Poker Solver at WPT Event Sparks Serious Debate
This week’s Twittertainment takes on the thorny issue of solvers and their use not just in poker but in live events. Josh Arieh brought the problem to light on Wednesday by commenting on a video from the latest WPT event at Garden Casino.
The video (see below) shows two players in a heated debate after one accused the other of using a poker solver at the table. The video doesn’t show anyone using a solver, but the accuser is animated enough to suggest something may have been happening.
If you spot someone using a solver real-time, say something, just like this guy did today at @WPT Gardens. What is the penalty for this @wsop @Kevmath.— Joshua Arieh (@JoshuaArieh) May 23, 2023
It’s my understanding that this player received NO penalty pic.twitter.com/fa7iktTbbq
For better or worse, solvers are part of poker. They’re certainly useful. They help you find the best lines against specific ranges and, in turn, develop a game theory optimal (GTO) strategy. For these reasons, solvers are a positive force because they can turn amateurs into pros.
However, where these programs become a problem is at the table. Online poker sites have banned the use of real-time solvers, which means they can’t be used during a hand. They can be used away from a table, but not at it.
The same rule should apply in live poker tournaments and cash games but judging by the latest Twitter thread, that’s either not the case, or people are breaking the rules. Of course, policing this isn’t easy, so we can cut the WPT some slack in this situation.
What’s more, even with an agreement not to use solvers at the table, there will always be players who break the rules. Therefore, it’s a subject that requires serious debate.
Players Debate the Live Solver Issue
Poker sage Kevin “Kevmath” Mathers clarified that electronic devices aren’t allowed during hands at the World Series of Poker. That suggests there are provisions in place to stop people using real-time solvers in live poker tournaments.
Rule 64c https://t.co/gSj3RXPa0P pic.twitter.com/GDlLb3qeAQ— Kevin Mathers (@Kevmath) May 24, 2023
There was, of course, a lot of backlash to the video, but WPT broadcaster and pro Tony Dunst wanted to clarify exactly when the solver was used.
“Do we know whether he was using it mid-hand or between hands,” Dunst tweeted.
The video suggests it was being used during hands, as the accuser says he could see it in the reflection of his opponent’s sunglasses. Andrew Esposito, the man accused of using the solver in real-time, denies the allegation.
A Case of When Not If a Solver Was Used
As per a tweet from Mathers, Esposito was only using the solver to go over hands that had happened minutes before.
Andrew stated he used in between hands to go over a hand that happened about 15 minutes before.— Kevin Mathers (@Kevmath) May 24, 2023
Esposito also said he purchased GTO Wizard recently and didn’t really know how to use the app properly.
He also stated he had purchased GTO Wizard over the weekend and was having trouble navigating the app— Kevin Mathers (@Kevmath) May 24, 2023
The argument, at this point, is whether Esposito used GTO Wizard during hands or after. There appears to be no doubt he had the solver app on his phone. That may be the real issue here. Players having solvers on their phones makes it almost too tempting to use them.
Most players don’t want to cheat. In fact, 99.9% of players don’t want to cheat. However, a very small minority does. Using a real-time solver at the table by pretending to send a text message wouldn’t be hard. Therefore, it’s up to dealers and floor staff to crack down on the use of phones at the table. That won't be easy.
People use their phones for music, to watch videos, and send messages at the table. However, we may be moving to a point where no one can have electronic devices on display. If a phone or tablet isn’t in a pocket or bag, it should be left in a secure place away from the poker table.
Getting Tough on Mobiles Might be the Only Answer
This hardline stance might be the only way to stop the problem. Indeed, as Isaac Haxton pointed out, it’s a complete issue.
Generally, people have an expectation of privacy on their phones.— Isaac Haxton (@ikepoker) May 24, 2023
Are we going to encourage players to look over each other’s shoulders to police this? If someone makes an accusation, what happens next? Are we going to empower floors to inspect people’s phones?
Poker tournaments aren’t prison camps, and enforcing a blanket ban on electronic devices opens up a whole new set of problems.
It’s really hard for me to imagine anything short of banning electronics at the table entirely that addresses the problem in an effective, fair, and uniformly enforceable way. I could absolutely get behind this, but it’s a big step.— Isaac Haxton (@ikepoker) May 24, 2023
The WPT incident may have been innocuous, but it brought to light an evolving issue that poker players, tournament organizers, dealers, and everyone else needs to think about.
It won’t be an easy problem to solve but, if live poker is to maintain its integrity, solver usage needs to be kept in check.
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