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What is a Poker Solver, and How Does it Work?

Shane C

Nov 6, 2023

What is a Poker Solver and How Does it Work

Poker solvers are useful modern tools that allow you to build a poker strategy that can help you ensure optimal play. However, understanding what a poker solver is and how it works is an essential aspect of using poker solvers successfully.

In this article, we will take a closer look at how poker solvers use game theory to provide appropriate predictions and how you can use them to create the best poker strategies for your next game.

What is a Poker Solver?

Poker solvers are game theory optimal algorithms that use a series of theories and techniques to help create poker strategies. They take into account a wide range of different parameters or inputs to help predict precisely what moves the poker players around the table are likely to make. 

Whenever you're playing poker, whether it be tournament poker, online poker, or another form of this popular game, you can use this type of tool to help turn your poker skills into a winning strategy.

How Do Poker Solvers Work?

Poker solvers work using a range of theoretical constructs, such as the betting tree or game tree. It takes into account all of the inputs that you give it and uses them to create a strategy for your poker game.

With GTO poker solvers, providing the correct poker solver parameters is paramount. This type of tool has no independent thinking abilities. As a result, it will take exactly what you give it and only give you what you ask for.

What is a Betting Tree?

Betting trees are a fundamental part of game theory, and game theory optimal poker solvers rely heavily on these betting trees. They consist of several different parts, including the following:

  • Nodes - Nodes represent specific points in time where the poker players must make decisions. Where poker is concerned, each node may represent an opportunity to bet, raise, fold, or perform another relevant action.

  • Edges - Connecting each set of nodes is an edge, which represents the possible transitions, moves, or changes that can occur between each set of nodes. The poker solver usually uses the potential strategic options and rules of the game to determine what each edge will represent.

  • Leaves - The leaves of the tree, or the terminal nodes, represent the possible final outcomes. With a poker solver, this may take the form of winning, losing, and an array of different payout options. Either way, the leaves represent any and all potential outcomes that you have programmed the solver to predict.

  • Probabilities - An essential part of the edges located between the nodes are the probabilities expressing the likelihood of certain events. They help to account for any uncertainties or randomness inherent in a poker game, allowing the solver to approximate likely occurrences.

The betting or game tree is a foundational part of any solver, without which it cannot accurately predict or represent the potential outcomes of the game.

Poker Solver Inputs

A game theory optimal solver, or GTO solver, is a type of algorithm that uses game theory to create a GTO poker strategy.

In order to get a poker solver to give you the results that you so desperately need, you'll have to input an array of different parameters. These may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Betting tree: The size and complexity of the betting tree you want the program to create can have a significant impact on the outcome. Even the most basic game tree has thousands of nodes. The bigger the tree is, the more complex the parameters.

  • Game Variant: The solver will also consider the unique attributes and rules of different variants. It's essential to specify which poker variant you're playing, such as:

    • Texas Hold 'em

    • Omaha

    • Seven Card Stud

  • Hand Ranges: Define the ranges of hands for all players at the table, including your opponents. This is especially important for Out of Position (OOP) and In Position (IP) players.

  • Board Cards: If the poker variant you're playing has community cards like flop, turn, and river cards, you need to input those into the solver as well. They can drastically affect the potential outcomes of the game. 

  • Stack Sizes: Specify the chip stack sizes for all players involved in the hand, including yourself and your opponents.

  • Position: You should always input your position at the table. Depending on whether you're in an early, middle, or late position, the poker strategy can vary significantly.

  • Pot Size: Enter the starting size of the pot, as this will help the solver to accurately predict future changes to the pot.

  • Bet Sizes: Input the current bets and raises made by players in the hand, as well as potential bet sizing options.

  • Pot Odds: Calculate and input the pot odds based on the current pot size and the size of the bet you're facing.

  • Player Tendencies: Inputting the player tendencies for each of your opponents can help the solver predict the different nodes accurately. Some programs may even allow you to input past recordings from online poker games or televised poker games. If one of your opponents is prone to something like donk betting or an overly aggressive preflop play, the solver can help turn this into a strategy.

