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Play Optimal Poker: Practical Game Theory for Every Poker Player

2019, Andrew Brokos

Andrew Brokos’s “Play Optimal Poker” breaks down game theory in a way that’s accessible and practical for poker players at all levels. The book moves beyond the abstract principles of GTO (Game Theory Optimal) play, providing readers with concrete examples and strategies that can be applied directly to their game. Brokos excels at making complex concepts understandable, ensuring that even those new to game theory can grasp its importance and use it to improve their decision-making at the table.

  • Pros
  • Simplifies complex game theory concepts.
  • Practical advice for real-game situations.
  • Accessible across skill levels.
  • Focuses on improving decision-making.
  • Cons
  • Some sections may require re-reading for full comprehension.
  • Advanced players might desire more depth in certain areas.


Note globale




  • After reading “Play Optimal Poker,” you will know:
  • How to apply game theory to real-life poker situations.
  • Strategies for balancing bluffs and value bets.
  • The importance of ranges and how to construct them.

“Play Optimal Poker” by Andrew Brokos provides a fresh perspective on the strategic application of game theory to poker, offering readers insights into making better decisions at the table. Brokos, a respected poker coach and player, demystifies complex concepts of game theory, making them accessible to players at various skill levels. This book is significant for those looking to understand the foundational principles behind the decisions in poker rather than just following a set of rules.

Andrew Brokos has established credibility in the poker community through his successful playing career, coaching, and as a co-host of the Thinking Poker Podcast, where he discusses strategies and interviews other poker professionals. His approach to teaching poker strategy in “Play Optimal Poker” is both analytical and practical, making sophisticated concepts of game theory applicable for anyone looking to improve their game.

Pros and Cons

  • Pros
  • Deep Dive into Game Theory: Provides a thorough understanding of game theory optimal (GTO) strategies and how they can be applied in poker.
  • Practical Examples: The book includes numerous examples and hand analyses that demonstrate how to apply GTO concepts in real-life situations.
  • Accessible Writing: Brokos has a talent for explaining complex concepts in an understandable way, making advanced strategies accessible to a broader audience.
  • Versatile Strategies: Offers insights that are applicable across different types of poker games, including both tournament and cash gameplay.
  • Cons
  • Requires Prior Knowledge: The book is best suited for those who already have a basic understanding of poker and are looking to improve.
  • Can Be Abstract: Some readers may find the theoretical aspects of game theory challenging to grasp without practical experience.

Synopsis of “Play Optimal Poker”

“Play Optimal Poker” dives deep into the application of game theory optimal (GTO) strategies in poker, guiding players on how to think about poker strategies in terms of mathematical models and logical decision-making processes. The book is structured to gradually introduce the reader to GTO concepts, starting with fundamental principles and progressing to more advanced applications in real poker scenarios.

Brokos explores key concepts such as equilibrium strategies, constructing ranges, and the balance between bluffing and value betting. He uses clear, understandable examples to illustrate how these concepts can be used to make unexploitable decisions. Unlike many poker guides that focus on specific hand strategies, “Play Optimal Poker” emphasizes understanding the underlying theory that governs all poker decisions, providing players with tools to adapt and thrive in any poker game.

Key Points Covered in “Play Optimal Poker”

  • Introduction to Game Theory: Brokos begins with a foundational overview of game theory principles, setting the stage for their application in poker.
  • Equilibrium Strategies: The concept of playing in a way that cannot be exploited by opponents is explained, with strategies for achieving this balance.
  • Bluffing and Value Betting: A detailed discussion on how to mix bluffs with value bets to keep opponents guessing and protect your strategy from being exploited.
  • Range Construction: Techniques for constructing and utilizing ranges effectively, allowing players to make more informed decisions based on probable hands.
  • Adapting to Opponent Strategies: Insight into how to adjust your play based on the tendencies and patterns of opponents, moving beyond GTO when necessary.
  • Exploitative Play vs. GTO: An exploration of when to stick with GTO strategies and when to deviate to exploit specific opponents’ weaknesses.
  • Practical Examples and Hand Analyses: Brokos provides real-game scenarios and hand analyses to demonstrate the application of GTO principles.
  • Mental Game and Decision Making: The importance of a strong mental game and how GTO can simplify decision-making processes in complex situations.
  • Advanced GTO Concepts: For more experienced players, the book delves into advanced GTO strategies and concepts, pushing the envelope of poker theory.
  • Implementing GTO in Your Game: Practical advice on integrating GTO strategies into your play, including study tips and mindset adjustments.

