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Pokerbots Making Online Players Sad 408

Posted by Zonk
from the in-fact,-forget-the-blackjack dept.
Anonymous Coward wrote to mention a Wired article about the rise of Pokerbots in online gaming venues. From the article: "Smart, skilled players are rewarded in the long run, especially online, where there are plenty of beginners who would never have the nerve to sit down at a real table. But WinHoldEm isn't just smart, it's a machine. Set it to run on autopilot and it wins real money while you sleep. Flick on Team mode and you can collude with other humans running WinHoldEm at the table. For years, there has been chatter among online players about the coming poker bot infestation. WinHoldEm is turning those rumors into reality, and that is a serious problem for the online gambling business."
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Pokerbots Making Online Players Sad

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    That would certainly explain a lot, especially if Taco wrote it.
  • Poker Cheaters (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mfh (56) on Saturday August 27, 2005 @07:46PM (#13418272) Journal
    My initial thought is that anyone who would run a pokerbot is evil. Then my attention turns to Las Vegas and the enormous rooms of metalic robots who are all fixed to win and win big, suck the life, time (24/7 baby), and money, out of would-be regular people. Then I don't feel as bad. I still don't like cheaters, tho. The answer? Play free online poker. Save your money for BYOB -- real games with your friends. We play Texas Holdem from time to time at the cottage and it's a hoot. Games should be fun -- not business, IMHO.
    • Automated (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Klar (522420) <curchin&gmail,com> on Saturday August 27, 2005 @07:59PM (#13418336) Homepage Journal
      I'd think that the same sort of approach could be taken as has been done in the past with macro's in mmorpg's. Track behaviour, and if there is suspicion, have an admin personal message the player, asking them a question a bot wouldn't have difficulty answering. Also,

      I know a few people who play high stakes online games(2k+ buyin tables), are people trusting the bots at high stakes?
      • That's why cyborgs are so much better. A player sits there while the bot is running, and responds to any chatter.

        If I were using this stuff I'd want to babysit it on the chance that a glitch might cost me money instead of making money.
        • Babysit it till it's in profit, then withdraw your original bank from the site. That way you can only ever lose money your bot has alreay won.
      • Re:Automated (Score:3, Insightful)

        by painkillr (33398)
        the problem isn't pokerbots running 24/7, it's ppl using pokerbots on their PC while they're playing. anyone stupid enough to run a pokerbot 24/7 will get caught, it's the people who sit at their pc and solely handle the clicking after consulting the pokerbot that can get away with it.
        • Re:Automated (Score:4, Insightful)

          by XMyth (266414) on Saturday August 27, 2005 @08:27PM (#13418495) Homepage
          There isn't a whole lot a poker bot can do for you that most skilled players can't do in their head anyways. The ONLY advantage to a bot is the automation. Being able to consult one while you're playing isn't an edge against a good player.

          All it is is a crutch weak players can use against other weak players.

          Also, if you're consulting a 'bot' for all of your play then your play isn't going to change and you'll get swallowed whole by the first decent player you sit at a table long enough with.

          And if you can change up your play while using the bot/app then you're probably going to see that it's not that hard to figure up the pot odds and other things a bot would do for you on your own.

          • > There isn't a whole lot a poker bot can do for you that most skilled
            > players can't do in their head anyways. The ONLY advantage to a bot is
            > the automation. Being able to consult one while you're playing isn't
            > an edge against a good player.

            I've never run a pokerbot, but I expect you could babysit 2 or 3 at once, all playing different games. (Maybe 6 or 10 different games?)

            You could target lower money games, i.e. weaker players, and still make money.
          • Re:Automated (Score:5, Interesting)

            by phriedom (561200) on Saturday August 27, 2005 @09:15PM (#13418733)
            A poker bot can play 10 tables at the same time and keep track of every statistic about all 90 other players at the tables.

            Of course, playing ten tables at a time is a good way to get yourself noticed, but you could probably get away with 5 or 6 tables at a time. My brother-in-law plays 5 tables live, without a bot. He does, however, use Pokertracker, which helps him keep statistics on everyone he plays with, which in my opinion isn't cheating, it is just automating something that you could do manually. Having seen his statistics for the average 3/6 player on PartyPoker, I have no doubt that a bot could make money there. Maybe it wouldn't make 2.2 big-bets per hour the way the best human limit players do, but I have no doubt that 1 BB/hr would be easy. Play 5 bots at 5/10 and that is $50/hour. Run it 4-6 hours a day to avoid getting noticed by the admins and it wouldn't make you a millionaire, but it would be a nice chunk of change.
            • Re:Automated (Score:3, Insightful)

              by ArcSecond (534786)
              He does, however, use Pokertracker, which helps him keep statistics on everyone he plays with, which in my opinion isn't cheating, it is just automating something that you could do manually.

              Would you include counting cards in Blackjack in that analysis of what is and isn't cheating? I believe counting cards in your head at a real casino is okay. But just try "automating" it and then see what happens.

              • Re:Automated (Score:5, Informative)

                by CastrTroy (595695) on Saturday August 27, 2005 @11:23PM (#13419081) Homepage
                You are technically allowed to count cards. They are also technically allowed to kick you out of their casino, and technically allowed to blacklist you from all the casinos in the state. They don't like it when you win. There's no laws against cheating, but then again, there's no laws against kicking you out of the casino either.
    • Re:Poker Cheaters (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Travoltus (110240) on Saturday August 27, 2005 @08:00PM (#13418339) Journal
      [Games should be fun -- not business, IMHO.]

