What is a Poker Solver, and Will it Improve My Game?
If you’ve been around the poker community over the past few years, you’ll have noticed a substantive change in the way people talk about the game. It’s all “GTO” this and “solver-approved” that, but what exactly is a poker solver, and how can it help you become a better player? That’s exactly what we’ll be looking at in this article, so keep reading if you want to know everything there is to know about poker solvers.
Poker solvers are powerful tools that can help players improve their game by providing detailed analyses of specific hands and situations. A poker solver is a piece of software that uses advanced algorithms to analyse a given poker situation and determine the optimal strategy. The solver considers factors such as the player's hole cards, the board cards, the opponent’s range, and the betting action to calculate the expected value (EV) of each possible action.
How do poker solvers work?
As we mentioned above, the solver uses an advanced algorithm to reach an “optimal” solution by considering various factors that impact the hand, such as each player’s range, the board, and the bet sizes. It does this by pitting each strategy against the other until neither side can gain more EV by altering their strategy. In essence, it works like this:
Player A has a strategy; Player B adjusts to that strategy to maximally exploit it; Player A then readjusts to maximally exploit Player B’s strategy; Player B then adjusts again to maximally exploit that strategy; and so on and so on until neither side can change their strategy to gain more EV.
The solver can be described as omniscient, as it knows exactly what hands are in each player’s range and what strategy each player will use. Doing so allows it to create an optimal strategy for both players.
However, the solver won’t work on its own; you need to provide the inputs for it to work. This means that you need to input your range, your opponent’s range, the bet sizings you’d like it to use, whether or not your opponent will lead on any street, the stack sizes, and the flop, turn, or river, depending on what street you’re trying to solve. If your inputs aren’t accurate for your situation, your outputs won’t be either, so make sure you accurately reflect the situation you’re trying to calculate.
Check your hand strength using a poker solver like DeepSolver
What can you study?
You can study almost every poker situation using a solver, whether it’s preflop, flop, turn, or river. You can work on the building blocks of poker by solving for optimal preflop ranges, even going so far as to adjust for different rake structures, work on your river play by analysing various hands on the most important street, and everything in between.
However, your access to these solutions will depend on the type of poker solver you have, as some solvers will restrict access to things like preflop solutions unless you buy the “Pro” or “Advanced” versions. However, some of these versions cost upwards of $1000, which is a bit beyond the bankroll of the average player.
This is why people are moving towards a cloud computing solver model, where you can access state-of-the-art cloud computing technology to run any simulation you can think of. Many popular poker solvers use this method, such as DeepSolver, giving players a wider range of options at a much more affordable rate.
How should you use them?
But how exactly should you use poker solvers? You may think from the description so far that you can input any poker scenario and press a button to give you the right answer, but it’s not quite as simple as that.
When you run a calculation through a solver, you aren’t given a “correct” answer for how to play a hand; you’re given a poker hand matrix with the optimal strategy in each section. This is because solvers don’t calculate for one hand versus your opponent’s range; they look at your whole range versus your opponent’s range.
While it’s tempting to create a simulation for the one hand that you had in a situation you found difficult in-game, it’s not the most efficient way to use a solver. Rather than using it to find the “solution” to one particular hand, you should look at how the solver plays the whole range and make inferences from there.
For example, suppose you simulate a situation from the flop. In that situation, you might think that you should be betting only a small percentage of the time with the strongest portion of your range, but the solver is actually betting with most of its range due to the EV differences between the two ranges. Insights like this are incredibly valuable for getting a deeper understanding of poker, as it allows you to view your hands on a more macro scale, which in turn makes you play better with a larger number of hands.
This kind of insight can be multiplied by taking advantage of the flop aggregator tool. This tool allows you to view how the solver plays your range across a multitude of different flop types, which you can then use whilst playing in-game. It’s a tool that’s not used as often as it should be, as it allows you to master the strategy for a number of different flop types in a very short space of time.
DeepSolver's Flop Report
You should also be using your solver as a way to understand the baseline level of “GTO,” which you can then use to compare against your opponents. By understanding how to play “properly,” you’re able to identify when your opponents are playing too loose or too tight. If you don’t have this understanding of GTO play, you’d only be guessing as to how your opponents are playing compared to the optimal strategy.
