Originally posted on 06/22/2023:

The GTO vs. FEEL playing style conversation is one of most interesting discussions in poker. Sometimes it gets misconstrued that GTO players don’t understand FEEL or that FEEL players don’t understand GTO. Or that team GTO and team FEEL are akin to political rivals that should always be at odds with one another. Whatever the case may be, both styles are fascinating. There are elite winning players in both camps as well as hybrid players who utilize both strategies and elements into their game.

Poker is almost like another branch of philosophy. There is seemingly no right or wrong answer as any play can seemingly be justified depending on your opponent, what that player was thinking about during a particular hand, and how they saw the hand possibly playing out through their own lens and unique perspective. On the other hand, when you run these decisions through a solver, you can study in a GTO way where you can figure out whether or not the math was really on your side when you made certain moves on different streets. Which is obviously extremely crucial. GTO is also an ever-evolving concept and strategy that will continue to advance, especially as programs continue to evolve and get better. Like in the advancement of correct decision making in complex multi-way spots for example. However, team FEEL can also make an argument that focusing too heavily on GTO can be negative in a way because an access to so much information can be quite overwhelming to the point where it becomes an echo chamber with no dissenting opinions and GTO is king no matter what. When maybe it is quite possible that having more open-mindedness to different strategies is the key to being a more well-rounded, successful player. The back and forth conversations that can be had are endless.

GTO vs. FEEL is talked about in a way as if to say that the GTO player is the more sophisticated and mathematically sound player that is taking calculated risks backed up by concrete data from solvers and is making optimal decisions. While the FEEL player is just a reckless gambler who is just guessing and is not fundamentally or technically sound. There is this sense that FEEL players seem to get by because they have good pattern recognition and run hot in high variance spots but are not theoretically sound. However, while this may be true, this can also sometimes lead to an unhealthy level of arrogance that can potentially hurt players and cause them to fall on their own sword so to speak. Any elite abstract qualities that FEEL players may possess such as reading ability for example are seen as a complete farce by the GTO community since those things cannot be accurately measured or calculated. On the other side of the coin, there are players who think they are playing GTO when they are not and are receiving incorrect advice and tutelage. Or they themselves are not studying GTO correctly. Now if I had to give my unbiased and objective opinion, even knowing that GTO is not this 100% full proof strategy where one knows all the answers, I would still say that in general, the GTO player who studies hard and puts in the work would be a favorite over the FEEL player if we had to put a betting line to it given what we know today and the tools and programs that are available to us. It would seem obvious that you would most likely bet on the player that has a strong theoretical foundation and studies very hard in order to keep improving their game and evolving their strategy. As studying is better than not studying. However, this is where I think the discussion gets interesting. As it appears that the truly elite FEEL players can at times take advantage of being massively underrated and underestimated.