      Anything that involves real money is, or becomes, business.

      Darwin never sleeps.
    • Re:Poker Cheaters (Score:2, Interesting)

      by melikamp (631205)
      Here's a thought: TFA says that the online poker biz already makes $1.4 billion annualy. Now this cash will pay for R&D of The Perfect CAPTCHA. This will be interesting to watch.
      • What's fun about watchng the human bot-minder pass the CAPTCHA then sit and watch his winnings roll in as his 4 accounts run WinHoldEm and communicate/conspire with one another to cream the fifth person at the table?

        I don't think you understand how these bots work.
        • Re:Poker Cheaters (Score:3, Informative)

          by melikamp (631205)

          They work really badly anywhere except at (1) long-hand (2) fixed limit (3) low stakes (4) loose (5) passive tables where the winning strategy is clear and mostly consists of waiting for a good hand and then playing pot odds correctly. If anyone is so bored that they are willing to babysit a bot which makes less than $1 per hour, more power to them.

          It is all about complete automation. Without it these bots are useless because it is simply not fun to play the long-hand fixed limit poker correctly. Take it

  • Poker (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Descalzo (898339) on Saturday August 27, 2005 @07:48PM (#13418286) Journal
    Well, I'm sorry but I don't lose any sleep over people who lose money gambling, or who feel it is unfair. It's gambling! Who do you think pays for all those lights in Vegas? The losers!
    • Re:Poker (Score:5, Informative)

      by Hedonist23 (603302) on Saturday August 27, 2005 @08:03PM (#13418353)
      I understand where this comment is coming from, but what people don't understand is that poker is actually a much different game than other forms of gambling. It's a game in which you play against other players, not the house. As far as the house is concerned, you can win every hand and become a millionaire, as long as they get their rake (the percentage a house takes out of every pot).

      Poker is a skill game, that's why people can become pro's at it. That's why even semi-pro's like me can make a decent living off of it, especially now with the boom in popularity of the game.

      • by Propaganda13 (312548) on Saturday August 27, 2005 @10:10PM (#13418954)
        $5 table and only $30 after letting it run all night? $.50/$1 tables of Texas Hold'em generally have a pot average between $5 and $10 and cost $.75 for small blind/big blind.
        I'm more worried about collusion at a table and there's no way to stop this, whether they're using this bot, Teamspeak, or sitting next to each other.
        The bot does do the hardest thing for a real person to do which is to sit and not play. Fold junk hands for an hour, and you're willing to bet on anything that's playable.

      • Re:Poker (Score:4, Informative)

        by adam31 (817930) <adam31.gmail@com> on Sunday August 28, 2005 @01:32AM (#13419496)
        You've just described real poker, where you're physically at a casino.

        That misses the point entirely. There are 2 separate, distinct issues that the pokerbot addresses that are unique to online play:

        1) Any player could be using this program to evaluate the current live hand in an off-line fashion. Attempting to weed them out by chatting is useless. As far as using a bot is cheating, this would be cheating (and many players "seeking to understand the game better" would deem it as excusable!)

        2) Outright collusion. This can be done by two humans using the same on-line poker forum. No bots are neccessary. That bots also do it is irrelevant. The reason the bots can collude is because the program author thought that people need to be aware of the issue!


    • > Who do you think pays for all those lights in Vegas? The losers!

      I just send my money straight to the power company, once a month.

  • find a flaw (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nihaopaul (782885)
    all you have to do is find a flaw in the poker bot and then exploit it, they always have one!
    • by ikkonoishi (674762) on Saturday August 27, 2005 @07:54PM (#13418318) Journal
      Generally a torpedo down the exhaust port works.

      If that fails try throwing an old man shooting lightning from his fingers into a conveniently placed pit to the energy core.
    • Re:find a flaw (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Flyboy Connor (741764) on Saturday August 27, 2005 @07:56PM (#13418324)
      all you have to do is find a flaw in the poker bot and then exploit it, they always have one!

      This is a pretty apt comment. I think professional poker players would love to play against a bot. It gives them a considerable advantage, because if they studied the bot they can predict what it will do.

      There are, basically, two possibilities. Either the bot plays purely statistically. If that is the case, it may win against dumb players, but can break even at best against good players. Or, the bot tries to model its opponents and tries to take those models into account when playing. If that is the case, as soon as a good player recognises that a bot is playing, he can ensure that the bot will have the wrong model of him, and then exploit that.

      And, of course, as the parent says, it is possible that the bot contains an exploitable flaw. The bot creator goes to sleep, someone on the net recognises the flaw and posts about it in a newsgroup, and by the time the bot creator awakes he is broke. I would not sleep soundly with a bot playing with my money.

      • Re:find a flaw (Score:5, Interesting)

        by randyest (589159) on Saturday August 27, 2005 @08:10PM (#13418393) Homepage
        Of course they play statistically and, surprise, computers are better at playing accurately based on statistics than even the best human players. WinHoldEm doesn't try to profile or model players. It just plays perfect poker (statistically.) And against most players, that is a sure win over time. Even against great players, it doesn't lose over time (think Las Vegas house.)

        The point you're missing is that several accounts, all playing WinHoldEm bots which are communicating with one another can rape even the best players over time. It's cheating at poker, and the gambling sites can't seem to control it yet.
        • Re:find a flaw (Score:3, Informative)

          by Illserve (56215)
          Even against great players, it doesn't lose over time (think Las Vegas house.)

