Mike Holtz accuses Chris Battenfield of illicit RTA use during recent WSOP Online bracelet event

Haley Hintze Author Photo
Haley Hintze
Posted on: October 03, 2023 09:08 PDT

Veteran online tournament grinder Mike Holtz has publicly accused fellow online player Chris Battenfield of using illicit software-based real-time assistance (RTA) during a recent domestic WSOP Online bracelet event.

Holtz, who is widely known by his "Brock Lesnar" screen name, made the accusation against Battenfield, who plays as "battenfield" on WSOP.com, after the two battled in the middle stages of Event #17, $2,000 No-Limit Hold’em 6-Max. Holtz did not cash in the event, while Battenfield eventually finished third for $37,867. The event was notable for being the first bracelet win for long-time pro Shannon Shorr, who ended his personal 17-year bracelet drought at the WSOP.

The accusations Holtz posted on X/Twitter earlier today present reasonably solid circumstantial evidence regarding Battenfield's likely use of real-time software assistance, which is banned by WSOP.com and most other major online-poker platforms around the globe.

Holtz became suspicious after a couple of unusually-played hands involving Battenfield. He then ran those questionable hands through the "Fair Play Check" online query system recently launched by GTO Wizard in conjunction with several major online sites. According to Holtz, both of the suspect hands were reported by Fair Play Check as "spots" where the hands had been run through GTO Wizard or another participating solver at the exact same time as the timestamp associated with the WSOP Online hands as they occurred.

Holtz then reviewed his hand history, found three more suspect hands involving Battenfield, and ran those through Fair Play Check as well. All three of those hands were also flagged as corresponding directly to spots that had been run through the online solver software, being queried at the same time for the same known community cards. That led Holtz to take his accusations public:

Holtz also wrote, "I forwarded all the relevant info to WSOP and his account wasn’t playing yesterday. If anyone has played with him in the past week, I encourage you to check your tournament replays and check gto wiz fair play tool to see if you have any other evidence as well." Holtz also expressed his belief that Battenfield had been banned by the WSOP, on the basis that Battenfield hadn't played in the last couple of days, though that isn't conclusive. The WSOP, with very rare exceptions, also declines to comment on cheating matters, whether online at WSOP.com or at live WSOP events.

False positives ruled out

The posted allegations drew a large majority of support and thanks for Holtz's efforts:

A handful of naysayers and defiant RTA users, however, chimed in as well. Among the naysaying arguments was the expressed belief that Fair Play Check couldn't be trusted because of the possibility of false-positive results involving coincidentally matching hands.

Holtz, who chatted with PokerOrg earlier today, immediately disputed the possibility that false positives were part of this situation. Holtz verified that he checked only five suspect hands and all them came back as hits via GTO Wizard's new Fair Play Check query system. "I checked two hands I thought were odd and they both popped," he said. "[I] then looked early in tournament for hands he saw a flop with. then checked corresponding times. And those all insta-matched as well.

"I then tried random times throughout the day to see if I could produce some false positives and got none." Holtz also remarked that it was the first time he'd used the Fair Play Check tool, which is offered as a feature within GTO Wizard's software. GTO Wizard also implements a time delay which significantly hinders but does not necessarily eliminate all instances of illicit use of the solver for real-time cheating.

Battenfield markets himself as software engineer

Battenfield, who lives in Arizona and has likely commuted to nearby Las Vegas to play in the domestic WSOP Online events, is also a software engineer who markets his programming skills online. On his site he promotes his online-poker experience, including "developing an innovative strategy tool for a game called Omaha Hi/Lo," and "manag[ing) SQL databases chalk [sic] full of player statistics and boil(ing) them down to develop an innovative strategic algorithm."

Such programming activities are not necessarily TOS-violating of and by themselves, but they anecdotally increase the likelihood that Battenfield could have merged multiple data forms into a valuable RTA tool.

From his viewpoint, Holtz believes that Battenfield's strategies differed markedly between pre- and post-flop play. "His preflop play was not good at all, it was like he was using chipEV charts pre and gto wiz post," Holtz wrote in the X/Twitter thread.

Battenfield did not respond to a request for comment in the hours preceding the publication of this report.

Jeff Platt thanks Holtz for anti-cheating efforts

Among the players possibly impacted by Battenfield's alleged illicit RTA use is popular poker-media personality Jeff Platt, famed for his interviews on the WSOP floor. Platt has posted several strong online results of his own on the WSOP.com platform in recent months, and in August, Platt finished as the runner-up to Battenfield in an online Circuit ring event.

The WSOP generally does not issue refunds to cheated players, citing regulatory complications, nor does it distribute any funds confiscated from cheating accounts. Further, it's not even known at this time whether Battenfield might have cheated in the August ring event or any other recent tourneys on WSOP.com.

Still, several commenters responded with condolences for Platt in the wake of Holtz's accusations, and a couple of them, such as William Lahti, offered a take on the earlier ring event:

That best finisher not caught cheating would be Platt. Currently, all winners of Circuit ring events also win a seat into the WSOP Circuit tour's season-ending Tournament of Champions. The seat entry won by Battenfield hasn't technically been awarded until it's been played, meaning what Lahti suggests could be a possibility.

However, there's at least one hidden complication to that scenario. GTO Wizard didn't launch its Fair Play Check until September, and the ring event involving Battenfield and Platt took place weeks earlier. Therefore, the only way for such a seat to be stripped and re-awarded would be for WSOP.com to forward the hand histories involving Battenfield to GTO Wizard, and then for GTO Wizard to do a forensic check against its own database, looking for more spots where any illicit RTA use appears to have occcurred.

It's of course no guarantee that Platt wouldn't have faces Battenfield in the heads-up duel for the ring, either; Platt would have had to face some other player for the ring no matter what. Yet Platt was the last challenger to Battenfield's triumph in that event, and he would be the logical recipient of any stripped TOC entry.

Platt didn't talk about that when he chatted with PokerOrg, but he did thank Holtz for his efforts regarding Battenfield's alleged RTA use. "I really appreciate Mike looking into what he thought was suspicious play. Mike is a stalwart of the online poker community, and it will take these kinds of efforts from him and others to keep our game safe," he stated.

"I feel for the hundreds of players who have played against Battenfield and have been negatively impacted. It’s great that GTO Wizard has implemented this fair play tool. These kinds of security checks are incredibly important to the health of the online poker ecosystem.

"I’m glad that it appears WSOP.com has acted swiftly in (at the very least) suspending his account. Our online poker operators have to lead the way in this fight against players using RTA."