Once you know how your opponents are playing compared to what they should be playing, you can then adjust your strategy. For example, if your opponents are playing too loose and bluffing too often, you can counter that by calling more hands and being more aggressive against bets. Similarly, if your opponents are playing too tight, you can fold more hands versus their bets and play more aggressively when they check.
Common mistakes people make while using poker solvers
While solvers are an incredibly powerful piece of tech that can be used to make you a much better player, they’re only as good as the people using them. You can’t press a magic button and have it tell you how to be a better player; you need to understand how your inputs affect the outputs and know how the results apply to the games you play in regularly. Lots of people who use solvers use them incorrectly, and these are some of the most common mistakes they’ll make:
Running them on an old PC
Solvers take an extraordinary amount of processing power to calculate their results. They take into account so many different variables and permutations when calculating a hand, particularly if you are running preflop or flop calculations; it can take hours or even days to complete if you’re making those calculations on a substandard PC. However, rather than shelling out for top-of-the-line hardware, many people are moving to a subscription service, such as DeepSolver, which offers cloud-based solver calculations. Rather than having to run it from your out-of-date machine, you can use the latest in cloud computing technology to get the answer to your most burning poker questions.
Inputting Incorrect Ranges
One of the most important things to do when using a poker solver is to be mindful of the preflop ranges you input at the start of the hand. The solver will use both your and your opponent’s ranges to calculate the EV of each strategy for each hand, so if any of those ranges are inaccurate, you’ll get inaccurate results. Remember to tailor your ranges based on the type of player you’re playing against. Create ranges that are looser than the optimal opening range for loose players, and create ranges that are tighter than the optimal opening range for tight players.
Taking The Solver’s Word As Gospel
Arguably the biggest mistake a player can make is to take the solver’s output as the only correct way, and rigidly apply their solver's solutions to every situation. Remember, the solver will give you outputs based on your inputs, and while those outputs are going to be optimal for that exact situation, it’s unlikely that this situation will always apply in real life. People don’t often play optimal ranges, so the highest EV strategy may differ against players who are playing sub-optimally. The key to using a poker solver efficiently at the lower stakes level is to use it to get a baseline understanding of what you should play and then compare that to how your opponents are playing. Are they playing tighter or looser than they should, and what should you do to counter it?
What are the pros and cons of poker solvers?
There’s no doubt that poker solvers are a net positive in the world of poker learning. Our understanding of the game has been greatly increased because of their presence, but as with everything in life, nothing is perfect. There are some downsides to using a poker solver, so let’s look at the pros and cons of using one.
- Get Optimal Postflop Solutions - This is the biggest advantage of using a poker solver; as long as you’ve entered the correct inputs, you can discover the optimal way to play your hand. Not only is this great for understanding how to play a particular hand, but you can extrapolate the information to understand how to play your whole range in common poker scenarios, making you much tougher to play against.
- Calculate Optimal Preflop Ranges - Another major advantage of using a poker solver is that you can calculate optimal preflop ranges for the games you play. You can input the stakes, your stack size, and the rake structure and get optimal preflop ranges based on that information. You’ll never have to worry if you’re playing too tight or too loose ever again!
- Understand How To Exploit Your Opponents - By using a poker solver, you get to learn what it means to play Game Theory Optimal poker. Once you have a solid understanding of this type of poker, you can use it to identify when your opponents are deviating from it. For example, suppose you see your opponents bluffing with a hand that should never be bluffed. In that case, you can extrapolate that information and assume that your opponent is often overbluffing, so you can call them down wider and expect to win more often.
- It’s Only As Good As Its Inputs - A poker solver is not a magical “solve poker” button; it requires a great deal of input from the user before it’s able to calculate and display accurate information. If your inputs are incorrect for the situation you want to analyse, your results will be faulty, and the information and insights you may glean from the outputs may not be accurate.
- One Calculation At A Time - Another downside is that you can only run one calculation at a time. This means that if you want to calculate a variety of different spots, it will take a lot of time for the solver to run and to fully analyse the position for each one. While cloud computing solves this problem to an extent, it still doesn’t solve the issue that you can only study one scenario at a time.
- Results Aren’t Always Applicable - One of the biggest misnomers about poker solvers is that they’re the gospel truth of how to play a poker hand. However, the solutions you see are based on two players playing optimally against one another. Fortunately for us, every player we play against will be making some kind of mistake, with many players at the lower stakes making dozens of mistakes an hour. This means that the solver outputs won’t show the most optimal way to play, as if your opponent is making a mistake, you can adjust your strategy to exploit that. This is why it’s important to use poker solvers as a way of understanding what GTO play is, which you can then use to exploit your opponents.
Discover how to exploit your opponents by using a poker solver. This is the 'Find Exploits' report from DeepSolver
It’s true that poker solvers have taken studying the game of poker to a new level, but only for those who truly understand how to use them. They take a lot of understanding to use correctly, and players must temper their expectations for what they can expect, as understanding solver outputs and what they mean will take a lot of patience and time. However, by learning how to interpret solver inputs and understanding GTO play to the point where you can identify errors in your opponents, you can further yourself as a poker player and increase your edge in the games you play.
Poker Tells Recap - What Have We Learnt?
We've come to the end of our Poker Tells Series, and we've covered a lot in these six parts. So much so, we thought it was worth it to recap the key points we've learnt throughout this series in a way that's easy to digest. If you've skipped to the end of this series and want to find out what you've missed out on, you're in the right place! However, to get the best experience, we recommend going back and reading from the beginning - that way, you won't miss out on any valuable information. Without further ado, let's recap the important points we've learnt in our Poker Tells Series. Pay Attention! The biggest thing you should take away from our Poker Tells Series is how much you need to be paying attention at the tables. Not only do you need to be paying attention to spot any of these tells in the first place, but you also need to pay attention all the way to showdowns to see what these tells mean. So many of the tells we've covered can have different meanings for different players, so if you're not paying attention to what it means for your specific opponent, you're going to use the tell incorrectly and end up making a worse decision. Consider Everything When people think of poker tells, they maybe think of one or two classic tells that you'll see in Hollywood movies, but people give off tells with all parts of their body. Whether they're touching their nose while bluffing in a big pot or tapping their foot to the beat while they value bet with the nuts, your opponents are giving off tells from head to toe. If you only look for the well-known tells, you're going to be missing out on a lot of key information. Make sure you're constantly scanning your opponents for any of the tells listed in this series if you want to give yourself the best chance of picking something up. Treat Every Opponent Differently It's easy to assume that because a certain tell means your opponent is weak or strong, the same applies to everyone you come across who has the same tell. In reality, that's not the case. A number of tells have different meanings for different opponents. For example, if your opponent's neck is pulsing, it could mean that they're excited about holding a strong hand, or they could be nervous about pulling off a huge bluff. If you assume that each tell means the same thing for everyone, you'll end up making a lot of bad decisions at the table. Make Logical Adjustments If you spot a tell from one of your opponents, it's important that you use it to make logical adjustments to your strategy. This means that you should work out what the tell means from your opponent, then make changes to your strategy that counter that. For example, if your opponent has a tell that displays strength, you should counter that by folding more of your range and playing more passively. On the other hand, if your opponent has a tell that displays weakness, you should play more aggressively and call a wider range than you otherwise would. Make Small Adjustments At First When you first spot a tell, it's tempting to make massively exploitative plays to try and own your opponent. However, a smart poker player will start by making small adjustments to their ranges at first until they know their tell is rock solid. Making huge adjustments without being certain in your read is going to cost you significantly in the long run, so play it safe to start with and only make minor adjustments to your calling/folding/raising ranges when you spot a tell. Summary To be successful at using poker tells to enhance your game, you need to be attentive, perceptive, and strategical. You should be plugged into what everyone's doing at the table, every action they're making, and what they look like when they're doing it. Once you spot a pattern in their physicality, you can gain information on whether or not it means they're strong or weak. After working out what a tell means, you can use that information to inform your strategy and make adjustments to exploit your opponents. After reading through the Poker Tells Series, you should have the tools to do just that - so go out there are start owning your opponents!