Poker Solvers: The Limitations

It's worth noting that due to the nature of the type of program, poker solvers have some limitations. Many winning poker players use them to gain an advantage. But whether you're trying to build an exploitative strategy or just become a better poker player, you need to understand the limitations of GTO solutions.

Let's take a closer look at some of the main limitations serious poker players encounter when constructing a GTO strategy to help them play poker.

Pots with More than Two Players

Is it sometimes the case that a solver simply cannot process large pots being divided among more than two players? While it may not fail entirely, the poker scenario may not be as accurate as in some other cases. 

Incorrect Parameters

This type of poker software is extremely sensitive to the set parameters. If you make even a minor mistake while programming the software with your desired parameters, the GTO strategies that it delivers will be inaccurate.

For this reason, it's essential to ensure that you choose only the parameters you want the solver to use. After choosing the desired parameters, ensure that you input them correctly and use only accurate data. 

Interpreting Amateur or Recreational Players

In some cases, this type of software may also struggle to interpret the behaviour of amateur players or people who only play for fun. This is because the application is meant to be used by professional players preparing for poker tournaments or high-stakes games.

Due to this focused niche, players who don't fall into that category can confuse the system.

Games with Lower Stakes

Since this type of software is usually designed with the professional in mind, it often focuses mainly on high-stakes games. As a result, when faced with low-stakes or mid-stakes cash games, the system often simply does not know how to interpret the possibilities. 

Other Limitations

There's an array of other potential limitations that you may encounter when using this type of software. These may include the following:

  • Computational Intensity - Due to the vast array of possibilities and calculations required for even a basic poker game, solvers require large amounts of computational power. The downside to this is that it may take long periods to reach a conclusion. As a result, it limits its applicability for real-time or live games. 

  • Perfect Information Assumptions - this type of software generally assumes all players have access to perfect knowledge about the game in progress. This includes everything from opponents' ranges to the cards in their hands. Realistically, each player only has access to limited information about their opponents' game states. 

  • The game tree is static, as are the strategies - Solvers generally assume that each player will stick to a single strategy throughout the poker game. In reality, players consistently update their strategy based on the game conditions. Many solvers will also use a static game tree based on the input data. However, real-life poker games involve consistent changes and dynamic decision-making. 

What Poker Solvers Can Do for You

While many poker players seem to think that this type of software is the completion and fulfillment of everything they have always wanted, that's not the case. Because of the way the type of software works, it actually has very limited applications where real-time games are concerned. 

So, the question is, what can a poker solver actually do for you? Here's what to expect.

  1. You won't be able to use a solver while playing poker. There are several reasons for this, but the most noteworthy is that most online gambling sites consider it cheating. The other reasons include the prohibitive amount of processing required by the solver and the amount of time it takes to process a given scenario. 

  2. You will be able to use the poker software to help you study poker when you're not actively playing. This will help you learn when to apply specific strategies, allowing you to replicate them the next time you face a certain situation.

  3. Poker solvers rely on statistics and frequencies. As a result, it won't give you firm solutions to when you should do what. Instead, it will tell you that 50% of the time, when x scenarios occur, you should do y. The other 50% of the time, you should do z. You'll have to make the final call about which suggestion to implement.

Does GTO Poker Software Help You Improve?

Absolutely! Once you get the hang of how to use this software and when it can definitely help you improve your strategies. It does this mainly by helping you visualise exploitative poker strategies and consider alternative strategies to what you'd usually use.

From your preflop strategy all the way through to the closing hand, GTO software can help you reconsider your usual behaviours and expand your repertoire.


Using a solver in poker can be a useful and valuable tool. It can help you analyse and understand opponents and develop strategies for defeating them.

It can also help you to move beyond your usual strategies, learning alternative ways of responding to specific opportunities and occurrences in the game.

However, it's always vital to remember that this software is a tool rather than a genie-in-a-bottle. While it can help you develop your skills as a poker player, it cannot give you conclusive answers as to how a poker game will turn out.

That's why many poker pros use it to help them build skills but don't follow the strategies to a t. It's a tool, nothing more and nothing less.

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