The world’s most powerful poker coaching tool is finally here, and it may change the game forever. We find out more about the GTO world of PokerSnowie…
Poker players are naturally suspicious of anything that threatens to help the game evolve. Doyle Brunson was castigated by the high-stakes poker world for releasing Super/System in 1979, CardRunners were accused of making online poker unbeatable when they opened in 2005 and now there’s a new kid on the block looking to take the education of poker players to the next level. PokerSnowie.com launched in August 2013, billing itself as ‘the world class Game Theory Optimal artificial intelligence engine’. That all sounds very impressive, but what does it actually mean? We spoke with PokerSnowie co-founder Johannes Levermann to find out more.
German-born Levermann explains that the roots of PokerSnowie actually lay in the game of backgammon, ‘I used to be a professional backgammon player, I was ranked number three in the world and travelled to all the big tournaments.’ Along with grinding the backgammon circuit Levermann was also busy at work studying the game of poker, for which he developed a complex poker algorithm to complete a Masters degree – that same algorithm would go on to form the basis of PokerSnowie many years later.
Before he could get to poker though, Levermann and his partner released Backgammon Snowie in 1998, which could ‘analyse your game and the game of your opponent. You could very quickly determine who was the better player [and when] the player who is supposed to lose sees that he will just stop playing – it’s only fun if you think you have a chance.’ Backgammon Snowie was so effective as a teaching tool that it effectively killed off the burgeoning online market, where players had started to bet on matches.
A new way of learning
Poker players understandably had some concern when PokerSnowie was launched but, as Levermann explains, the two games are very different, ‘Both games have a component of luck and a component of skill but because you cannot see your opponent’s hole cards in poker there is no way that [our software] will kill the game because you cannot get all of the information to [definitely] see who is the better player.’
PokerSnowie is, essentially, a computer program that has mastered the art of playing game theory optimal (GTO) poker. By signing up to PokerSnowie.com – a one year license costs €149 – you get full access to the ‘brain’ of Snowie, where you can import hands you have played online and get objective analysis for every single move you make before being given a ranking from world class to beginner. Levermann views this method of learning as far superior to a video training site, or even hiring a private coach, ‘The advice that Snowie gives you is objective – it’s not dependent on a certain coach who tells you in his opinion that you should have done this or that, before a second voice disagrees. PokerSnowie is also cost-effective versus hiring a coach because you just pay the one-off fee and don’t have to pay by the hour.’
So what is GTO and why is it so important to be aware of it if you want to be a top player? GTO, as Levermann explains, ‘is a style which means you play independently of your opponents. You just play very good poker. It’s as if you have never seen your opponent and have no data on them at all and you always play the same. It’s a very powerful strategy that means nobody can exploit you.’ World class cash game players like Isaac Haxton and Ben ‘Sauce1234’ Sulsky are big proponents of GTO poker for precisely this reason.
This is in contrast to the more familiar ‘maximising’ strategy of playing poker where you adapt your game to exploit the weaknesses of your opponents as much as possible (for example, not bluffing a player who calls all the time). Levermann uses a simple preflop example to show the differences between the two approaches, ‘an online player will open the button around 70% of the time, especially if the players in the blinds are too tight. This can sometimes make it profitable to raise with any two cards. In GTO you cannot do this because the big blind will defend much more, so Snowie will only open around 40% of the time on the button so that it can’t be exploited [by light three-bets etc].’ Of course, the best players use a mixture of both strategies.
By plugging your hands into the PokerSnowie client you will be taught instantly whether your plays were correct under GTO poker. Levermann says that improvements can be made instantly, ‘Even the first time you use Snowie you will learn something. Even an average player, who plays once a week, can profit enormously.’ This theory was put to good use in the testing phase of the product, where Levermann says there were some great success stories. ‘We set up a poker school in Montenegro and we basically picked up some people from the street that had no job, were young and had an interest in poker. Some of them didn’t even know the rules but we gave them the poker coach to train and to learn – then we staked them all to play online and now many of them are winning players at pretty high stakes.’
Levermann has incredible confidence in his PokerSnowie baby, ‘If I redesigned Snowie’s brain so that people had not seen it before then there is no limit to what it could win online.’ Of course, we’ll never see that come to fruition – the use of any ‘bots’ or artificial devices is against the terms and conditions of every online poker site – but it’s a bold claim from Levermann that was justified somewhat when world-class pro Dan ‘Jungleman’ Cates ‘challenged’ Snowie to a heads-up match – the results were practically even.
Making money at the tables is not in the future for PokerSnowie but what is? ‘We intend to work together with the sites and we don’t want to kill the poker industry – that would kill our own business! The goal of our company is to become the standard software for poker like we are for backgammon.’ Levermann sees a day when PokerSnowie will be plastered all over televised shows from industry giants like PokerStars and WSOP too, ‘We used our backgammon software for world championship matches to determine who had played better and it helped the TV commentary. It would be very useful in poker too – the showdown equities you see on poker TV shows are very boring but if you could see the EV numbers from our game theory engine instead it would be much more exciting.’
Just as the first wave of strategy books followed by video training sites helped to revolutionise the way that poker is played, PokerSnowie looks set to take the game one stage further. It’s the most advanced training tool out there and, if you’re serious about poker, you should at least see what all the fuss is about for yourself.
Do you think that you can take on PokerSnowie and beat it at its own game? One of the most fun reasons to get a PokerSnowie subscription is so that you can use the Challenge PokerSnowie feature. Here you get to play the AI engine and simulate what it’s like playing a world class GTO player. Sadly no money is at stake, but when you consider that PokerSnowie is currently beating challengers from around the world for 22BB/100 – a huge win rate – that might just be for the best.
Snowie co-founder Johannes Levermann says the results are not particularly surprising, ‘It’s proof for us that its not easy to win against this AI. I expected Snowie would crush most people and that’s the case!’ Now that over 1.6 million hands have been played against the AI the major mistake players are continually making is that they’re ‘unbalanced’. Levermann says, ‘This is bad against GTO strategy as Snowie now has so much experience and is always perfect when considering implied odds and so on.’
If you feel like you want to take a shot at poker’s equivalent of Robocop then be our guest – you can get an exclusive 30-day trial by clicking here (the usual trial period is just ten days).
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