WSOP Issues Reminder: No Solvers Allowed During Hands

Controversy sparks debate over the use of solvers and real-time assistance (RTA) and game theory optimal (GTO) software in poker tournaments.
male poker player using a smartphone, cards and chips stacks all around, green table top view -- WSOP Issues Reminder: No Solvers Allowed During Hands
May 31, 2023

We reserve the right to further penalize a player for using RTA/GTO in any other situation in our sole and absolute discretion. On the day that the World Series of Poker (WSOP) kicked off its 2023 live tournament, officials issued a reminder to poker players that the use of solvers during a hand is expressly forbidden, but that their use at a poker table is otherwise acceptable.

The reminder comes in the wake of a controversy that erupted exactly one week earlier when a player used real-time assistance (RTA) software during the second day of action at the WPT Gardens Poker Championship.

WSOP US issued a statement Tuesday that if a player was caught using RTA or game theory optimal (GTO) software during a hand, the player would immediately be subject to a penalty, up to and including disqualification from the tournament.

“We reserve the right to further penalize a player for using RTA/GTO in any other situation in our sole and absolute discretion,” WSOP said. “Players may continue to use their device to play or use the Caesars Sportsbook app while in/out of a hand.”

WSOP Vice President Gregory Chochon referred Poker Shield to the statement issued Tuesday. Caesars Entertainment owns WSOP.

The operator decided to remind players about its policies concerning solvers — both live and on the WSOP app after a professional poker player, Andrew Esposito, was spotted using a solver during Day 2 of the WPT Gardens Poker Championship on May 23. The event was held at The Gardens Casino, a Hawaiian Gardens, California facility.

According to reports, Esposito had been using an app called GTO Wizard. Another player at the table asked him to stop, but Esposito apparently ignored the request and kept using the solver. That’s when the player asked the floor to get involved.

Esposito admitted to using the app but insisted that he was not using it during play — only between hands. Ultimately, WPT decided Esposito had decided that Esposito had not violated the Poker Tournament Directors Association (PTDA) rules and took no action. Play continued, and Esposito was not penalized.

PTDA, a voluntary trade association of the poker tournament industry, caught wind of the incident the next day. WPT Executive Tour Director Matt Savage, a founding member of PTDA, went on social media to state that the association already has a rule covering electronic devices and communication.

“Betting apps and charts may not be used by players with live hands,” states PTDA’s Rule No. 5 from the association. “These and other devices, tools, photography, videography, and communication must not create a nuisance, delay the game, or create a competitive advantage and are subject to house and gaming regulations.”

Savage said the rule was discussed “at length” at the last PTDA summit, which was held in July 2022. Savage is a founding member of the PTDA. He has served in his current capacity at WPT since 2010, but from 2002 to 2004, he directed the WSOP.

“Suggesting a full ban of phones at the table, while the best solution, is likely never going to happen,” Savage said in a Facebook post dated May 24.

The incident has divided the poker community — with some players arguing that there should be an outright ban on solvers, while other players hold the position that the use of solvers is acceptable, so long as they aren’t being used during a live hand.

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