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Modern Poker Theory: An introduction

11/03/2018 by Byron Jacobs
Book Excerpts

Modern Poker Theory front cover

We are very excited about our forthcoming book Modern Poker Theory by leading poker theorist, Michael Acevedo. If you follow poker forums you’ll have noticed that a lot of the discussion nowadays revolves around the concept of GTO (Game Theory Optimal) play. This book will give the reader a thorough understanding of the whole GTO concept and fully explain how to incorporate it into your own play.

The following extract will give a really good indication of the scope of the work and Michael’s own expertise.

An Unspoken Truth

For years, the top poker players have had access to private analytical software that helped them further increase their edge, but now, the poker landscape is evolving. Poker software is becoming more sophisticated, yet easier to use, and is publicly available so anyone can get access to modern equity calculators, push/fold apps, range analysis software, EV decision trees, and GTO solvers.

When I first started playing online and learned about all these tools, I assumed the top players were the ones who had mastered them and knew the math dictating proper play in every single spot, but I could not have been more wrong. Even today with the proliferation of these tools, most poker players don’t want to spend thousands of hours becoming proficient with every single piece of software and learn how to set up dedicated servers to run week-long GTO calculations.

So, how do world-class players manage to get access to the most advanced poker theory without spending thousands of hours in the lab?

They outsource the work! They hire mathematicians and game theory experts to fulfill this task for them so they can spend their time doing what they enjoy the most: winning all the money at the tables!

I know this to be true because I’m one of those specialists who has been tirelessly creating content for them. Over the last few years, I have been making articles, theory videos, and webinars for online staking groups. I also make GTO solution packages for world-class players. I used to tell everyone that I was a professional poker player, but it was not until the moment I wrote these very words that I realized being a professional poker player is not actually what I have been doing. My playing volume, both live and online, has been laughable. I suggest my students play 80% of the time and study 20% of the time, yet I do the exact opposite.

Despite my lack of volume, I managed to rank as high as 117th in the world according to the PocketFives sliding leaderboard, but at this point, I do not consider myself a professional player. That said, I still make a point to play on a regular basis to keep tabs on the current metagame. If I never played, I would not be able to help my students learn to combat their opponents’ mistakes because I would be unaware of them. I love the game of poker and after finishing writing my book, Modern Poker Theory, all I want to do is hit back the tables with everything I’ve got!

My upcoming book, Modern Poker Theory, is the culmination of years of research and coaching. I have put my heart into it and did my best to make it different from all other theory books that present a lot of theory with few or no practical applications. My goal is to make game theory accessible to everyone, so players won’t have to spend all their time figuring stuff out and can instead do what they are supposed to be doing: playing poker!

What is the game of poker all about?

There are many reasons people play poker. Some like to have fun and socialize, some play for the thrill of running a big bluff or outthinking their opponents, others play for the glory of winning a tournament, to make a living, or to become the best. Whatever their motivation, no one plays poker with the goal to lose money, and so at their core, all poker players share the same goal: Generate and maximize profit!

What is profit?

Profit = opponent mistakes - our mistakes

If you play in games where most players are just terrible, and play for a lot of money, as happened during the golden age of online poker right after the Moneymaker Effect and before Black Friday, you could play quite poorly and still make a lot of money because your opponents played even worse. Alternatively, you could be the best ninth player in the world and get destroyed if you played only against the eight best players in the world.

In the current poker ecosystem, exploitative play (adjusting from our default strategy to take advantage of our opponents’ mistakes) will still make us a lot of money, but as the average player becomes more skilled, the ratio of good players to bad players constantly increases, leading to lower edges. Because vigilant Villains are trying to exploit us at the same time we try to exploit them, we no longer have the luxury of ignoring our own game. Many famous “top players” who failed to adapt and improve over the last few years have seen the game pass them by, forcing them to quit or move down because they can no longer beat the games.

Since you cannot control how well your opponents play, you should focus on minimizing your own mistakes.

This is the GTO study premise. It is not only about balance or equilibrium. It is about understanding the game at its core and actively using that knowledge to generate value!

How do you to generate and maximize profit?

Fix leaks in your own game, find what others are doing wrong, and then exploit them!

If you enjoy this article and think this book is for you then pre-order now and the book or ebook will be sent to you as soon as it publishes: Modern Poker Theory