanding of the game and perhaps provides this player with a mode not available to others who haven’t invested the time/effort.
Having said all this, the best of the exploiters have likely already approached something resembling balance. It seems clear to me that balance looks similar to playing exploitively versus your perceived range. And we know GTO is two players maximally exploiting each other. So, these ideas are connected…again, “better” just doesn’t seem to fit.
In any case, I’ll continue to dig and let my readers know what I find.
Enjoy the game.
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