          The "house" doesn't make money from statistics. It makes money from the rake, a small percentage of each pot which go to the establishment. Just like party poker.

          WinHoldEm bots which are communicating with one another can rape even the best players over time.

          Collusion of this sort doesn't give you a very huge advantage. You have a bit more information about the statistics of card distribution by knowing the other players' hole
        • Re:find a flaw (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Richthofen80 (412488) on Saturday August 27, 2005 @08:43PM (#13418572) Homepage
          all playing WinHoldEm bots which are communicating with one another

          This is the important thing, collaboration. In all scenarios, casinos, both real and online, factor in the odds or frequency of the player winning. For every percentage over 49% in favor of the player, the casino adjusts accordingly. It just doesn't make any sense for the casino to win less than 51% of the time. int he case of these poker sites, they take a certain percentage of the 'take' in any hand. In blackjack, the odds are in favor of the dealer about 51% of the time. Casinos have unlimited money and can continue to play, knowing in the long run statistically they'll win.

          What scares Casinos is collusion. To any one player in blackjack, he has a 49% chance. However, multiple players sharing information changes those odds, in favor of the group over the casino . (this only applies to 'house' games, like blackjack) If you read Ben Mezrich's 'Bringing down the house', a group of students at MIT figured this out. They were able to play statistically and when they found a table whose odds leaned into the players, they called in a big fish who would bet more, knowing that the odds had swung.

          The same collusion applies to Poker, except against other players, not the house. If I am dealt two Aces, and I collude with another player who indicates that he got one ace, I can tell two things... One, that no one else can match my aces, since there's a single ace somewhere else, and second, the other player can drop out, minimizing the loss of the teams.

          The great thing about card games is that there's a finite number of cards dealt, and therefore statistical rules apply... the chances of drawing an Ace from a deck of cards increase for every non-Ace you draw. Since robots can keep track of every card dealt, they have an excellent chance to quickly calculate poker and blackjack situations. Collusion allows even more input to be gathered and for computers to make even more informed decisions
        • Re:find a flaw (Score:3, Informative)

          by tsotha (720379)
          It just plays perfect poker (statistically.) And against most players, that is a sure win over time. Even against great players, it doesn't lose over time (think Las Vegas house.)

          This is clearly wrong. There isn't any such thing as "perfect poker (statistically.)" The best players tailor their game to other players around the table, both in live games and on sites like PartyPoker.com.

          Statistical poker isn't that hard to play. Most books on the subject include handy tables to figure out how likely you

        • I honestly don't see what the problem is here. This is simply a technology-vs-technology situation, and the Casinos always have the upper hand.

          Just put in a challenge-response mechanism which stays one step ahead of the bots. When a bot is detected, skew the results against them, in favor of the humans. Eventually the bot accounts will go broke.

          This basically ends up encouraging the bot accounts to go elsewhere, while retaining and attracting players who don't want to play against bots.

          Ultimately, it

      • Re:find a flaw (Score:4, Informative)

        by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Saturday August 27, 2005 @08:17PM (#13418440)
        And, of course, as the parent says, it is possible that the bot contains an exploitable flaw. The bot creator goes to sleep, someone on the net recognises the flaw and posts about it in a newsgroup, and by the time the bot creator awakes he is broke. I would not sleep soundly with a bot playing with my money.

        I doubt that would happen. It's the online gambling equivalent of posting a misprice to fatwallet.com. Except that online merchants are big slow and stupid and most still haven't figured out how detect hordes of people taking advantage of a misprice. Most still aren't smart enough to page a human when there is an abnormal spike in the sales numbers for an item.

        For a poker-bot, it is simple to prevent large scale exploitation of a flaw - give the bot a sanity check. If it loses more than $X, then it stops playing and pages a real human to check things out. There will probably be false positives due to the nature of gaussian distributions but experience ought to indicate what a good enough value for $X is to minimize those false positives and still make automated playing profitable.
      • There are, basically, two possibilities. Either the bot plays purely statistically. If that is the case, it may win against dumb players, but can break even at best against good players. Or, the bot tries to model its opponents and tries to take those models into account when playing. If that is the case, as soon as a good player recognises that a bot is playing, he can ensure that the bot will have the wrong model of him, and then exploit that.
        Of course, this is what human players do to each other too, try
      • "Or, the bot tries to model its opponents and tries to take those models into account when playing. If that is the case, as soon as a good player recognises that a bot is playing, he can ensure that the bot will have the wrong model of him, and then exploit that."

        That is a quite long and techinical way of saying: "Let the fool win some hands and then take all its money".

      • A single bot playing statistically perfect poker is an even match for a good player, and would lose to a great player who could see its betting patterns. However, when you consider multiple bots (or humans) working together they become unbeatable. Perfect statistical play given knowledge of 4 to 10 extra cards is truly unbeatable.
    • The problem is even if you know the pokerbot overvalues KJo it's still not going to come up that often. And the rest of the play is going to be solid. Over the long run it would be hard to beat a bot, even if the code isn't minorly flawed. Also, what if the bots are sharing information. That is such a huge advantage it would overwhelm any small amount of negative expectation play.
    • by SlowEmotionReplay (822314) on Sunday August 28, 2005 @12:57AM (#13419387)
      "You see, pokerbots have a preset win limit. Knowing their weakness, I sent wave after wave of my own dollars at them, until they reached their limit and shut down." Zapp Brannigan
  • by Limburgher (523006) on Saturday August 27, 2005 @07:51PM (#13418307) Homepage Journal
    If you're caught cheating, you're escorted out.

