Psychology vs Solvers! Should You Play Your Opponent or Play the Cards?

Is it more critical to follow GTO or exploitative strategies when playing poker? The answer is simple: 

You need both to be a winning player. 

Today’s poker instruction primarily focuses on GTO (game theory optimal) strategies. But there is much to be gained from understanding our opponent’s psychology. If we don’t include psychological strategies in our arsenal, we leave money on the table. 

Ever watched the movie Rounders (and if you haven’t, stop reading this right now and go watch it!)? You’ll remember that Matt Damon’s character Mike McDermott said of poker, “the key to the game is playing the man, not the cards.” 

Let’s consider a more recent example where psychological factors appeared to be in play. The now infamous hand played out between Robbi Jade Lew and Garrett Adelstein on the Hustler Casino live-stream.