There's no doubt that poker is a complex game. So, it's no surprise that many players rely on gut feelings and hunches when making decisions during a hand. In the early days of poker, most top players relied exclusively on their intuition when making decisions. 

Getting reads and/or acting based on a hunch was the order of the day, and the best players typically had a lot of heart.

Fast forward to about 2010 and all this started to change:

  • Computer programs analyse reams of poker data and formulate decisions based solely on math and probability. 
  • The top poker players wanted to discover the mathematically best decision in any given situation.
  • Enter GTO or game theory optimal decision-making.

Even though players have access to more tools than ever, most low, and mid-stakes players are reluctant to try them. But, if you're serious about increasing your win rate, using a data-driven strategy can give you an edge over your opponents.

To be sure, switching to a data-driven poker strategy can be intimidating. Still, there are many benefits to doing so. 

Here are six reasons why you should consider making the switch: 

1. You'll Be Less Likely to Fall Victim to Emotions

Playing poker requires constantly making decisions with incomplete information. Under such conditions, fear and uncertainty are rampant. 

As a result, your cognitive biases can easily lead you to make suboptimal decisions. 

making decisions

A key thing to realise is that our cognitive biases drive us to interpret data and make decisions in ways that are often just plain wrong. Risk aversion is a common cognitive bias that impedes most players.

Being risk-averse in poker means preferring certainty to uncertainty. Our brain often interprets aggressive moves as “risky & uncertain”. So, our natural tendency is to take more passive lines. 

Fear increases our bias toward risk aversion.

Data-driven strategies from solvers are much more aggressive than how typical low and mid-stakes players approach the game. Thanks to the aforementioned risk aversion, many players are reluctant to use them. 

Admittedly, following GTO strategies can feel like you’re lighting money on fire. But in the long run, they are much more profitable. Taking the time to learn and implement GTO strategies will help you reign in risk aversion by increasing your confidence. 

To be a successful poker player, you must overcome your natural risk aversion and learn to take calculated risks. 

Doing so will open up a whole new world of profitable poker play. 

2. Use Data to Find and Fix Leaks in Your Game

As any poker player knows, leaks can be costly. A leak is a mistake that you regularly make in your game that costs you money. For example, you might unconsciously play too loose (or too tight) in a particular situation. Or you might fail to value bet when you should. 

Value Bet

While some leaks are small and easy to fix, others can be more difficult to identify and correct. Data can be a valuable tool in finding and fixing poker leaks. By tracking your results over time, you can identify patterns in your play that might be costing you money. 

There are several ways to collect data, from simple note-taking to more sophisticated tracking software. Whichever method you choose, ensure that you are consistent in your approach to compare apples to apples accurately.

Armed with this information, you can then work on correcting the leaks in your game. 

As any successful poker player will tell you, fixing your leaks is essential to long-term success at the tables.

3. Use Data to Improve Your Game Objectively And Efficiently

Start using data to help you design and execute poker learning projects to improve your poker game. Once you've identified a leak using data analysis, it's time to devise a plan to fix it.

  • Perhaps your data has revealed that you are not opening wide enough from the button. 
  • You realise that you need to set a goal to increase your button RFI. 

Online gamer

This information gives you a particular area for improvement. So, you can make strategic adjustments to correct this problem, which is much better than studying whatever you feel. 

Taking a disciplined data-driven study poker approach will ultimately save you a lot of time and money. 

4. Access Valuable Insights That Can Help You Win More!

In poker, as in life, it's essential to know your opponents. You can better predict their actions and exploit their weaknesses by understanding their tendencies,

Weak opponents tend to reliably make specific mistakes. Studying population tendencies is the best way to gain insights into those mistakes. Top players love to take this information and develop adjustments that exploit those errors.

You can do the same thing. Look for trends and patterns in how your opponents are playing:

  • What works well? 
  • What doesn't? 

By understanding their tendencies, you can start making strategic adjustments that will help you to win more money.

making strategic adjustments


5. Measuring your progress and success as a poker player

If you're serious about poker, then you need to track your progress:

Keeping records of your winnings and losses.
Tracking hands you've played and how you played them. 

By doing this, you'll be able to identify patterns in your gameplay and adjust accordingly. Additionally, you'll be able to see how your skills are improving over time. 

If you're not tracking your progress, it's impossible to know if you're improving as a poker player.

So, if you're serious about becoming a winning poker player, start tracking your statistics today.

Poker Player

6. Stay Up to Date with the Latest Trends In Poker

There is no question that data drives success in poker. The best players in the world rely on data to help them make the best poker decisions while playing. To be a successful poker player, you need to do the same.

If you are serious about becoming a successful poker player, you need to start using a data-driven approach. This strategy will help you do the following:

  • Make better decisions
  • Understand your opponents better
  • Manage your emotions
  • Find and exploit weaknesses in your opponents

All these things will lead to more success in the long run. So, what are you waiting for? 

Start using a data-driven approach today!

About the Author

Dr. Tricia Cardner is the author of Positive Poker, Peak Poker Performance and co-author of Purposeful Practice for Poker. She podcasts at Poker on The Mind with her co-host Gareth James. You can find her at where she teaches poker players the most effective psychological strategies for optimal poker performance.