How can we make poker harder to solve?

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Regular, minor, changes to the format is the best defence against RTAs and it might make poker more fun, according to Barry Carter.

There always seems to be some sort of existential threat facing poker and right now it is the potential impact of real time assistance solvers (RTAs). Most poker solvers thankfully are too slow to use in real life at the tables but there are ‘dream machines’ that are essentially databases of presolved hands that people can reference quickly.

I have previously written about this and I believe that the best way to limit the impact on real time assistance is to regularly make minor adjustments to the structure of the game to render RTAs less useful. Small things that don’t especially change No Limit Hold’em fundamentally but enough that it would take a while for solvers to adjust, or at least for a presolved database to have a lot of catching up to do.

This week our old friend Patrick Leonard had an idea how you could do this for cash games:

Regular, minor, changes

RTAs are a threat to poker

I liked this idea. Not only would this loosen up a game and be fun for recreational players, it would be very hard to solve for a while. The bonus pot would change the GTO preflop ranges and also essentially change the hand values a little. If the bonus pot went to the next player who makes a straight, it would increase the value of straight draws beyond their normal equity. The bigger the pot the bigger the impact. You would have to regularly switch up what type of hand wins the bonus pot.

That would actually be my key to all of this, regularly change the structure slightly, change it again before players get used to it, then one day reintroduce the old structure for a while, rinse repeat.

A poker room could make 100BB cash games 75BB max one week, have a wild joker card in the deck the next, do a random splash pot on the turn every 300 hands the next, every 100th hand could be Hi/Lo another week and you could expose folded cards the week later.

Good players & recreationals will benefit

Power Up had too many moving parts

PokerStars actually have experimented with this with all their wacky cash game formats they trialled – Unfold, Showtime, Split Hold’em, Short Deck, Tempest etc. They were always looked down on negatively because regulars thought they were rake traps, but they all hung around for a few weeks before they outstayed their welcome and were replaced with something new.

I wouldn’t go as extreme as having two flops and PokerStars Power Up was not popular which suggests too many extra moving parts is a bad thing. I do believe that greater minds than mine could think of minor, regular, ways in which to change the game flow without destroying the fundamentals of No Limit. I already love Patrick’s idea.

A good player would be able to adapt to things like this reflexively and a recreational player would enjoy the variety, the hope is that a solver would struggle to keep up.

How would you make No Limit harder to solve? Let us know in the comments: