Optimal Life Theory

Poker Tools In Poker

As an avid amateur poker player, I nearly get the same enjoyment studying the game off the felt as I do playing the game. While being on the felt in the middle of the action can be exhilarating, and nothing beats the rush from going deep in a multi-table tournament, studying the game can produce nearly the same satisfaction.

The reason for this (besides me being an information junkie) is that it is hard to find the time to put in a lengthy cash session, and MTTs are even harder to work into my schedule. However I can use Two Plus TwoCardplayer, and Live at the Bike anytime from anywhere without committing to a lengthy session.

These resources and many others are crucial tools in the development of any poker player. While it’s probably not impossible to improve without outside help, it’s surely much, much harder to do so. In a game where we try to exploit our opponents and to maximize value, it seems foolish and counterproductive to not utilize the multitude of resources available to us.

Many of poker’s best players are masters of Game Theory, or strategic decision-making. A big part of what makes them the best of the best is that they are less exploitable than the rest of us (except Phil Ivey who seems to be completely unexploitable.)

Game Theory Optimal (GTO) looks for an unexploitable strategy. No matter what our opponent does, if we are using a GTO strategy, he can never beat us, he can only tie us at best. If he deviates from GTO, he’ll eventually lose. In poker we should always be looking for the optimal strategy, so when I’m on the felt I often find myself in my own head asking ‘what is the optimal play in this spot?’ I may not make the optimal play as I may realize after the fact that there were better options available, but that’s all part of the learning process. The key is that I’ve trained my mind to at least ask the question, not just in poker but in all aspects of life.

Poker Tools In Life

Thinking about the optimal way to approach things is a big part of the wisdom gained by studying poker’s best players that also translates into everyday life. For example, I often find myself asking ‘what is the optimal way’ with regard to a mundane life task, or a common life situation. Sure, I can make my bed, feed my dog, brew coffee and brush my teeth, but I can also ask myself ‘what is the optimal way to complete morning tasks?’ In doing so I have found that it’s much more efficient to brew the coffee first, then feed the dog since it’s next to the coffee, prior to making my bed. By the time the bed is made, the dog has a full belly and is ready to go out, which is easy since the door is next to the freshly brewed coffee. Then I wait to brush my teeth until after I finish my coffee, which provides better protection from coffee stains than had I brushed first thing (this may not work if there were other people around but for me it fits!)

While you likely don’t have the same work routine to replicate mine, you can replicate this way of thinking with regard to many of the situations you find yourself in on a day-to-day basis, such as optimal driving theory, or optimal elevator theory as described below.

Optimal Elevator Theory

Do you ever ride on an elevator? Optimal elevator theory would tell you to always wait to board the elevator, assuming a rider will be exiting when the doors open. As a the rider we can use optimal elevator theory to assume that when the doors open, no one will try to board as their optimal move is to wait. The result would be that collisions never happen while entering and exiting the elevator would take place as fast as possible since both the boarder and the rider are using optimal elevator theory when the doors open. However, if the boarder deviates from the optimal strategy and steps to board as soon as the doors open, a collision will occur with departing rider. Deviating from the optimal strategy caused a non-optimal result (collision).


You do not have to be a poker player to understand and utilize this way of thinking. Simply train yourself to rethink things while asking yourself about each part of the process. When focusing on being as economic & efficient as possible, you will amaze yourself at the time-saving efficiencies you’ll discover. Tweet some of them to me @donniccolo!

About donniccolo

Logic. Common Sense. Open Minds. www.nicknicastro.com
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