Poker Book Review: GTO Gems

By Paul Seaton
August 11, 2022

The latest book to take on the on-trend subject of GTO is GTO Poker Gems by James “SplitSuit” Sweeney. With a plethora of GTO theory out there these days, what separates Sweeney’s work from the pack and why should you invest in it?

First off, the book is a cosy 128 pages long, with sections covering virtually every aspect of Game Theory Optimal (GTO) play in bitesize format, so if you’re looking for a deep bible that will be something that takes you hours to read through, you’re in the wrong place – or the wrong bookshelf. What GTO Poker Gems does provide you with, however, is perhaps more encouraging to players. It is a guide to utilizing GTO plays and putting them into practice immediately.

GTO Gems

With “12 insights from the solver that every player would use”, you can also correlate your learning from GTO Poker Gems with the GTO Ranges app, so working with the app and the book in tandem, you can see where the rubber meets the road, or the GTO theory evolves into GTO play.

READ MORE: Red Chip Poker GTO Ranges App Review

I didn’t come to GTO Poker Gems as any sort of expert with a deep knowledge of how to exploit players. I finished the book believing that at least two dozen notes I’d made will certainly improve my game on the back of my reading it. That’s the crucial appeal of GTO Poker Gems – it improves your gameplay no matter where you fit on the chart of understanding GTO.

Utilizing strong GTO play may seem like a daunting prospect; I’ll be honest it did to me before reading, but as the theories are laid out in front of you, you realize one key truth. Understanding GTO gives you the chance of winning pots on two levels.

Firstly, if you understand GTO, you can take advantage of those who don’t. Secondly, if you understand GTO then you’ll know the thought processes that others who use it are likely to take and can be exploitative. Exploiting a poker player’s patterns and predicted plays is a core skill of the game behind making profit.

GTO Poker Gems — Book Structure

Before the GTO theory starts, there’s a whole section on what to expect, so you can plan and plot your way through the knowledge you’re about to absorb, as well as getting ready to use the GTO Ranges app alongside the book.

The book is very clear on declaring in its first section that ‘There Is A Solution to Poker’, which struck me as incredibly bold. While I wanted to sink my teeth into unexploitable bluffing – which had the appeal of a manual on how to eat chocolate and lose weight ! – as well as other chapters such as Equity Distributions, Big Blind Defense and GTO Simplifications, I headed right for the gold. A solution to poker? C’mon.

As the chapter breaks down, GTO is essentially a solve for poker if given enough time to play out. Poker may contain luck, but maximise your skill and over the long-term, you’re going to see results. The GTO Poker Gems chapters all end with a set of takeaways called ‘The Gems’ which you can take away and there’s a nice appeal to each of them. I felt like a lucky pirate wandering from treasure chest to buried bags of gold on my own private island, filling my knapsack with priceless nuggets of information.

One such nugget is dropped early, and that is the notion of mixed strategies, which is simply explained as that a certain hand might be a call 70% of the time and a check 30% of the time. That doesn’t mean that you should call because that’s the action with the highest chance of success. It means that you can mix up your game and take a different strategy to stay one step ahead of your opponent.

In essence, that’s the core takeaway (or ‘gem’) you can take for this book – that there is always a GTO answer for your query about whether you could have played your hand better.

That is almost always the case, of course, but rather than make you feel like a dummy for ‘not getting it’, Sweeney’s take on GTO is easy to grasp and genuinely feels beneficial with every passing chapter.

An Easily Digestible Guide to Understanding GTO

From playing +EV poker rather than -EV (actions that will either cost you or give you profit over time), to analysing the nuts and bolts of a perfect betting strategy, GTO Poker Gems is full of information that sticks in your mind. There are tables and charts, sure, but never too many and no chart is placed in the book without a lot of attention to the reasons why. There’s a point where the ‘break-even’ point is breached and you can rely on the GTO you’ve learned making a profit in the long term. Once you’ve reached this point, you can look at how to take advantage of your opponents’ lack of knowledge.

The style of writing is accessible, too. There’s no constant math to digest and the use of language is economical and clean; a little like reading Lou Kreiger in his pomp. Sweeney knows how to put across the tips and tricks and knows when you need a little bit more meat on the bone. Whenever I felt like I wanted a little more explanation of the GTO theory as it was going in, there it was. If I felt I knew what I needed to, the page seemed to come to an end in that paragraph. That’s a rare skill among any writers, let alone in poker, where an extra chapter will often be added for little reason.

Overall, the book is full of GTO poker gems and lives up to its name throughout. If you’re looking for a way into GTO thinking when it comes to improving your poker skills, then I’d heartily recommend James Sweeney’s GTO Poker Gems. I’m glad I’ve read it. And if I’m about to play you at the felt, I’m hoping you haven’t!



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Paul Seaton poker author
Written By.

Paul Seaton

Paul Seaton has written about poker from all over the world, and has interviewed the most well known poker players in the world in the pursuit of the perfect poker stories. Having worked events such as the World Series of Poker, European Poker Tour and World Poker Tour, Paul has worked as Editor of BLUFF […]

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