What Is Real-Time Assistance (RTA)? Is it Legal?
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Real-Time Assistance (RTA) is a topic that is becoming increasingly more discussed within the poker community, and PokerNews is here to give you a brief explainer on what the term means, how it works, and how players are supposedly using it at the highest levels of poker to cheat their way to hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars.
What Is Real-Time Assistance (RTA)?
In short, anything that assists a poker player in their decision making while a cash game or tournament is in progress is considered to be providing Real-Time Assistance. In general, there are two types of RTA:
- Automated: a program will scrape the cards, chip counts and bet sizings from the poker client and run the simulation automatically.
- Manual input: players will have to input the above information themselves into the program.
Poker operators are becoming increasingly more adept at detecting RTA clients running on the same computer or laptop as the poker client. For that reason, cheaters may use a computer separate from the one they are playing on to use the RTA program or software.
Whether automatic or manually inputted, using RTA in this way is cheating.
How does Real-Time Assistance (RTA) Work?
At the highest end, complex RTA systems help the user play a Game Theory Optimal (GTO) strategy that is mathematically perfect. Solvers, for example, let the user know exactly how much they should bet in a specific scenario, or if they should bet at all. Playing with this helps a player gain an edge over their opponents. Even a very small edge in the higher stakes games can be worth tens of thousands of dollars over the course of a year.
"Playing GTO" is not a new concept in the poker community or indeed the poker industry. Many of the top players use this concept at the tables, but they’ve learned how to do this over hundreds of hours of studying away from the table.
It isn’t only complex GTO solvers that provide RTA to players. Even having a push/fold chart to hand or a starting hand chart based on stack sizes prior action of players is considered RTA and, therefore, against the terms and conditions, at least on the GG Network.
Section 4 of the GGPoker terms and conditions is dedicated to the Use of Real-Time Assistance (RTA). Those terms and conditions read:
- Any decision made at the poker table must be made solely by you. Humans must decide what action to take and the exact size of any bet or raise
- Use of any software and/or reference material that provides advice and/or has an influence on your decision-making in real-time is strictly prohibited
- Prohibited software includes, but is not limited to, GTO solvers, range calculators, and ICM analysers
- Prohibited reference materials are solutions/solves from simulations, e.g. GTO charts, range calculation, ICM equity, decision trees, Nash Equilibrium, or push/fold charts
- The following reference material is allowed: a basic preflop chart that defines starting hands to play from each position. If the reading material contains stack size, relative positions, or any user-defined situations then it is not permitted
- Actions taken for breaches: PERMANENT BAN, CONFISCATION
In September 2020, German poker player Fedor Kruse was accused of cheating in high-stakes cash games with former roommates providing damning evidence.
Kruse was a popular streamer and professional poker player who enjoyed a rapid rise from grinding $0.50/$1 cash games to taking shots in games with blinds as high as $200/$400 in under 12 months. His roommates confronted Kruse about his alleged usage of solvers, and Kruse promised to stop using RTA. However, he allegedly did not.
From the evidence in the public domain, it appears that Kruse was running his online poker clients on one computer and some RTA software on a second computer and monitor. When faced with a tough spot, Kruse would use the solvers on his second machine which would display the perfect Game Theory Optimal (GTO) play to make.
Kruse was then supposedly able to make the mathematically correct play, which, in the long term, is the play that makes you money. It is cheating and against the terms and conditions of any online poker site.
Can You Get Banned for Real-Time Assistance?
Also in 2020, GGPoker issued bans to 40 accounts for RTA usage. Thirteen of those accounts had $1,175,305 confiscated. An additional 40 account were issued final warnings.
The decision to ban and confiscate funds came after the online poker operator claimed to have “upgraded detection methods” relating to RTA usage. Although no names of banned players were released, there were suggestions at the time in various social media posts that some of the game’s elite players, many of whom adopt a GTO strategy, are among them.
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In recent weeks, many have even pushed for a poker blacklist of banned players to be shared between online poker rooms.
It is strongly advised to only use third-party software when you have finished playing your poker session and with your poker client closed. If you’re in doubt as to what is and isn’t allowed and when, reach out to your online poker site’s customer support team.