Book Excerpt: ‘Modern Poker Theory’ by Michael Acevedo

September 06, 2019inPoker

New from D&B Publishing, Modern Poker Theory: Building an Unbeatable Strategy Based on GTO Principles by Michael Acevedo has already earned kudos from poker players seeking theoretical advice for no-limit hold’em, including how best to approach and apply ideas related to game theory optimal play (GTO).

Acevedo brings to the book an expertise in game theory, with Modern Poker Theory representing the culmination of many thousands of hours of research with the most advanced poker software tools available. In particular, Modern Poker Theory presents an in-depth examination of what is meant by GTO and how it can be applied at the table.

Understanding GTO is fundamental to being able to make accurate poker decisions and being able to exploit players who don’t. Modern Poker Theory uses modern poker tools to develop a systematic approach to the analysis of GTO. It organizes the ideas and concepts in an intuitive manner that is totally focused to practical applications.

The book is divided into three parts. The first, “The Elements of Poker Theory,” explains basic poker concepts and game theory’s relevance while also showing how to use various modern poker software. The other two parts — “Pre-Flop: Theory and Practice” and “Post-Flop: Theory and Practice” — comprehensively cover in-game situations while demonstrating how a knowledge of game theory optimal play can apply in each.

The following excerpt follows one shared before in which Acevedo discusses the “Theory of Betting” — specifically focusing upon “Leveraging the Advantage of Knowing Your Own Cards.”

There Acevedo introduces the idea of not only using the informational advantage of knowing your exact hand while your opponent does not, but finding situations where you have a range of hands that makes it difficult for your opponent to know with precision how to play against you. In this context, explains Acevedo, “Strong ranges are ranges where the informational advantage is very valuable and that is when the Villain’s correct play varies drastically depending on what part of your range you are holding at that specific time.”

Building upon that idea, Acevedo here recalls the “clairvoyance toy game” in order to illustrate that point further. Take a look:

Theory of Betting (continued)

Let’s recall the solution of the clairvoyance toy game with $100 stacks and a pot of $100. The EV of the game for P1 is $75. Thinking about this game from an informational standpoint, P1 has perfect information, as the opponent’s range is exactly one hand, KK, and P2 has the worst amount of information possible. They know Villain has equal probability of having two hands and the correct action when facing a bet is the complete opposite depending on which of those hands Villain holds.

Now let’s imagine P1 had only one type of hand in their range, either the nuts or air. P2 would again have an easy decision. In this case, the action of betting would not have any value at all because P2 would never call a bet when P1 has AA and P2 would always call when P1 had QQ. So again, P1 would never bet. In this case, each player’s EV would be $50, but in the original toy game where P1’s range is 50% AA and 50% QQ, betting has value, and the way to measure the value of having the option to bet for P1 is to compare the EV of the toy game with the option to bet against the toy game where the option to bet is removed:

In this toy game, the strategic option of betting for P1 has a value of $25 and the reason P1 is able to extract value by betting is because of range composition. Furthermore, if the cards were face-up, P2 would only call when seeing P1 has QQ and would never call when P2 has AA. If the cards were face-up, betting would not make any sense and they might as well as check 100% and realize 100% of their equity, resulting in an EV of $50 each.

With the hands face-up, P1’s advantage disappears. The original solution to this game is for P1 to bet 100% of the time with AA and 50% of the time with QQ, but P1 would not be able to execute this strategy if playing face-up. All of the EV P1 gets from betting comes from this asymmetrical information. There is no reason for P1 to bet except for the advantage gained by knowing their hole cards and the fact that Villain does not.

A similar thing happens when you play real poker and there are cards still to come. If you play your range in a manner that effectively turns your hand face-up, your opponents could very easily take advantage. For example, imagine your betting range is heavily unbalanced towards flush draws on a two-tone flop. In that case, the correct play for the Villain would be to call the bet, and then play very aggressively on blank turns. So, having range diversity can be extended to a concept called board coverage. Having good board coverage means that your range can make strong hands on a wide variety of runouts, or all of the possible runouts if you are playing perfectly balanced strategies.

The entire betting and raising dynamics in the game of poker revolve around this concept of leveraging the informational advantage of knowing your hole cards and your opponents only knowing your range. This is going to be the primary reason to bet.

Every time you bet, you force your opponent to make a decision and since you get to decide what your betting range is, if you build it in a way that the correct decision against you is very different depending on which part of your range you hold, then your opponent will be unable to consistently make good decisions and, as a result, will lose EV.

In general, you want to construct your betting range in such a way that your opponent cannot possibly make the right decision consistently against all the different holdings in your range. You want to create a big discrepancy between your opponent’s EV when they call and you hold hand type A in your range compared to when they call and you hold hand type B or C in your range. The same applies to raising. You want there to be a sizeable EV difference when they raise when you have hand A in your range and when they raise and you have hand B or C in your range. That is what makes a really strong betting range. The EV of folding is always 0, so in that case it doesn’t matter.

Modern Poker Theory is available to order in paperback and as an e-book at D&B Poker.

D&B Publishing (using the imprint D&B Poker) was created by Dan Addelman and Byron Jacobs 15 years ago. Since then it has become one of the leading publishers of poker books with titles by Phil Hellmuth, Jonathan Little, Mike Sexton, Chris Moorman, Lance Bradley, Martin Harris and more, all of which are available at D&B Poker.



PokerStars staff

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