Poker Bots: Rise of the Machines is Here

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According to the Terminator films, robots are close to taking over the world and annihilating humans. If that’s true, then they must want our money too. Although AI has progressed significantly in the 21st century, Skynet and its cybernetic friends are still very far from taking over the world. They have become a nuisance in cyberspace though, specifically when it comes to virtual gambling.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the current state of poker bots, what they’re capable of and how casinos are trying to stop them.

How Poker AI Started

One of the first poker bots was Orac, created in 1981 by Mike ‘The Mad Genius’ Caro. A sophisticated poker-playing robot, or bot, is a form of AI programmed to play online poker against human opponents.

After perfecting his programming for two years and testing it against championship poker players, Caro lost to casino owner Bob Stupak on US national television. A decade later in 1991, technology had improved drastically. Computers were faster and more efficient, and the World Wide Web emerged from its infancy.

However, online poker would not exist for another seven years. During this time, Darse Billings – a US professor – began work on several AI software programs that specialized in games with imperfect information and decision-making under conditions of uncertainty (poker bots). Unlike blackjack, poker is a game of incomplete information, meaning that players don’t have all the facts. As a result, playing optimally is much more difficult for bots.

Different poker playing programs adopt unique strategies, like bluffing and laying traps for opponents. Because No-Limit Hold’em is complex, Billings decided to solve the most solvable type of poker: heads-up Limit Hold’em.

Polaris: The Rise improved Poker Bot

After the birth of internet poker in 1998, and after online qualifier Chris Moneymaker’s 2003 WSOP Main Event win caused a surge in popularity, poker bots based on one of Billings’ earlier experiments, Vexbot, began to appear online.

Billings and his colleagues from the University of Alberta improved upon their previous poker bot by releasing Polaris in 2007. Although the play was still basic, it incorporated new decision-making logic that allowed for real-time input.

Billings said his latest creation had the ability to model opponent’s behavior and showed things that no human player has ever seen before. “One of the biggest advantages that programs have is that they have no fear,” he said.

“Since bots don’t get angry or emotional, they are more likely to make decisions that an aggressive player would not. This can be intimidating for humans who will usually back off when up against a bot. Not all hope is lost though- by playing your cards right, you might still come out on top.”

Can Poker Bots Be a Threat?

If you search “poker bot” on Google, tons of sites come up that all say they have the best deal for you to make some quick cash. But do these poker bots really work? Probably not. The websites try to sell you the idea that the bot will guarantee your success at online gambling, but more often than not, it’s just a load of salt.

The poker bot’s principle is an appealing one – a robot that doesn’t feel frustrated gets tired or emotional and can play poker constantly. Plug it into your favorite online poker room, point it toward the virtual felt table surface, then go to the pub while it piles up the cash winnings.

What Could Be Easier?

The trouble with using commercial poker bots is that they’re not especially great at playing poker. No-Limit Hold’em is an intricate game that’s difficult to predict, even under the best circumstances. When you factor in human nature, bluffing, tilting, and luck – it becomes clear why these bots aren’t guaranteed to make money online. Additionally, it is technical cheating aside; most self-respecting professionals would consider this method to be morally wrong.

If you use a bot while playing online poker, most rooms have security measures in place that will result in your account being terminated and any funds you have been taken away. Needless to say, this isn’t the “guaranteed” moneymaker scheme that the bot developers promise.

What Should You Look for in a Poker Bot?

Although poker bots are more commonly found playing in cash tables, don’t be surprised if you run into one while playing in a multi-table tournament (MTT).

Making perfect decisions

Game Theory Optimal play is not possible for any player because everyone makes mistakes. These errors are often caught after the fact by those who analyze their opponents’ plays, rather than in-game. If you find a player who always makes the right decision at every point during a hand, they might be using a bot.

Long Sessions Are an Option

Although some online professionals play at multiple tables for extensive periods, everyone pauses eventually. If you encounter an opponent playing steadily well across several tables in a 12-hour timespan, they might be using a bot.

None of the above are 100% foolproof ways to spot a bot. However, they may be an indication that an opponent might be one. If you suspect an account is a bot, the best way to proceed is to report them to the security team.

Timing

If an opponent in a game takes the same amount of time to make every decision, they might be using a bot. Usually, bots need several seconds to calculate the available information and come to a conclusion before taking action.

Nevertheless, this isn’t foolproof because some programmers work hard to fix this easily noticeable issue with their bots. The good news is that most people are too lazy or forgetful to disguise this problem, so they’re caught as a result.

Conclusion

Poker bots have been around for a while and they don’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon. The good news is that most sites are aware of this problem and have security measures in place to catch them.

However, they still pose a significant threat to players, especially

Humans can still take on bots by playing smart and adjusting their strategies accordingly. By understanding how poker bots work and what to look for, you can better position yourself against them and increase your chances of success at the tables.

Article written by Louis Wheeler.





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