Top Stories of 2023, #6: Industry Steps Up Efforts to Thwart Cheaters

Top Stories of 2023, #6: Industry Steps Up Efforts to Thwart Cheaters

In 2022, cheating scandals in poker online and live were getting out of hand. Allegations against high-profile players such as Bryn Kenney, Jake Schindler, and Ali Imsirovic rocked the poker world. And we certainly can't forget about the J4 incident on Hustler Casino Live.

As such, poker operators and pros who want to play in a fair game have taken a strong stance against cheating this past year. Online sites such as PokerStars and GGPoker have helped lead the charge against real-time assistance (RTA) use and collusion.

How PokerStars Detects and Deters Cheaters

In the ever-evolving world of online poker, one issue has consistently plagued the industry: RTA use. RTA refers to players receiving external advice while playing, which undermines the integrity of the game. PokerStars, one of the leading names in online poker, is taking a proactive approach to combat this problem.

The online poker giants' detection tools are developed in-house and specifically designed to catch cheaters efficiently. They employ various methods to identify different types of cheaters, including those who play perfect GTO or seek advice only in critical moments. These tools work even if players occasionally use RTA, thanks to behavioral indicators in the data.

The platform has had a dedicated team for around 20 years, with staff now having many decades of combined experience. These experts have played countless online poker hands, giving them an intimate understanding of the game's nuances. PokerStars introduced a Game Integrity Team full of skilled developers to continually update cheating detection tools to ensure the site maintains the highest standards of fair play.

Calling Cheaters Out Online

One way to stop cheating in poker is by calling those who do wrong out on social media and publicly shaming them. At the very least, it could deter others from cheating for fear of public humiliation.

It certainly worked in the case of Imsirovic, who was publicly accused of collusion and RTA use by prominent pros such as Chance Kornuth and Alex Foxen. Imsirovic, the 2022 GPI Player of the Year, actually admitted to some of the allegations in a YouTube video this past summer. So, it does work ... usually.

There is, however, an exception to the rule, and that is when the community calls out an accused cheater who wasn't actually cheating. And this is where things can get a bit dicey.

One example occurred in October when Chris Battenfield had his account temporarily suspended following allegations of RTA use from Mike "BrockLesnar" Holtz, who called the poker player out on X. Upon further review, the US online poker site determined that Battenfield did no wrong. His account was then restored. That said, the overall efforts of calling out those who cheat in poker hav been beneficial the past year.

Accused Online Poker Cheater Exonerated

WSOP Takes Action Against Solvers

The use of solvers and software such as GTO Wizard at a live poker table isn't necessarily wrong, depending on how and when it is used. Checking a solver in between hands to see if the game theory optimal (GTO) play was made is a wise use of time for any serious pro while awaiting the next hand to be dealt to them.

But it would be an issue if used during a hand, especially in a major poker tournament. This past summer, the World Series of Poker (WSOP) implemented a rule to combat GTO solvers from being used while in a hand.

If caught using RTA/GTO Real-Time Assistance/Game-Theory Optimal software during a hand, player will be subject to penalty up to and including DQ (disqualification) / trespass, the WSOP wrote in a statement to PokerNews.

PokerStars' Game Integrity department has also taken strong action to catch the use of solvers and RTA tools during a hand. When money is involved, certain people will do whatever it takes, legal or otherwise, to gain an edge. But the efforts over the past year from PokerStars, the WSOP, many other companies, and high-profile pros have the industry headed in the right direction in this area.


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