    Sometimes, to a shallow ditch in the desert.

    Hard to implement online, actually. Nevermind. :)

    • Well... as I understand the online poker scene, to play you must have an executable program installed on your computer that must be running in order for the game to be played. Seems pretty simple to make a program that would do something at least somewhat nasty to cheaters. Particularly those that run with admin rights.

      I mean, some of these sites let you win real stuff without paying any money in. They're probably already installing adware on your computer as it is.

      (All this said, I've never really playe
    • that bots had kneecaps to break.
    • Not *that* hard, though. Yes, it's possible to remain quite anonymous online, but if you're playing for real money, then you will have to identify yourself in some way so that the money can be sent to you - and I don't think you'd be able to get away with creating a hundred PayPal accounts.

      The only ones who'll be able to get around that are the organised crime people, and I wouldn't be surprised if these really turn out to be a hard problem in the end. But casual players that just want to make money fast...
    • Caught Cheating? Hell, sometimes, if you're caught WINNING, you're escorted out. Or worse.

      Story, Here. [lasvegastribune.com]
  • The end game.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pieterh (196118) on Saturday August 27, 2005 @07:55PM (#13418321) Homepage
    No more unassisted human players, but networks of bots competing against each other, ultimately controlled by individuals, and creating a larger and more interesting game... Bots are just another tool, after all.
  • Where's the problem? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lightspawn (155347) on Saturday August 27, 2005 @07:56PM (#13418323) Homepage
    If they're allowed to play, there's no problem. Humans should deal (heh), or retreat to humans-only venues.

    If they're not allowed to play (why not?), but still do, there are two problems. The social one of people running them (I'm assuming the bots don't decide to play by themselves) which probably can't be solved - some people are inherently dishonest. Then there's the technical problem - how do you let humans play while shutting out bots? There really isn't a feasible solution, especially if humans decide to play physically but let a bot decide their moves for them. But of course some will still try to implement a partial solution. Discuss.
    • by ImaLamer (260199)
      We don't deal to droids in here!
  • by Hedonist23 (603302) on Saturday August 27, 2005 @07:58PM (#13418334)
    I make my living playing poker. I used to play mainly online, and now split my time fairly evenly between brick and mortar (B&M) play and the online realm.

    I can tell you that the bots are not a big deal yet. First of all, I'll be amazed when they ever come up with the technology to play no limit hold 'em. That would be a miracle program. Poker is much more than just betting and raising, and the occasional bluff. Just as important are reading your opponent, making bets that damage others pot odds, and playing your position in relation to the blinds. Plus, there's just a certain amount of feel needed in the game. Even Doyle Brunson claims ESP is important in Super System.

    Limit ring games are a different ballgame, and a bot does have some chance of success. However, that chance is at best only at the low level games, where a program could actually outplay the players. Any mid to high stakes game has players who will quickly figure out the way a bot plays, and milk it for all it's worth.

    As it is now, winholdem is a pretty bad program. I don't know of anyone who has made a profit with it, and I do know a couple of people who have at least taken a look at it. If you're worried about something in online poker, be much more worried about collusion, with multiple people at the same table sharing their hands with each other. But, even that doesn't give a huge advantage against a good player, unless there are upwards of six or seven people in a room sharing information against the rest. Poker is, and always will be a skill game, and none of these cheating methods can change that.

    hed.

    • From experience, I do not know much about poker, but I do know a bit about artificial intelligence.

      This whole conversation has me a bit intrigued, and I am actually considering writing a program to play poker. An associate of mine, I don't remember who was talking about this a while ago.

      Given that I could identify every possible hand for the table, and then pattern betting behavior, and correlate that to historical information involving hands. Would such information be valuable in the way that a human pla
      • There's a lot more involved, although that information is of course valuable. You would also have to program it to understand that good players vary their betting based on their position related to the blinds, as well as if the game is currently aggressive/passive, etc. Knowing every possible hand is really only a first step.

        A friend of mine was actually working on the same thing, for an artificial intelligence class. The program failed miserably, but he did get an A, so he at least got a start :)

        he

      • by TexVex (669445) on Sunday August 28, 2005 @12:34AM (#13419316)
        I would suggest you read some of David Sklansky's books on poker. He is big on his Fundamental Theorem of Poker, and the utilization of Game Theory.

        The FTOP states that you profit every time you play a hand exactly as you would if you could see all the cards, and you profit every time an opponent makes the wrong play assuming he could see all the cards. Making a "mistake" in this context means giving your opponent favorable odds to chase a draw, calling when you don't have favorable odds, failing to value bet a winning hand, calling with a losing hand, etc.. Sklansky uses Game Theory to propose ways in which you bet, bluff, call, and fold with the correct frequency to give your opponent the most opportunities to make mistakes and make as few mistakes as possible yourself.

        Actually applying what Sklansky writes takes a lot of knowledge of the game. You have to be able to recognize betting patterns, calculate pot odds on the fly, accurately estimate your implied odds, put your opponents on ranges of hands, and many other things. All in real-time.

