Mailbag: Playing Like a Robot

Thinking Poker MailbagQ: Remember years ago the training websites were saying we want to teach you to not become a “robot” and think about decisions. Wouldnt that be more of the exploitive strategy and now people almost want to play like a “robot” with game theory. Do you find that is happening now and it is interesting how the game evolves.

 Another question  is that is GTO better or worse for micro stakes players? I think playing exploitive would be a lot better moving up the stakes what’s your opinion on that?
A: Playing robotically and playing like a GTO-approximating poker super-computer aren’t necessarily the same thing. I’ve generally understood (and used) the admonition against “playing like a robot” as a warning against unthinking play, but unless you are a poker super-computer, it would probably require a lot of thought for you to come even close to approximating Game Theoretically Optimal play. Plenty of people, on the other hand, go on auto-pilot in extremely exploitable ways: betting every flop after they raise, folding any time they don’t have a piece of the board, calling just because they have top pair, etc. Whether you’re trying to play exploitively or not, playing well is going to require thinking deeply and situationally.
As for whether you should be trying to play exploitively, that depends on your skill level compared to that of your opponents. By definition, exploitive play requires you to recognize some mistake your opponents are making for you to exploit. When you’re playing with players better than you, that’s tough to do. Weaker players, who are generally but certainly not exclusively found in smaller stakes games, make more mistakes that can potentially be exploited.
A simple example would be a player who hates to fold when he has any piece of the board. If you play micro-stakes, I’m sure you’ve encountered a few of this type! Although you’d make money against this player employing balanced value betting and bluffing ranges, you wouldn’t make as much as you would with exploitive strategy. The most obvious exploitation would involve a lot of value betting, including with a lot of hands too weak to be part of a GTO range.
You’ll find that as you encounter tougher players, which will happen as you move up in stakes, it will be harder to spot such glaring leaks or formulate such obvious exploitive strategies. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done – there are plenty of good and even great players with exploitable tendencies – but they are harder to find and take advantage of. These players will also be more adept at recognizing and exploiting obvious imbalances in your game. You’ll end up playing a more balanced strategy against them as a result.
Do you have a question for the Thinking Poker Mailbag? Please leave it as a comment below!

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2 Responses to “Mailbag: Playing Like a Robot”

  • which says:

    What would be your advice be to someone who knows the basics, has access to a training site, can afford whatever books, and has internet access for various forums on how to best move forward?

    One of the things very inviting about PLO QuickPro’s guide was a comprehensive way of moving from point A (reasonable NLHE player) to point B (reasonable PLO player).

    I know some of your coaching involves this ‘map’ but what next?

    What would you suggest for getting from a winning low limit player to a plus EV mid stakes player?

    or perhaps a better question for a site with this many accomplished players: What is the best way to go from a small mid-stakes winner to a crusher?


  • Carlos says:

    Why wouldn’t a cash game with 6 extremely good players (say something like Poker After Dark) look like a match between 6 Snowies?

    And if the guys on POD are making errors according to Snowie, could an average joe who masters Snowie’s strategy sit in that game and clean it out over time?

    I should have asked this when Levermann was here (maybe someone else did?) but it just occurred to me as I watch everyone butcher Snowie’s preflop advice on an old POD episode.