No solvers during a hand…or at all?

With each World Series of Poker comes rules changes and clarifications, though the vast majority of time, they are minor. With the 2023 WSOP beginning today, tournament organizers have felt the need to clarify the rule about the use of real-time assistance (RTA) apps, particularly following the recent controversy at the WPT Gardens Poker Championship.

According to, the WSOP issued a statement on Tuesday to remind players: “If caught using RTA/GTO software during a hand, player will be subject to penalty up to and including DQ (disqualification) / trespass. We reserve the right to further penalize a player for using RTA/GTO in any other situation in our sole and absolute discretion. Players may continue to use their device to play or use the Caesars Sportsbook app while in/out of a hand.”

The rule was already in place, though in a more general form. Rule 64 (C) reads: “Participants are prohibited from using betting apps, gaming charts, or any poker information tool while involved in a hand.”

RTA/GTO software is not specifically named, but anyone using such an app obviously knows it falls into the above category.

Last week, Matt Savage also reminded the poker world that the Poker Tournament Directors Association also already has a similar rule.

The World Series of Poker’s rule clearly makes sense, as nobody in a live poker game should be permitted to use electronic tools to tell them how to play a hand. It’s a no-brainer. I do worry a little bit, however, that the part in the statement that reads (emphasis added): “We reserve the right to further penalize a player for using RTA/GTO in any other situation in our sole and absolute discretion” could cause problems.

Vague rules or rules that are open to interpretation can be problematic. What does “any other situation” mean? RTA/GTO apps aren’t allowed during a hand, but what about between hands? During a hand if the player has folded? At the table during a break? My worry is minimal, as WSOP officials typically show excellent discretion, but I don’t like rules that aren’t cut and dry.

WPT controversy

As mentioned, the incident that led to the rule clarification happened last week at the WPT Gardens Poker Championship. Andrew Esposito was spotted by his tablemates using the popular solver GTO Wizard at the table. Peter Cross, who was sitting across from Esposito, called him out and asked the floor to do something about it. Esposito said he was using the app, but only between hands, not during play. The floor did not take any action.

Regardless of whether or not Esposito was doing anything wrong, the controversy has sparked a discussion in the poker community about not just the use of poker apps, but about the use of electronic devices period, at the table. At this point, as my friend Earl Burton said over the weekend, it is unrealistic to expect a full-blown ban on phones at the table, but perhaps some adjustments can be made to the rules to reduce the chances of cheating.

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