Poker bots could destroy online poker playing

Just as you can't be sure of the age and gender of the person you're IMing in a chat room, you can't be sure that your opponent in an online poker game is human.

Poker playing bots are getting better, and despite online casinos' efforts to detect and ban them, they're here to stay. Ian Ayres, an economist and lawyer at Yale, write about the rise of the poker bots on the NY Time's Freakonomics blog:

In the very near future, online poker may become a suckers’ game that humans won’t have a chance to win. Bots are quite scale-able and it will be virtually impossible to prohibit computer or computer-assisted online playing.

Poker sites are trying to assure customers that they will kick bots off their site and seize their assets. But unlike the statistical trail left by crude poker cheats at Absolute Poker, it is possible for bots to randomize their strategies and even hire individual humans to run them.

Ultimately the Albertus Polaris program and its offspring could be more effective than any Justice Department indictment in crippling the growth of online gambling. Indeed, our government might even think about subsidizing the development and use of these bots.



  1. “it is possible for bots to randomize their strategies and even hire individual humans to run them.”

    Wait… the bots can hire people??

    *runs for hills*

  2. Ha! This will provide the incentive for someone to create the first program to pass the Turing test.

  3. “Indeed, our government might even think about subsidizing the development and use of these bots.”

    that is far to forsighted and intelligent a response, it will never happen.

    if anything, the online gambling special intrest will get the governement to allow random searches of all online poker players!

  4. So the government would launch autonomous software to destroy illegal sites by robbing its own citizens blind?

    I guess it’s still more ethical than the CIA’s drug smuggling.

  5. I’ve been hearing about this for a while. It’s a cat and mouse game, with the casinos trying increasingly draconian measures to make sure you don’t cheat. At this point every major poker site will scan your RAM and installed programs for traces of known poker bots, similar to Punkbuster and similar FPS anticheating platforms. And what did the cheaters do? simple, move the bot to another computer and have it control the poker game via VNC.

    A computer can’t be 100% optimal at poker like it can at checkers, because of the uncertainty involved. Real human players do things like analyzing other players’ personalities and categorizing them, or gauging moods. These are hard things for computers to do, but it’s only a matter of time.

    At any rate, readily available software can still beat most fish out there, which worse news for a poker exec than finding out his flight has an unexpected layover in the US.

  6. Or, the casinos can just have the system ask you a simple question every few random hands. Fail to answer corretly within a set amount of time and you are automatically removed from the game.

  7. I don’t play poker, but I would like to point out that writing a bot to play poker isn’t cheating, it is only violating a rule of the online poker site. The bot plays the game just a human would, with no more advantage than anyone else (except for never making mistakes).

  8. A computer can’t be 100% optimal at poker, but if you have enough bots running enough games, they’ll pay off and pay off well.

    I quit playing online poker when I realized that no human could possibly play 20+ tables at once — and yet, several ‘people’ were doing so at any given time, even on the big sites like PokerStars.

    So I’d watch these ‘players’. Sometimes they’d go bust, but more often that not they’d double or triple their stake and then move to another room. The people owning those accounts were making thousands of dollars per day, playing on low-limit tables.

    Between the bots, and the collusion between players, I was lucky to break even in my career.

  9. In related news, colossal Transformer-like killer mega-robots could destroy offline poker — details at ten.

  10. The poker sites have too much money to be made, I’m sure if the problem becomes big enough they’ll ban VNC, furthering the cat and mouse game. In the end, there’s too much money to be lost if the players stop trusting the sites to provide human competition, I’m sure they will continue to pursue these things aggressively. Bots will probably always be around, but they’ll require constant innovation to stay afloat, which will limit their numbers.

    But just an aside, a poker bot’s ability to beat top pros has very little with a poker bot’s ability to beat everyday people at low stakes games. Poor players play their cards and nothing else. Pros play their cards, what they think their opponents have, and what they think their opponents think they have. Which is why amateurs can frustrate pros, where plays that would work on other pros fail miserably against the “fish.”

  11. Wow, I guess folk will just have to play like they did in the olden days – With actual people! Heaven forbid.

  12. Pokerbots! This makes me weep with joy.

    As we said on back in the day…

    “Start Kissing Robot Ass Now”

  13. It’s just good. Poker bots! This makes me weep with joy. The poker sites can earn much money. Real players can improve there analytical knowledge.



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  14. And here we are almost 3 years later and Online Poker has not been destroyed by poker bots.

    Many people Play Poker For Money online, they have for many years, they will for many more.

    There have always been challenges to keep poker games honest. In this modern era of poker “the house” has the burden to keep the game square.

    In my opinion online poker is a fair game. Players are humans, and it is a contest of skill.

    Shuffle up and deal…

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