Real-Time Assistance In Poker – Is It an Imminent Threat?

Real-Time Assistance In Poker – Is It an Imminent Threat?

Ever since online poker first launched in the early 2000s, the possibility of getting cheated was one of the biggest fears shared by poker players across the globe. 

Indeed, online poker has created many opportunities for people to cheat, and while 99% of all online poker players keep playing fairly, there are always some individuals looking to get an unfair edge through one method or another. 

Ranging from super user scandals to players hacking other players’ computers to gain access to their hole cards or players creating bots, there was always cheating in online poker, and those involved with the game have had to remain vigilant to keep it in check. 

Most recently, the phenomenon known as real-time assistance (RTA) has become the next big threat, and one that the best players in the world have been warning the community about for some time now. 

If you are not yet familiar with RTA in poker and how it could endanger everything that has been created, keep reading and find out what RTA is, how it is used, and why it may just be the biggest threat to online poker ever. 

What Is RTA in Poker?

Real-time assistance, or RTA, is an umbrella term used to describe a number of different tools and methods used by players to help them gain an unfair advantage over their opponents in real-time. 

The simplest form of RTA out there is preflop charts, which players have used for many years to study the game and learn the optimal ways of playing their hands before the flop. 

In the past, preflop charts were routinely used by players while playing, but more recently, such charts have been considered an unethical tool to use while playing poker. 

On the other hand, more complex RTA tools, which use solver outputs to present optimal plays in real-time across all streets, are a much more serious threat and one that can make players using them unbeatable for all intents and purposes. 

RTA tools give players a massive edge over an average poker player and a significant edge even against very good players, as none of us can really get close enough to solver outputs across the board to fight such tools. 

For that reason, RTA tools are now banned industry-wide, and using them is considered grounds to get banned from major poker sites, but proving someone is using them remains the biggest issue of them all. 

How Players Cheat with RTA

It is important to understand what constitutes RTA in the modern game before you play so that you can be sure you are not inadvertently using tools and software that are banned while playing. 

For starters, there are static RTA tools, such as preflop charts and other types of written-down content, which directly dictate how you should play in a certain scenario. 

Any chart instructing you how to play from different positions at different stack sizes, how often to c-bet on certain board textures, or how to play in any other situation is not allowed during gameplay, even though it can be used as a great learning tool away from the tables. 

Charts and other static tools are considered RTA tools, but the rules against them are not as heavily enforced, especially as players can use them in printed form, and they don’t necessarily give the player a massive edge over his competition. 

Manual input RTA tools, such as poker solvers, are a much bigger threat, as they provide players with exact plays for the exact situation while playing. 

Such tools are absolutely 100% forbidden, and you can get banned if you try using them while playing poker. Running a “solve” for the situation you are currently in may cause you to get banned from your favorite poker site, even if it does help you win the hand. 

Some players try to use such poker RTA tools when faced with tough decisions or deep in poker tournaments. This kind of behavior is considered blatant cheating, as simply playing in accordance with the solver’s instructions requires no skill and allows just about anyone to win at poker. 

How Players Cheat with RTA

Finally, automatic input RTA tools are the worst of them all, as they are able to gain access to your hole cards, stack depths, and other necessary information and run solves in real time for every hand you play. 

Such tools completely automatize the process of playing poker and are used to create poker bots, such as the ones that were recently at ACR Poker, according to the allegations made on Two Plus Two forums. 

Automatic input RTA tools are considered the worst kind of RTA cheating and using them will lead to a ban more often than not, along with the confiscation of any funds you may have in your online poker account. 

How Can RTA Be Detected

Major poker operators like PokerStars and GGPoker have been fighting the good fight against RTA users for some time now, with both sites banning dozens of players over such practices. 

The operators employ a great number of security professionals who work alongside poker players to discover RTA use and eliminate those found in violation of the rules. 

However, actually discovering that someone is using RTA can be incredibly difficult, as many players who use it don’t do so on a consistent basis, and many of them are solid players to begin with. 

The operators run tools that look for patterns in players’ games and try to identify those playing too close to solver outputs or those whose stats and results diverge from those of a typical winning player in the games. 

Any player that is flagged by the tools is then audited by a team of poker players and security professionals who decide whether further inspections are in order. 

If they are, players are typically contacted, asked questions about their game, sometimes asked to play with a camera running, and more. 

While all of these practices prevent the use of RTA in poker from going rampant, it is pretty clear that there are players out there using RTA to some extent, even as you read this. 

What Can I Do Against RTA?

The first thing you need to understand is that you won’t be able to beat players using RTA in the long run. Even if you think that no bot can beat you at poker because you are just so good, the numbers say differently. 

There is no defeating the solvers, and even if you were good enough to come close to beating them, you would still rather play against real players who make tons of mistakes than solvers whose ranges are perfectly balanced across the board. 

This means RTA in poker is a serious concern for everyone, and we should all be doing our best to eliminate the use of RTA from the game altogether. 

What Can I Do Against RTA?

The best thing you can do is make sure to stay vigilant and always report anyone you suspect may be using RTA in any way. 

If you know for sure that a player or a group of players are using RTA tools, report them to the operator in question and give out their usernames. Let the security team take it from there, and if they really are using RTA, they will get banned. 

If you just have suspicions, you should make sure to back them up with something. Major GTO solvers now allow you to see the exact time when a certain board was last solved for, and if you run such a check and find that someone ran the exact board you played in a big hand at the time you were playing it, it was likely your opponent. 

This is one of the ways you can support your concerns over a player using RTA in poker, and this can be especially useful when playing in higher stakes games where the likelihood of someone using RTA increases significantly. 

Is Poker RTA Illegal?

We have established that RTA in poker is a form of cheating, so you must be wondering whether it is legal and whether you could take someone to court for cheating you using RTA. 

The answer to that question is no, RTA in poker is not illegal. For something to be illegal, it must first be defined by law, and poker RTA most certainly is not. 

Even if you may find a court in some legal jurisdiction that would be willing to hear your case, proving RTA is hard in the first place, and proving it is an actual case of fraud would be even more difficult. 

Instead of dreaming about taking your opponents to court, remember to play at regulated poker sites, report any suspected use of RTA tools, and avoid playing against players you believe may be doing anything shady. 

Using RTA Tools to Study Poker

The truth is that most RTA tools were originally created as learning tools and are not meant to be used while playing the game. 

Whether we are talking about a simple preflop raising chart or a poker solver, these tools are all perfectly fine to use when not playing online poker. 

In fact, poker solvers are the best tools to use to run simulations of poker hands and learn how the computer likes to play a particular spot, as this will make you a better poker player. 

If you can memorize all the outputs out there, you will become one of the best poker players in the world, and no one should be able to stop you. 

However, avoiding the learning part altogether and using the tools while playing is the same as using computer simulations when playing online chess, which is widely recognized as cheating and will get you banned from any major chess platform. 

Is RTA a Big Problem for Online Poker?

While saying RTA is not a big problem for online poker and sweeping it under the rug may be the easiest thing to do, it is definitely not the right way to approach it. 

The truth is RTA is a major problem, and RTA automation to create working poker bots is an even bigger one that could potentially ruin the entire online poker economy. 

By playing with real-time assistance tools or automating bots to use them, those doing so can gain a huge edge and essentially steal your money in plain sight without any concern of being punished for it. 

This is why poker players, operators, media, and everyone else involved with online poker must work together to face the problem of RTA head-on and find new methods of fighting it. 

While there will forever be those individuals out there looking for ways to cheat you out of your money, by working together to increase the security of online poker, we can ensure that the game remains safe to play for many years to come.

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