Ba Da Bing: Nick Binger Talks Solvers, Poker Strategy, and Becoming a Better Player

The poker film The Cincinnati Kid features a quick scene where the main character is preparing for the big game. Steve McQueen’s character Eric Stoner is studying a handwritten statistical chart and packs it in his bag.

Advanced knowledge like this was held close to the vest among top players of the time. However, today information, data, and charts flow freely online. There are countless YouTube videos, articles, and books to help poker players better their skills.

Poker strategies are constantly changing as the game continues to evolve. Top players currently use programs called “solvers” to help figure out the best optimal outcomes when in certain difficult spots. 

Poker pro Nick Binger knows the ins and outs of solvers and the evolution of poker strategy firsthand. He’s currently the lead instructor at LearnWPT, the official training site of the World Poker Tour. Binger recently spoke with PokerScout about solvers, strategy, and some of his current projects.

Learning the online poker ropes in Europe

A graduate of the University of North Carolina, Binger first jumped into poker while traveling through Europe after college. He began his instruction background by teaching English in a small town in Austria.

However, Binger later needed extra ways to make money after he couldn’t secure a work visa. His brother introduced him to online poker and the game seemed like a nice way to score some funds. Binger found some success and never looked back.

“My brother convinced me that I should get into online poker even though I had never really played poker before, since the boom was just starting,” he says. “This was the end of 2004, so the timing was perfect.” 

Since the days of teaching in Austria, Binger has more than $2.3 million in live tournament winnings. This includes multiple final tables and two World Series of Poker bracelets. He’s one of only a handful of players to win a bracelet online and live. 

Those early days teaching have served him well. Binger now creates content for LearnWPT, helping to instruct the site’s students.

LearnWPT lead instructor Nick Binger with WPT commentator Vince Van Patten.

Growing the world of poker education

LearnWPT works to bring quality training content for online and live players. The subscription-based service offers content to those of all levels.

The platform also partners with the partypoker US Network. Players on the network in New Jersey and Michigan can access exclusive content to work on their skills.

The site sponsored the partypoker Online Series Main Event in NJ on March 28. The final table streamed live on the new LearnWPT Twitch channel.

That included offering strategy advice and commentary from bracelet winners Tony Dunst (also a WPT commentator)  and Andrew Lichtenberger. Both also coach at LearnWPT. The training site tries to be a one-stop shop for becoming a better player.

“You can watch strategy episodes from top players, get coaching, play on the WPT GTO Trainer, and can run your own simulations on a solver,” Binger says.

As far as solvers go, Binger puts the GTO Trainer against any on the market.

“Learn WPT has the largest database of solved hands in the world,” he says. “Students can simply play through hands on the trainer and get instant feedback on every decision they make. We’ve done the work of building the game trees, ranges, and processing the solutions for over four billion decision points.

Binger uses solvers for his own skills and has seen his own gains. These high-tech programs have become a major part of poker education.

“Solvers have absolutely improved my game and the way we teach poker at LearnWPT,” he says. “They allow you to explore strategy at a level not possible before solvers. This is especially true for the concept of range versus range play.”

Perfecting the game via technology

Players have been trying to put opponents “on hands” since the game’s early days. But Binger explains how solvers took a large network of hands and put them into ranges.

“A long time ago, people played poker hand versus hand, meaning they knew their hand and guessed their opponent’s hand, then played accordingly,” he says. “That’s a very basic way to play and will result in you losing to more advanced players.”

All this also applies to online poker players as well. An online rounder can gauge an opponent’s strength by taking into consideration what that player is likely to have.

“After the beginning of the Moneymaker era, the idea of playing your specific hand against an opponent’s range of hands became prevalent among professionals,” Binger says. “This improved play significantly and good players had a significant edge simply by applying this concept.

“After the advent of solvers a few years ago, tough players now consider their range against the range of the other player and how the board interacts with both in every hand they play. This would not have been possible to truly explore without solvers.

Binger continues to study the game and produce content to help teach up-and-coming players. He considers solvers and GTO as musts for players looking to get to the next level. 

“I think learning the concepts and principles that underpin GTO strategy are a must for any serious poker player that wants to win in the long term.“

* photos courtesy WPT