Poker is widely played game at online and offline casinos. There are different variants of poker games that can be played and is not an easy game to play and win. This family of card games combines gambling strategy, and skill. All poker variants involve betting as an intrinsic part of play, and determine the winner of each hand according to the combinations of players’ cards, at least some of which remain hidden until the end of the hand. Poker games vary in the number of cards dealt, the number of shared or “community” cards, the number of cards that remain hidden, and the betting procedures.
In most modern poker games, the first round of betting begins with one or more of the players making some form of a forced bet (the blind or ante). In standard poker, each player bets according to the rank they believe their hand is worth as compared to the other players. The action then proceeds clockwise as each player in turn must either match (or “call”) the maximum previous bet, or fold, losing the amount bet so far and all further involvement in the hand. A player who matches a bet may also “raise” (increase) the bet. The betting round ends when all players have either called the last bet or folded. If all but one player folds on any round, the remaining player collects the pot without being required to reveal their hand. If more than one player remains in contention after the final betting round, a showdown takes place where the hands are revealed, and the player with the winning hand takes the pot.
With the exception of initial forced bets, money is only placed into the pot voluntarily by a player who either believes the bet has positive expected value or who is trying to bluff other players for various strategic reasons. Thus, while the outcome of any particular hand significantly involves chance, the long-run expectations of the players are determined by their actions chosen on the basis of probability, psychology, and game theory.
Since the game first exploded in the early 2000s, players have been trying to find a shortcut to win and this is a reason that in a form of artificial intelligence Poker Bots were created that could profitably “solve” poker, for wins. The bots are computer programs that have been designed to play the game against human opponents or other pieces of software. Once activated, a poker bot will play a game that is underpinned by certain mathematical concepts with a view to making profitable long-term decisions.
The primary factor for defining a bot is whether or not the computer program can interface with a poker client without the assistance of a human operator. If so, it is treated as a bot regardless of how well it plays poker or how much money it is capable of making per 100 hands.
As poker is a game of incomplete information, it is impossible even for a computer to deduce the final outcome of any given hand. Instead, poker bots must rely on systems based on various theorems and all have their limitations, however.
Types of players that use Poker Bots
There are two types of players who use poker bots; one those who want to make easy profit and others who want to beat the game.
Note that no poker bot on the market is capable of beating the game for thousands of dollars, they might turn over about 5bb/100 hands. As such, people who use bots purely for their profit-generating ability normally do so to clear bonuses or grind out rakeback deals. After all, why spend hours playing the game when you can simply leave a bot to unlock your deposit match before pocketing the profits and moving to new pastures.
But for those who want to solve the game with as many variables as poker they enter their bots in competitions or pit them against professional opposition. But just as tracking software has given players the edge over their opponents, so bots are threatening to take things up a notch or three.
How Poker Bots Work?
As said above Poker bots are pieces of software used on online poker sites by players who cannot beat the game normally. Bots are computers that use mathematics and player knowledge to attempt to beat real-life human players.
Bots run in the background and as standalone programs alongside the client you’re running. Primarily, they track the hands that have been played and make observations that the human eye may not be able to see.
It’s like a HUD (Heads-Up Display) but it actually plays for you too. Running a bot is pretty easy, as long as they are permitted by the poker site you’re playing at. They’re just downloadable programs and they come with clear instruction manuals.
There are plenty of bots for sale on the open market. They can tackle cash, MTTs or Omaha but none guarantee a winning run over the long term.
That hasn’t stopped some sites cracking down on them though. PokerStars were investigating a suspected high-profile case of bots in last year’s Turbo Championship of Online Poker. The player was eventually found to be human. Later it also emerged that a group of Russian players had used bots to win over $1.5 million on PLO cash games on ‘Stars’ site.
The world’s largest poker room later made changes to ban all third-party software from its tables. Earlier this year they also froze several accounts amidst fears of bot usage.
Coming of New Bots
Researchers are busy developing new bots that are effectively better than people. Not only do they play optimum strategy in particular situations but they can also bet hard and, most importantly, bluff just like humans.
A bot known as Baby Tartanian 8 won the Annual Computer Poker Competition in 2016. It is believed to be the ‘best poker bot’ ever invented. While other bots have been able to crack Limit Hold’em, with its strict and fairly basic betting patterns, Baby Tartanian 8 has been proven to beat No Limit. BT8’s creators call it “asymmetric information” and want the bot to be used for things like business negotiations, in which one or both sides are always holding their cards very closely to their chest.
In a test against players like Doug Polk in 2015, over 80,000 hands the humans won by over $730,000. The bots, it seems, aren’t quite in the Ivey league just yet.
The new generation of bots can handle many more hand scenarios than the original bots, which just had the capacity to call, fold, or go all-in. The downside is they are expensive and difficult to develop, and getting hold of one is also tricky. Almost most poker sites have banned them entirely.
Carl Sampson is a trainer and poker pro who is well-known in the gambling world. For him, having a strong team of players around you is a great way of beating the software. Cheats and colluders have existed in online poker since the first games appeared. Individual players are at a distinct disadvantage because they work and play alone, and can’t share information on suspicious behaviour.
With a team of players helping each other spot the cheatsor in this case, bots Sampson believes the bots can be weeded out.
Thus the players need to start working as a collective to beat the game as with lots of online competition, it’s necessary that players share information and work together to plug the leaks.
Advantages and Disadvantages of using a Bot
While bots are capable of turning a profit in the long term, they are just as susceptible to the laws of variance. They are also incapable of making sophisticated adjustments to their game when a player begins to exploit them.
While systems like neural networking do allow some bots to “learn” new strategies based on how other players are reacting to them, the truth is even the most advanced bot essentially plays in a pre-defined manner. Once identified, it can easily be outmanoeuvred by a good opponent.
The advantage side is that bots do not tire or make poor decisions when fatigued and they don’t feel the value of money or fear taking risks Some bots have in-built HUDs and can identify specific weaknesses in players. They have no emotions and are therefore unaffected by tilt and all of their decisions are based on advanced mathematical theory
Note that the use of poker bots is illegal on of Poker sites, although developing and selling them is not. With that in mind, you will occasionally encounter users who have illegally deployed a poker bot online, but you can identify and spot a bot by following tips:
- If you see repeated use of identical betsizing
- Also repeated use of uncommon lines like check-raising rivers or 5-bet folding pre-flop
- Having identical timing for all decisions
- Inability to respond in the chatbox
- Can be not responsive to Captcha
Bots can also be caught out by programming the poker client to monitor certain user activities. However, given that this is tantamount to embedding spyware in the software, this practice is highly controversial among operators. As a result, using CAPTCHAs at random intervals during play is a more commonly-used alternative. A CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart) is a program that can determine whether a user is human or not. Many websites, not just gambling ones, are protected by CAPTCHAs.
Finally bots can make you lose the game of poker and cheat you in the game but also it can fail against elite human opposition. Poker is simply too complicated a game to be solved by a computer program with technology as it is, and though some bot designers are fairly close to cracking the game in Limit format, the greater number of variables in No Limit Hold’em means a similar outcome there is still a long way off. (Inputs from various poker sites)