Poker Book Review: “GTO Poker Simplified”

One of the responses I get when I recommend a poker book on Twitter is, “There is no point in reading books as they are out of date.” I have several responses to that comment and one of them is, “You probably haven’t read any books by Dara O’Kearney and Barry Carter.”

GTO Poker Simplified

Dara and Barry’s books always touch on current issues and they were the first to write about ICM and PKO tournaments. By reading them you will be able to not only improve your game but also be informed about the issues being debated and studied by players today.

The prolific writing duo launched their fourth strategy book in November called “GTO Poker Simplified” where they address a much debated topic among players: Game Theory Optimal (GTO) play.

Was there a need for another GTO book? According to the book’s introduction, they think that Michael Acevedo and Andrew Brokos wrote excellent books on the subject, but that many of their own students still have difficulties and doubts about GTO play. Thus the new book was born as a basic introduction to GTO concepts.

GTO Poker 2

The authors’ objective is to “present the key lessons from GTO in actionable heuristics for players taking their first steps into game theory or those who have previously struggled to get their head around it. The purpose of this book is to present some of the most important and practical concepts found by solver technology, in as easy to digest a manner possible.”

The Book’s Two Main Sections

The book is divided into two main parts. The first part explains concepts such as GTO and its differences with the exploitative game. It then covers value bets, range advantage, blockers and board coverage.

The second part of the book analyzes the game by Street and, as in their other books, they start with the river. It may be surprising that they start with the last street, but it makes sense since it is the easiest to play. Therefore, pre-flop is left for the end.

Is it necessary to know how to use solvers to understand the book? The answer is no, since the topics are explained in a clear and simple way. But those who know how to use solvers will be able to better understand the graphics O’Kearney and Carter present.

Important and Interesting Chapters

In the first chapter the authors debunk several myths about GTO: is it the most profitable way to play? Is it only useful at higher stakes? Is it boring? Do you have to be a genius to use it? All is answered.

One of the latest debates in poker has been whether to play GTO or more exploitatively. Dara provides his answer to the issue: “I sit right in the middle between GTO and exploitative. If I am in a tough game I lean towards GTO, but if I am in a soft game I play exploitative. Most of the time I am somewhere in between”.

The most important chapter of the book is chapter 3 and the authors believe that the most important sentence is: “your value bets drive your actions”. They state that: “Your value bets are what you use to make money in poker and everything else you do should be in service of that. At every point in the hand you want to ask yourself what your strong value hands are in your range and how many of them you have? After that, what is the best strategy for your entire range that will allow your biggest hands to get paid off for the maximum in the long run?”

Many Valuable Poker Tips to Be Had

One of the tips provided by the authors is to balance your bluffs with your value bets. If you only bet with good hands you will become exploitable and will not be able to maximize profits. On this subject, they explain a Bluff To Value Ratio that can be extremely useful for players.

Many amateurs place bets without knowing the reasons why they place them. It is always important to know why we bet. Some reasons might be : for value, to bluff or semi bluff, for protection or equity denial, as a blocker or merge bet, and for balance. All the above reasons are explained in the book.

When the authors talk about ranges they explain four main types: linear, polarized, condensed, and capped. For clarity they provide examples of each type. They also analyze the concept of range advantage. The concept of range advantage will help you to shift away from thinking about specific hands and instead consider your whole range.

For the authors, blockers are the most important concept in poker strategy, but their use has changed drastically since the advent of solvers. In this section they talk about ranges, the point of indifference, and unblockers.

Chapter 7 begins the second part of the book where the four streets are analyzed in depth: pre-flop, flop, turn, and river. Each of the concepts explained is illustrated by hands. And each chapter ends with “Heuristics for real life” where the most important topics of the chapter are summarized and their application in real cases is described.

GTO Picture 3

Finishing the book in Bariloche, in the south of Argentina


To summarize, O’Kearney and Carter present another excellent strategy book that is undoubtedly one of the best of 2022. We are already used to having a new O’Kearney and Carter book every year, and I hope that 2023 will not be the exception. There are still so many issues to analyze and they are the right people to do it.

You can purchase “GTO Poker Simplified” in its paperback or digital versions on Amazon.

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Santiago Garcia Mansilla
Written By.

Santiago Garcia Mansilla

Santiago is a longtime veteran of the poker industry, having written primarily about the game in Argentina since 2009. He has published hundreds of articles in Sudamerican Poker and Pokerlogia, and has provided live media coverage at the WSOP Main Event in 2015 and 2019. In addition to being a former columnist in PokerFace Magazine, […]

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