GTO Leads To The Ultimate Poker Conundrum

By Ben Hamill - October 13 2020
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GTO Leads To The Ultimate Poker Conundrum

Game Theory Optimal Poker is about as controversial and disparity-invoking an issue as counting cards in Blackjack. And since Poker is a game of player-on-player as opposed to Blackjack’s player-vs-dealer, GTO supporters are naturally the more despised between the two types of “cheats”. If cheating it can even be called – which is of course exactly where the ball hits the bearing in the first place.

It is also a disparity that runs all the way down entire dividing lines. There are guys like Fedor Holz and Matthias Eibinger and their “Pokercode” training side on the one end of the partitioned table, and Holz’s ambassadorship at GGPoker on the other – the same GGPoker recently heard condemning the use of Game Theory Optimal Poker (GTO) and Real Time Analysis (RTA). 

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Negreanu Vs. Polk

The real question necessitating an answer is of course whether employing GTO at the felt makes of the human player some sort of Poker robot. Is studying the numbers and playing hands based on the outcome of a statistical analysis some sort of master-skill in its own right? Or is it really just an excuse to brazenly cheat and gain an unfair advantage over one’s opponent? Quite frankly, or so it seems, it all depends on who you’re asking.

Canadian Poker champ and GGPoker ambassador Daniel Negreanu has made abundantly known his unhappiness at Doug Polk’s suggestion that making use of a “cheat sheet” once the two square it off starting 1st November is “OK”. So much so, that the two recently encountered a bit of a deadlock on Twitter – with Negreanu wanting to know from Polk why he (Polk) would want to resort to a cheat sheet in a match agreed to in Polk’s name, played on Polk’s approved platform and according to the rules of Polk’s “format”.

Insult Or Compliment?

All of which of course brings the argument right back around to whether or not being referred to as a robot should be regarded as a compliment or an insult. To some, the term clearly alludes to high-level competency at the felt – but to others, ironically, the exactly opposite.

Poker’s future appears to be something of a stand-off between those who see nothing wrong with playing by the sheet, and those who find honour in playing an old school game of sorts – one dependent solely on skill, experience, and the psychology of the game. And this not even touching yet on the topic of ambassadorship and revenue-generating entertainment.

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