        Some of those are things computers are good at. Many of them are not. :)

      • I'm amazed (but probably shouldn't be) that so many posts say so much shit without any evidence of research...especially considering the amount of Google worship on /. As it turns out, pokerbots are much more complex and varied than any of these posts consider. You are right to consider the bots more as AIs than simple if/then engines. Take a look at the WinHoldEm website. [winholdem.net] You'll notice there are different models available. There is also information regarding casinos detection schemes and how to defeat them
    • Your'e ignoring the huge advantage of one user having several bots playing in the same game. The bots communicate. It's like two or more people playing at a table and whispering privately to conspire against the other players. It is a huge advantage.

      How do you "read" a player online? Do you have webcams ion your games or something? Typing speed? Chat word-usage? Emoticons? lol.

      Also, I think it's funny that a post that seems to be claiming there is such a thing as ESP (Extra-Sensory Perception,
    • I'm amazed anyone would play for anything resembling money online. Bots are just one of many ways for you to be scammed. I assume the big online sites either refrain from cheating or are doing it selectively to keep the sucke .... players coming back. I can see playing it for fun or penny ante online but anything beyond that...

      At least in Vegas there is some oversight of the gaming tables and the one armed bandits. I'm inclined to think whomever controls the server on an online site can skim off as muc
      • I'm inclined to think whomever controls the server on an online site can skim off as much as they feel like, they just need to keep it under control so people win enough to keep coming back since they need butts in the seats. How exactly do you know one of the players in a game isn't the house and they aren't clicking a mouse to pick the cards they need to win a big hand.

        There are literally thousands of people on the big poker sites at any one time. If the big site was caught cheating, they would lose that

        • Maybe thats because its impossible to catch the people running the servers cheating unless they are completely clueless or you have a regulatory body going in and scrutinizing their software and operations which I doubt there is especially for off shore sites.

          The house software controls the deal. They can write software where they press a button and the program finds the undealt cards they need for the house player to win a pot they want, or assuming its well written software tell them it can't be done thi
          • Over a large sample of cards this would be obviously non-random. Most sites allow users to save each hand, and there are programs that gather statistics on these hands. Nothing (unsuprisingly) has shown up yet.

            It boggles the mind anyone would think they could catch a minimally well written piece of software cheating for the people who control the server and all its software.

            It boggles the mind that anyone thinks a poker site would jeopardize tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue so that some ho
            • First the caveat I wouldn't touch internet poker with a ten foot pole so I know not of what I speak, but I find it hard to believe that anyone would let anyone save every card dealt, so I assume all you can save is what you saw when you played right? If you could see all the cards you could analyze the secret behavior of players which would be bad. If you are only seeing the cards that were shown in the game I would think your ability to do statistical analysis would be weak.

              I can really see no possible w
    • You raise an interesting point when you say that there's more to poker than simply calculating what move is best based on the objective information available and that you also need to be able to "read" your opponent etc., but the unspoken conclusion - namely, that this kind of thing is necessary to be good at poker - is wrong.

      Take chess, for example - admittedly, there's not much bluffing etc. in there, but when humans play against each other, anticipating the other's moves and guessing what he plans to do
    • bots are not a big deal yet. Agreed. I'll be amazed when they ever come up with the technology to play no limit hold 'em. That would be a miracle program. incorrect. Poki-Poker (as an example) could turn a nice profit playing online NLHE. The idea that poker is more art than math just means that you don't fully understand the math. Limit ring games are a different ballgame Not really. Limit is a game where you count on your opponents to make large numbers of small mistakes... in no-limit generally
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I am not aftraid of poker bots. I play in a casino 20 hours/week and online 15 hours a week.

    A good player adjusts to his players in a very human way.

    Artificial intelligence of a high variety would be need to emulate this adaptive behaviour in a robot/software program.

    There are two benefits that I see from poker bots:

    1. They will provide self-funded development in artificial intelligence, just like the stock market provided advancement in certain aspects of physics, statistics, and probability.
  • Should be obvious (Score:5, Insightful)

    by keraneuology (760918) on Saturday August 27, 2005 @08:01PM (#13418346) Journal
    Who is going to set up the first bot only online poker site? Let people compete by setting their bots against other bots.

    Of course, won't be long until really good poker players start cheating by pretending to be bots...

  • by frovingslosh (582462) on Saturday August 27, 2005 @08:01PM (#13418347)
    Come on, on-line poker is for chumps.

    Do you really believe that the operators of these on-line "casinos" are above playing poker against you while they can watch your hands, or when they can tell the computer what to deal next? And while dealing themselves the good cards too often might be caught by statistical analysis of the decks (if you can afford to loose enough to gather maeningful data), their watching and knowing your hands would only look like skillful play on their part.

    Another form of cheating that I know is going on (because I know someone who admits to doing it) is to play multiple hands in the same game against another player and share information about your hands. This is a great way to part the fools from their money, since having lots more information about the deck than non-cheating players geatly improves your odds. You know, for example, if the chance of drawing that fourth king is very high because it hasn't been dealt to the other hands you know about, or zero because it has. And when one of the positions you control has a particularly good hand you can drive up the pot by having the other hands you control place small raises when they would otherwise drop.

    If you like on-line poker, let me introduce you to three card monty. Some people confuse it with a game of chance too, but it's just a very expensive private magic show.

    • by XMyth (266414) on Saturday August 27, 2005 @08:20PM (#13418461) Homepage
      Why would they waste their time cheating?? The rake alone is massive profits.

