Chapter 5 of 38 from Daniel Negreanu

Game Theory and Math


Daniel discusses Game Theory Optimal poker and provides tips on how to calculate pot odds and fold frequency at game speed.

Topics include: Understanding Game Theory Optimal (GTO) Poker • Use a Hybrid of GTO and Exploitative Play • Set a Baseline and Adjust • Calculating Pot Odds • Calculating Fold Frequency • Quiz: Calculating Fold Frequency

Daniel Negreanu

Daniel Negreanu Teaches Poker

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Class Info


So the latest trend or fad in poker, and the latest evolution of it, is understanding game theory optimal play. So what exactly does game theory optimal play mean? Well, essentially, what it means is you create a strategy that is unexploitable. So let's use a real life example. You all know rock, paper, scissors, right? You throw a rock, you throw paper, you throw scissors. Well, now, what would be the game theory optimal percentage to throw each one? I'll let you think about that for a second. Well, obviously, throwing one third, one third, one third would be the game theory optimal approach. The problem with that is while you won't lose, you also won't win if you stick to that-- unless you get lucky, of course. But that's not an exploitative strategy. Now, what if you find-- you notice that your opponent throws rock a lot? You start to notice a pattern of he's throwing rock. Let's say he's throwing rock every time. Well, what should you do? So obviously, you throw paper. The question is, with poker, how often should you throw paper? Do you throw paper 100% of the time? That seems logical. The problem with that is if you start throwing paper 100% of time, he notices and says, I caught on to something you're doing, so I'm going to adjust as well. So what you want to do is instead of doing 33%, 33%, 33% across the board, if he's throwing rock 100% of the time, you up your paper to maybe 40% or 45% of the time. So you're going to exploit the weakness in his strategy, but you're going to do it while he doesn't even realize you're doing it. Because every time you deviate from a game theory structure, you become exploitable as well. Another way to look at it, really, is game theory is a defensive strategy. It ensures that I'm protected. There's no way that you're going to be able to exploit me. Now, exploitative play, which is something that I've been doing for 20 years before I fully had a understanding of game theory, is always looking for the mistakes in my opponent, and going on the aggressive, and trying to take advantage of them. Now, of course, a byproduct of that is, well, if they're being perceptive, they can start exploiting me because I'm willing to give up on the defensive side to play aggressively. So it's very important to have a mix of both, starting with a baseline of game theory and then exploiting from there. So there's a debate in poker, which is which is the better approach. Should we be focusing on playing strictly game theory optimal, or should we focus on playing strictly exploitative? And I think the right answer is somewhere in the middle. So you take what you can from game theory and then adjust to your opponents. Because if you're not doing that, you're not going to maximize profit. So for example, if you have Player A, who plays game theory in a game full of recreational players, Player A is going to win. But if you're a Player B, and you're using some of that game theory, but you're also exploiting...

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Put yourself across the felt from Daniel Negreanu—the biggest live tournament poker winner of all time. The six-time World Series of Poker champion teaches advanced theory and practice through hand-reviews of his winning games. Learn how to sharpen your mental game through demos on reading opponents and spotting tells. Join Daniel at the table to learn how to increase your win rate, grow your ROI, and get your game “In the Money.”

See the table through Daniel’s eyes with case studies of body language and hand reviews of winning games across 38 on-demand video lessons.

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Daniel Negreanu

Daniel Negreanu Teaches Poker