A Beginner’s Guide To Poker Prop Bets
If you've played with action players at your local casino or watched one of the old episodes of High Stakes Poker, you'll have heard people talk about prop bets. But what exactly are prop bets? Are they worth your time, or should you ignore them and focus on the poker? We'll answer all of that and more in this beginner's guide to poker prop bets. What is a Prop? A "prop” or a "proposition bet” is a side bet made between players at the table, sometimes about what will happen during the hand, but sometimes about "extracurricular activities”. Most of the prop bets you'll hear at the table relate to the poker, whether it's a bounty for winning with a certain hand or players betting on what the flop, turn, or river will be. However, poker is famously a game of egos, and when those egos clash, it can lead to some extraordinary bets made away from the felt. We'll cover some of the more famous ones in another piece, including weight loss bets with Ted Forrest and Mike Matusow, golf bets with Erick Lindgren and Phil Ivey, and backflip bets with Huck Seed. For now, let's learn to walk before we run and focus on the poker-related ones. Props For the Whole Table There are two kinds of prop bets you can make whilst playing poker - ones that involve the whole table and ones between you and a friend. The ones for the whole table require everyone's participation to be worthwhile, as if some people refuse to join in, it puts them at an advantage over the other players. You also need permission from the card room, as some casinos won't allow prop bets such as these to be played at the tables due to licensing concerns. The majority of these games require the table to pay a bounty to a player who accomplishes a difficult task or require a player to pay a bounty if they fail to accomplish a task. The exact task set by the table will vary depending on the prop bet, and these bets can lead to some interesting dynamics at the table. Let's take a look at the most popular prop bets for the whole table. The 7-2 Game Arguably the most well-known prop bet in poker is the 7-2 game. 72 is known as the worst hand in poker, so to make the game more interesting, you can decide to award a bounty to anyone who manages to win a hand with 72. The size of the bounty will vary depending on the game, but it's often anywhere between 5-20bb, based on the amount of pain you want to inflict. This game is the most popular due to its simplicity - all you have to do is win a hand with 72, and you'll get paid by the other players if you do. It doesn't matter if you win at showdown or with a bluff; as long as the chips are getting pushed towards you at the end of the hand, you can claim your bounty. It also creates interesting dynamics at the table, as you don't know if someone is value betting with a very strong hand or bluffing with 72. Even if the bounty is relatively small, players will try to win a hand with 72 just for the ability to rub it in the faces of their opponents when they manage to get a bluff through. Some players have even expanded on this game to include hands like 83 and 94, but it's hard to beat the classic 72 game. The Button Game We all know the button is the most profitable position at the poker table, and you can expect to win lots of hands playing from it, but what if you were punished for not winning a hand from the button? That's the basis of the button game - a game where players must pay a bounty for not winning a hand on the button. The mechanics of the button game are simple; the table agrees upon a set amount that must be paid by the player who fails to win on the button - usually between 1-5bb. That bounty then goes onto the button when it is passed to the next player. If that player wins the hand, they win the bounty, but if they fail to win the hand, they must add their own bounty to be passed to the next player, and so on. After a couple of hands, there's can be a significant bounty up for grabs just for winning a hand on the button. The Standup Game Usually, being the last one standing is a good thing - but not in the standup game. If you're the last person standing in this game, you owe every other player at the table a bounty, which can quickly get expensive! To play this game, everyone must agree on a bounty to be paid by the last person standing, usually somewhere between 2-10bb. When the game starts, everyone must stand up. Once you win a pot, you're allowed to sit back down. It doesn't matter how you win the pot; as long as the chips are pushed your way, you can sit down. However, you must win the pot outright - chopped pots don't count. The last person standing must pay out the agreed bounty to every player at the table. This game can create a lot of tension, especially when there are only two or three players left standing. Props For You and a Friend If you can't get everyone at the table involved in your prop bets or just want to gamble with your friend, you can play some 2-3 player prop bets. These are side bets on the outcome of certain elements of the hand but do not impact the way the game is played. Let's