      And besides, if they EVER get caught cheating (former employee rats them out or something) then people will simply stop playing there and now they've lost what was their big money maker...the rake.

      A B&M casino could cheat you just as well.
    • by mosch (204) on Saturday August 27, 2005 @09:19PM (#13418751) Homepage
      Come on, on-line poker is for chumps.

      statistically speaking... about 90% of them are chumps, yes. The other 10% win.

      Do you really believe that the operators of these on-line "casinos" are above playing poker against you while they can watch your hands, or when they can tell the computer what to deal next?

      Yes. Personally I have about a million hands logged in a postgres database. Any statistical analysis I've ever done regarding: 'how often should this scenario happen, versus how often DID it happen' has shown that it was on the level.

      I personally generate thousands of dollars in rake each month, by playing winning poker. They could rip me off one-time for a few grand... or have all that money, every month, for as long as they exist and spread a fair game. There's no reason to kill the golden egg.

      Another form of cheating that I know is going on (because I know someone who admits to doing it) is to play multiple hands in the same game against another player and share information about your hands.

      Unfortunately, colluders exist. Fortunately, they're relatively easy to detect, and the information isn't "extremely valuable", it's "usually worthless" and generally "statistically insignificant". Sometimes these douchebags try to trap guys for extra bets, or run squeeze plays on them... though these are extremely exploitable strategies that will only work against the worst players. (and are easily detected by a review of the hands by the casino, should a player file a complaint)

      In conclusion: stop talkin about things you don't understand, kiddo. I have no doubt that you lose at online poker, but the problem isn't that you're getting cheated.

  • by zymano (581466) on Saturday August 27, 2005 @08:07PM (#13418367)
    Most online poker sites have a CHAT going.

    Just ask them a question. Could be an idea for the poker software programmers.

    Just send me the $$$ and you don't have to pay any copyright fees.
    • Wow, using my pokerbot, you're already defeated. Sit back and supervise and when a question comes, answer. No problem.

      Of course, I only play on free tables, and mine's for artificial intelligence research, but.. eh.
  • Cheating? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mathonwy (160184) on Saturday August 27, 2005 @08:08PM (#13418376)
    I keep seeing comments talking about "those durned cheat'n bots". But it makes me wonder, what exactly is "cheating" in this case?

    In most cases, I'd say that "cheating" is doing anything that is against the rules of the game that gives you an unfair advantage. But what here is the bot doing?

    As far as I can tell, none of the things this bot does are things that acutal human players couldn't do, if they wanted to bother. So then at that point is it still cheating?

    The one exception to this is the collusion. That's clearly against the rules of poker. But I predict that that will be a self-correcting problem. Since after all, it won't be long before someone makes an alternate version of the BOT that feeds incorrect data to the other BOTs so that you're more likely to win money from them. (Since game-theory wise, if you're the only cheater in a room full of honest people, you have an advantage.) And shortly after that, other bots will start to do the same, until the "collusion" a bot gets cannot be trusted, and is no longer a worthwhile channel of information.

    (Heck, a whole war of bots trying to "Read" other bots based on their (possibly erronious) collusion information could start. That could actually be kind of fun to watch. From a distance.)

    Anyway, as long as the BOTs aren't actually hacking the system, or forcing other peoples' clients to crash, etc, then I think you could make a good argument that it's not really cheating.

    (And no, I'm not a bot user or apologist. All of my online poker playing is restricted to free sites, anyway...)
    • Re:Cheating? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Sparr0 (451780) <sparr0@gmail.com> on Saturday August 27, 2005 @09:07PM (#13418695) Homepage Journal
      You seem to misunderstand the process. Bots are not "sharing" information in the sense you seem to think. This is not a case of 3 guys all running bots and sharing. It is a case of one guy running 3 different bots that work together. There is no chance of misinformation entering the picture, and knowing the location of 4-10 extra cards in play gives a SERIOUS advantage, far more than the cost of the blinds or ante for the extra bots.
  • I'm no gambler myself, but I do understand that part of what actually makes gambling "fun" for people is the risk and potential reward. For many people it is a mixed professional and entertainment pursuit.

    Granted, I'm not very good, and so I just have NEVER found enjoyment from pitting my wits against people in this way. It always just seems like luck whether I get a good hand or not. But for people WITH this skill, it's very enjoyable and exciting. As I understand it, the strategy of some poker variant
  • Interestingly enough, a similar debate rages on Blizzard's online games. In both World of Warcraft and Diablo II, people have written java hooks into the game to allow for scripted boss runs.

    The advantage is obvious, anyone with a bot doesn't actually have to look for good stuff (MF) himself and can spend his time online fighting other players or trading away his newly found items. In both cases, however, Blizzard has aggresively tried to keep these bots off their networks and often bans accounts associated
    • In this case, I see the bots as a failure on Blizzard's part to keep the game interesting, and item drops common.

      Why is botting in online poker just laziness on the part of the botter, but in WoW it's Blizzard's fault? A bit of a double standard there.

      • Not really. In Blizzard's games the primary goal tends to be to have fun. Thus you bot the parts that are not fun. A few people bot for money, but not many. In Poker the primary goal tends to be to make money. Many people play for fun as well, but botting removes the fun from poker, the exact opposite of in MMOGs.
  • This can only be solved in one way. Impliment a networked FPS engine for knocking over the server and pulling out virtual Derringers when cheating is suspected.
  • While I believe the actions of cheaters are reprehensible, you'd have to be very naive to think that there wouldn't be someone trying to cheat. Cheaters have always existed and the internet only makes it easier for them because instead of needing slight of hand to get an ace up their sleeve, they only need to find a bot on a warez site.