“Play Optimal Poker” encapsulates a comprehensive guide to understanding and applying game theory in poker. Brokos adeptly bridges the gap between theoretical concepts and practical play, offering readers a solid foundation in GTO principles accompanied by actionable strategies.

Who Is This Book For?

“Play Optimal Poker” is designed for a wide audience, from intermediate players who have grasped the basic concepts of poker to advanced players seeking to incorporate game theory into their strategy. Here’s how different readers might benefit from the book:

  • Intermediate Players: Those with a foundational knowledge of poker but looking to elevate their game will find the book’s introduction to game theory concepts invaluable. It provides a structured way to think about poker that can lead to more sophisticated and informed decision-making.
  • Advanced Players: Experienced players familiar with game theory but seeking to deepen their understanding and application of GTO strategies in live play will benefit from the advanced concepts and practical examples Brokos provides.
  • Tournament and Cash Game Players: The book’s strategies are applicable to both tournament and cash game settings, offering insights into adjustments necessary for each format.
  • Poker Enthusiasts: Even if not actively playing, readers with a keen interest in the theory and strategy behind poker will find “Play Optimal Poker” engaging and enlightening.

While the book assumes a certain level of poker knowledge, Brokos’ clear and accessible writing makes complex concepts approachable. However, absolute beginners might find it challenging as their first poker strategy book due to the focus on game theory and strategic thinking over basic rules and gameplay.

For more essential reads, check out our article on the best poker books.

Four Reasons to Buy “Play Optimal Poker” by Andrew Brokos


Elevate Your Strategic Game

For players looking to move beyond basic strategy and incorporate a more nuanced, theoretically informed approach.


Learn from a Pro

Brokos’ experience and success in poker provide a credible foundation for the strategies discussed.


Improve Decision Making

Understanding and applying game theory concepts can lead to better decision-making at the table.


Versatility Across Poker Formats

The principles outlined are applicable to a variety of poker games, making it a valuable resource regardless of your preferred format.

My Honest Opinion

Play Optimal Poker is a significant contribution to poker literature, particularly for those interested in the application of game theory to poker. Andrew Brokos successfully demystifies complex concepts, making them accessible and practical for players looking to enhance their understanding and application of strategic play. The balance between theoretical explanations and real-world examples ensures that readers can not only grasp but also apply these strategies in their games. This book is a must-read for anyone serious about developing a robust, adaptable poker strategy grounded in game theory.

Andrew Brokos

about Andrew Brokos

Andrew Brokos is a highly respected figure in the poker community, not only for his accomplishments at the table but also for his contributions to poker education and strategy. He has been a professional poker player for over a decade, with numerous deep runs in major tournaments, including the World Series of Poker. Beyond his playing career, Brokos has dedicated himself to teaching others, both as a poker coach and through his popular podcast, the Thinking Poker Podcast. His ability to break down complex strategies into understandable concepts makes him a sought-after coach and author in the poker world.

Brokos’ approach to poker is both analytical and empathetic, understanding that poker is not just a game of numbers but also one of human psychology and interaction. His insights into the game come from a deep understanding of both its mathematical underpinnings and the psychological nuances that influence decision-making at the table. “Play Optimal Poker” is a reflection of his comprehensive approach to the game, combining theory with practical advice to help players improve.