take a look at some of the most popular prop bets. The Red/Black Game While some may call it degenerate behaviour to bet on what colour the flop will be, it's actually a lot of fun! This game is popular due to its simplicity, but you can make it as complicated as you'd like. The base game is a simple bet on whether the flop will be mostly red or mostly black. You pick a colour with your friend, who picks the opposite colour, and you agree on an amount to pay the winner. If your colour comes in, you win, but if it doesn't, you lose - it's that easy. However, you can make it more complicated by adding clauses or extending the bet to the turn and river. For example, you can win double if the flop comes down all red or all black, you can win 4x if all of a particular suit comes out, you can win 8x if the flop, turn, and river all your colour - the possibilities are endless! The Suit Game A variation on the red/black game is the suit game. This game takes it one step further, as it's now not enough for the right colour to come on the flop; the right suit needs to appear for you to win. The exact rules of the game can be deliberated between you and your opponent, but the most common way to play it is for a player to pick either one or two suits, and both players agree to pay the other a set amount depending on how many cards of that suit appear on the flop. For example, if you pick hearts and I pick diamonds, I'll agree to pay you $5 for every heart on the flop, and you'll agree to pay me $5 for every diamond on the flop. So, for a flop of AhKdQh, I owe you $10, but you owe me $5, so you end up with a $5 profit. You can make this game more interesting by adding bonuses for the flop having all three of a particular suit, or by doubling the stakes if the previous round was a push. The Pick a Card/3 Cards Game If suits and colours are too boring, you can play the Pick a Card prop game or the more commonly played 3 Cards game. In this prop bet, you and your opponent pick one or three cards to be your "props.” If your card appears on the flop, you win the bet, and if your opponent's cards come out, you lose the bet. This game is commonly played with three cards, as it's a statistical likelihood that at least one of your three cards will hit the flop, which makes the game a lot more interesting and leads to more bets being won or lost. Again, just like the other prop bets, this game can be as complicated as you'd like. Those of you who watched those early seasons of High Stakes Poker/Poker After Dark will remember this game, as it's the one that Doyle, Ivey, Negraneu, and others were playing during those games. Some examples of the variations they added include things like doubling the amount if your card appears in the middle of the flop, getting a bonus if your suit is on the flop, and doubling the amount you win if you had a winner in the previous round. Why Do People Play Props? The simple answer is because people like to gamble! Many players who sit down at the poker table aren't thinking of GTO ranges and proper postflop strategy ; they're there to have a good time and gamble their money - and prop bets are a good way to do that. Plus, live poker can be very slow, and if you're card dead, it's easy to lose interest. Playing small prop bets such as these is a fun way to keep yourself engaged with what's going on during the hand, even when you're getting bored. However, make sure you don't get too involved in the props and forget to play your hand properly! Should I Play Props? The answer to whether or not you should play props depends on what your goal is when you sit down at the poker table. If the goal is to have as much fun as possible and you find prop bets fun, then by all means, gamble it up with the rest of the table. But, if your goal is to be as profitable as possible, then it's best to give the card-based props like the red/black game a miss. That being said, some of the table-wide prop bets are worth participating in to gain favour with the rest of the players at the table. After all, no one wants to be the nit who wouldn't play the 7-2 game just because they don't want to gamble. Plus, if you're one of the better players at the table, you should be able to adjust to the new dynamic better than your opponents, giving you a bigger edge. Even if you're against these games, it's worth it to join in just so you continue to get action later on in the night - just because you're playing the 7-2 game doesn't mean you actually have to play 72 when you're dealt it. You're well within your rights to just fold it and take the goodwill from the rest of the table. Summary Prop bets are fun side bets that you can make while playing poker. These bets can be about the outcome of certain cards appearing on the board, or they can be bounties awarded to or taken from players based on whether or not they complete a certain task. They can add an interesting dynamic to the game, promote more action from the players, and can even increase the edge of the players who are better able to adjust to the new dynamic.
What Does Your Favourite Poker Hand Say About You?