    So, what can you do about it? Don't play. Send a complaint to the online gaming company and tell them that you're not going to use their service again. Play with your f

  • When I was in school, I loved the old corewars game, and was facinated by the C-Robots game. Both of these games involve coding artifical intelligence agents and pitting them against each other. Now it seems the opportunity is there to do the same thing with online poker games!

    Why gripe about this WinPokerBot thing? Code your own that's smarter and reap the rewards! Sure, it will annoy the human players, but they'll just have to move to a secure server that verifies you in some way (via a custom client
  • Play the tournaments! It's much harder to win big, since you can't simply wait for new players with fresh money to take. That's why the bots don't play them. It's also much more fun.
  • Easiest way to capture hacks like these, or map hack for Starcraft for that matter is print screens. Have the screens randomly happen, and send to the main buisness. Anyone caught cheating is banned. Its simple and will work.
  • The tournament games are where it's at. After a time, you get to know the regular players. New faces (avatars?) are easy to spot and collusion becomes very difficult because the players are sprinkled about the tables.

    If you are a good player and have a bankroll large enough to handle the variance, you have a very good chance at winning some nice cash. I personally found this too expensive and risky to enjoy the whole experience.

    I like the idea of asking questions and including turing tests, BTW. These two things, applied to the cash tables, would go a long way toward thwarting the bot problem. Collusion will remain an issue however.

    The problem with the cash tables, and to a lesser degree on the sit 'n go games, is the ability for players (bot or human) to communicate outside the game environment. I'm not sure we are going to be able to solve that. --Stay away from the cash games, unless they are very high stakes. (Even then variance is several times your buyin cost --be ready and beware!)

    The wife and I play regularly --it's a lot of fun when you've got some good players online. We started out playing cash games and sit and go contests. However, variance was just huge compared to real table action. Ended up losing a fair amount, despite solid play.

    After doing some analysis and research, we decided to give it another go and stick to tournament play. --Much better experience. We've got our losses back and are now profit taking while slowly building the bankroll.

    Coupla things I've noted:

    - the cards often appear balanced for high action. Almost every hand sees flops that are difficult for players to let go of. It's our perception that bad beats on the river are far more common online than seen at the meatspace tables. (Undecided if this is just due to more hands being played however...)

    - be aware of the overall game speed. Long rounds allow time to play cards that matter, short ones don't. Speed games are very profitable for the house, putting pressure on skilled players. Avoid those at higher buy in's.

    - rebuy games often generate very good payouts in relation to the intial buy-in. avoid the temptation to rebuy however, unless it's very early in the game. Extra chips won't matter to a skilled player and you just pay a lot more in relation to your potential winnings. Rebuy speed games are pure evil at higher buy-ins, but can be fun and very profitable at lower ones. (Given you don't mind the greater chance factor.)

    - the large sites are more difficult to manage than the smaller ones are. When considering online poker, pay close attention to the tournament games offered. This will tell you a lot about the site and what players they are looking for. Number of initial chips, buy ins offered and round length are key.

    I'm posting this out of self-interest as well. (Like any solid poker would!) The more players in the game, the bigger the winnings are for everyone involved. Just thought that disclaimer was appropriate to make everything clear.

    Want to play where my wife and I do and save yourself the trouble of learning what we have? Shoot me an e-mail and I'll trade our learning in return for a signup referral. (Referrals generate points and some small dollars, we use to play more tournament poker.) I'm not a sales shill by the way. Google me and you will find nothing of the kind. I simply enjoy the game and have been winning enough to continue playing to learn, earn and the occasional nice dinner with winnings :-P If you see some success, do exactly what I have done here and lower your overall game cost. (Do it with some tact though.)

    One important rule, passed on to me during our last trip to play at Binyons: Play as cheap as you can and as often as you can. Keeping play overhead low helps to manage player variance and thus overall profit.

    • the cards often appear balanced for high action. Almost every hand sees flops that are difficult for players to let go of. It's our perception that bad beats on the river are far more common online than seen at the meatspace tables. (Undecided if this is just due to more hands being played however...)

      Action flops are a myth. Pull any reasonably sized hand database into pokertracker's postgres version, and then do queries on the hand histories. Look for things like "odds that I am going to flop a set" or "
  • Don't Fear (Score:3, Informative)

    by herk (313044) on Saturday August 27, 2005 @11:53PM (#13419205) Homepage
    (a) Winholdem is terrible. I'd sit at a table full of win holdem bots (provided they're not sharing information) any day of the weak for any stakes I could statistically afford.

    (b) It's a little frustrating to see the endless stream of people spouting off about how online poker sites are surely rigged when they know absolutely nothing about it. I've been playing online poker for a year and have turned $20 into a small fortune. I beat the game for more than I make as a developer on the good months now, and I've successfully withdrawn a little less than half my profits. Poker sites take a rake from each pot that's played. Some of the larger sites have 80k concurrent users at peak times. Start taking a little piece of every pot with that many people online and you're earning a small fortune every freaking minute. They have very little overhead, computers, bandwidth, support, the rest is pure profit, and there's plenty for them. Why the hell would they risk this by cheating their players? If it was impossible to beat online poker, how do many of us do so consistently?