We all have a favourite poker hand, whether we want to admit it or not, and what that hand is can say a lot about a person. That's why we've decided to take a closer look at people's most common favourite hands and what it says about them. Pocket Aces You're a grinder whose only focus is on making the most money possible. If someone asks you what hand you'd want to play for the rest of your life, there's only one answer - aces. They make the most money and, therefore, are your favourite hand. You're probably not much fun at parties and spend your time at home running sims on your state-of-the-art PC. Sure, you're better at poker than us, but are you truly happy? Think on that the next time you're raking in a pot from us gamblers. Pocket Kings While not quite on the same level as aces, you're someone who likes a strong hand but likes to live with an element of risk . Sure, you're likely to have the best hand, but there are still those pesky aces out there that can beat you, and it's that risk that you can't get enough of. Either that, or you're from Texas and have a thing for cowboys - could be either one. Pocket Queens The hunnies. The dames. The ladies. Whatever name you have for them, you just can't get enough of them. There's something about them that keeps you coming back for more , even when you said you'd quit after running into cowboys and bullets one too many times. You're the kind of player who wears their heart on their sleeve and isn't afraid to show their loyalty to their favourite hand at the table. You don't care what people say; women aren't the rake; they're queens, and you give them the respect they deserve. Pocket Jacks A wise man once said, "There are 10 different ways to play jacks, and all of them are wrong.” Despite this, pocket jacks are still your favourite hand to play. Maybe you're someone who likes a challenge, maybe you've finally figured out how to play them, or maybe you're just a masochist who loves seeing a big pair get cracked. Whichever one it is, we recommend picking a new favourite - for your sanity's sake. Ace King Suited You're a sculptor of chips, a painter of bluffs, a true artist at the table - at least that's what you have to be if a drawing hand is your favourite. You see all these people who love pairs and think, "Where's the challenge?” I want to miss the flop at least ⅔ of the time and really fight for my pots. You love hero-calling AK as it's the "nut no pair” and are willing to risk your whole stack with it at any time. Still, at least it's suited . Ace King Off-Suit Which brings us to AKo. Seriously, your favourite hand is AK, but you don't like it suited? What's wrong with you? Do you hate equity? We get it, it's hard to work out whether or not you have a flush, and you don't want to deal with the pressure while everyone's looking at you, but seriously, it's worth it. Either that, or someone pranked you by saying AKo can make two flushes and is better than AKs, and if that's the case, where are you next playing so I can come? Seven Deuce You've read the poker books telling you to play the good hands and thrown them out for being too bossy. No one tells you what to do , you'll play your own goddamn money the way you goddamn please, and that includes punting off with 72o just to rub it in the faces of the grinders. Nothing beats the sense of satisfaction of throwing this hand in the face of some kid in a hoodie, telling them, "That's how you play poker, kid.” Not even the several trips to the ATM over the course of a night can dampen that feeling, no matter how many sniggers you hear from the table. Ten Deuce Ahhh, finally, someone of culture. "If it's good enough for ol' Texas Dolly, it's good enough for me,” you say. This is a hand that won back-to-back WSOP Main Events, there has to be something to it, right? Right? You're a player who takes superstition very seriously . You never win the first pot of the night, you touch wood for good luck, and you always play your favourite hand. One of these days, it will pay off for you; I can feel it! Nine Six of Hearts You're the comedian of the table, but there's also a romantic side to you . Sure, everyone laughs when you turn over "the sex hand,” but they don't understand that to you, it's more than sex; it's about love. You love the 96 of hearts, almost as much as you love shoving the nuts in the face of that attractive player that just sat down in seat six. Almost, but not quite. Pocket Deuces Deuces never lose…es; that's the saying, right? Well, that's what you've heard, and that's what you're sticking to. Hey, if it rhymes, it has to be true - even if it doesn't completely rhyme. You're someone who likes an underdog , who likes to cheer for the person who's got the lowest chance of winning. It's a good job too, considering your choice of favourite hand - you can always cheer yourself on to pull off a shock win, no matter how unlikely! Can't see your favourite hand? Let us know what it is on Facebook and Instagram and we'll follow up with a part 2!
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