    Truth be told I suspect these comments are coming from people who've never played online, or are influenced by the same stereotypes of poker being a game for cheats and hustlers. Bad players who try online poker and can't seem to win tend to enjoy spouting off that the sites are rigged, when in reality weird things happen in poker everywhere. Knowing how to bankroll yourself for what limits to sustain the unavoidable statistical downswings is the key.

    Don't worry about the foolishness spouted in this tread. Win holdem is no threat, nor are any other bots at this point in time. And any of the major poker sites are plenty reputable, I was wary at first too but I've seen their business practices for a solid 12 months now. Online poker is booming right now and there's plenty fun to be had and money for the taking if you're half intelligent and can learn the required discipline.
  • Its all FUD (Score:3, Interesting)

    by litewoheat (179018) * on Sunday August 28, 2005 @12:03AM (#13419238)
    Even an intermediate player who can spot a bot can bust that bot. Bots aren't smart, they follow set logic based on hand strength, player betting patterns, and general statistics. If you play them "by the book" you will loose. If you play them by varying your play, playing overly aggressive and not playing crap hands, even in late position, you will always beat them. They are predicable.

    Oh and you can always get up and find another table if they make you uncomfortable, thats be beauty of online poker, there's lots of tables out there so you don't have to be stuck on one.

    Its also just a matter of time until the poker sites develop bot detection and destruction software. Its already in some clients.
  • by danny (2658) on Sunday August 28, 2005 @12:05AM (#13419245) Homepage
    I can remember people getting unhappy about bot-clients in Netrek [netrek.org], way back in 1994...
  • by logicnazi (169418) <logicnazi@NosPam.gmail.com> on Sunday August 28, 2005 @02:53AM (#13419708) Homepage
    First of all I have to say I entierly support the people writing/running the online poker bots. They have found a clever way of winning and I find the intellectual competition between various bot writers far more stimulating than people just playing poker (I also think all those rules in F1 racing to reduce the benefits from creative engineering are horrible especially as this undermines the supposed purpose of racing as fueling research).

    While some people might argue that using poker bots is wrong because it is a violation of some user agreement with the casino consitancy requires us to give no more credance to the casino liscensce agreement than any other clickwrap. Even if the Casino has a EULA type agreement preventing bots how is this really any different than a hypothetical clause in the MS EULA requiring that you won't dual boot linux or use OSS in general? In both cases the company is demanding you not use your own computers in the way you choose so as to protect their profits. We should treat both cases exactly the same.

    Of course this isn't to say that the online casinos shouldn't do what they can to detect and evict bots (though seizing their money goes too far...you can ban whoever you like from your sight but stealing their money is a whole other matter). This brings me to the title of this post. No, I don't think that this poker bot or even poker playing in general will create significant advances in AI.

    However, the battle between the automated bots and those trying to detect (or even take advantage of) the bots does offer real promise. Online casinos are only the tip of the iceberg, I fully expect the war between bots and anti-bots to only get more ferocious and spread from casinos and MMPOGs to more and more online activities. Finally their will be competitive pressure to develop incrimentally more and more sophisticated AIs dealing with more and more types of situations.

    Unfortunatly, the academic community is particularly ill-suited toward developing integrated human like AI. We know from brain research and evolution that incrementally equipping and improving a system gradually with pragmatic hacks and adding specialized functional subunits can create human-like intelligence (it made us). Moreover, the continued difficulties faced by AI research suggests that no simple elegant algorithm will serve. If you want a computer to do all the things a person does you you need to program that computer with all hundreds of specialized sub-functions our brains posses. In short no clever idea will allow us to circumvent the fact that human like AI will take a massive number of lines of code.

    Unfortunatly, while the academic community is very apt at creating algorithms for well specified functions, e.g., computer vision, it is very poor at creating massive integrated applications. While the core concepts and algorithms for the OS, database and the like have often come from academia it isn't a coincedence that the complex fully featured non-reasearch versions are either commercial or open-source. Quite simply academia rewards novelty and creativity not dilligence and the quality of the final product. As a CS prof you are far better off (and have more fun) testing your own pet idea or at best creating a demonstration app with a few other research group members than incrimentally contributing small features to a massive code base.

    Only the commercial software companies and open source communities have the sort of reward structures suitable to creating usefull AI. In these communities it is overall product usefullness that is rewarded and many people are happy to make incrimental improvements even if they won't make for a good paper. I just hope these bot wars provide the begining baby steps necessery to get some of these projects rolling.
  • by Rufford (167573) on Sunday August 28, 2005 @03:25AM (#13419785)
    The problem is that playing against a team of players in Hold Em is quite different than everyone for themselves. Several people are getting this wrong.

    The team can decide who has the strongest hand and the weak hands can stagger their bets to lure an opponent into betting more or getting out of the hand. Not only a statistical advantage with knowledge but also a finer level of control with the game.

    The surprise? This happens in real life in real casinos. Regulars will team up on new people and then fight for the money between themselves. They even make crappy TV shows about it.
  • by John Cage (828859) on Sunday August 28, 2005 @04:48AM (#13419972)
    Using real-time odds calculating software players can get the same information the robots use to determine their own betting, without cheating. For example, Pokulator [pokulator.com] software tells a player their overall odds of winning as well as chances to make a particular hand. This is the kind of information the robots are programmed to use, but armed with this information and a brain a real player could beat out a robot.

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