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The Almighty Buck

Online Poker Bots Becoming Problematic? 613

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the robo-flushed dept.
scumbucket writes "MSNBC has a story about how poker bots have started to appear on internet gambling sites and the implications. It also talks about how a 'master level' poker-playing bot already exists. Could this proliferation of poker-playing bots undermine the almost $1 billion online gambling industry?"
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Online Poker Bots Becoming Problematic?

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  • by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @12:46PM (#10309695) Homepage Journal

    From the article: argue the complexities of the game and the changing strategies ensure that creation of a program that can "read" opponents' cards using screen scanning techniques and respond in real time is years away at best.

    Why would the software have to scan the screen? The card image would be a unique filename, right? ie: "jack_spades.jpg" or something less easy to recognize but just as unique. That doesn't require funky programming and OCR.
  • by theluckyleper (758120) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @12:47PM (#10309722) Homepage
    I don't see what's wrong with it... if I could play against a poker-playing robot at a real casino, I would! People who write smart bots deserve the money, as far as I'm concerned.
  • by entrager (567758) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @12:49PM (#10309745)
    Poker is played against other players, not the house. The house makes money by taking a cut of every pot. Poker bots could undermine the industry by scaring off human players that can't play well against a bot. This will reduce the amount of pots that are being played, thus reducing the house cut.
  • by the unbeliever (201915) <chris+slashdot AT atlgeek DOT com> on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @12:49PM (#10309746) Homepage
    I'm relatively sure that all of the online gambling sites use either Flash or Java applets to display cards and such. I wouldn't think they'd make it so easy as to give easy access to card names.
  • Duh? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by EnronHaliburton2004 (815366) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @12:50PM (#10309753) Homepage Journal
    When I was 8 years old I played with an AI program called Eliza on a teletype machine. My 8 year old friend and I were convinced for about 30 minutes that this was a real person on the other side. It's been a long time since those days, adn AI programs have only gotten more convincing. I've seen bots do pretty well in Counter Strike, to the point where several players thought that the Bots were real people. In poker, you are talking about alot of money. Money is motivation to create a poker AI. Online poker is mostly about statistics anyways, and a computer is great at figuring out odds.
  • Is This So Wrong? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jchawk (127686) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @12:52PM (#10309773) Homepage Journal
    At first I was thinking that maybe this isn't fair to the other players... But then again if you think about it... As it stands poker is still a game of chance... A bot can only play optimum hands based upon the cards it sees and what it knows is still in the deck... This really isn't any different then a human player. If bots exist that are beating inexperienced players, how is this different from the poker pro who logs 10 hours of online poker a day?

    When you break it down it still takes a skillful poker player to engineer a bot that can perform at a winning level...

    Also the bots are betting someones money...

    There is an inherent risk in online poker that the player at the other end of the connection has tools that he is using to gain a competative advantage, such as tools for counting cards, figuring odds and so on...

    If you're looking for real human vs human action without worrying about cheat tools find a game in your neighborhood and go play there. Even though gambling isn't legal in all 50 states you can always find somewhere to play if you look hard enough.
  • Re:Good? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by skrysakj (32108) * on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @12:56PM (#10309830) Homepage Journal
    Yes but the house makes money by taking a cut of every pot. Casinos exist to make money, and they have poker tables for a reason: to make money.
  • Re:Good? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shihar (153932) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @12:56PM (#10309832)
    First of, you DO get something when you gamble. You get the thrill of gambling. Anyone who walks into a Casino knows that chances are they are going to walk out with less money then they started. It is the fact that you might beat the odds and the thrill that brings that adds value. Saying that they are not giving you anything in return is like saying TV doesn't give you anything in return... sure it does. It gives you entertainment.

    As to bots, they are not going to cause a Casino to loose money in any other way in that they might simply stop allowing certain games to be played online. If the game is a game where a strong pattern rec software can 'beat the odds' then they will simply get rid of the game, have their own bots play, or adjust winnings such that they still win in terms of dollar amount in the end. The only people who are going to come out loosers are people who who want to play online without a bot.
  • by MyDixieWrecked (548719) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @12:56PM (#10309839) Homepage Journal
    Well, many of these games are java based and require screen reading and physical clicking (or programmatic mouse clicking) to do what needs to be done.

    I don't see why they make it sound so hard to code something like this. There are books out there that teach you strategy for poker and what to do based on when other things happen. If you could turn that into a programmatic routine, it shouldn't be hard to have a bot that wins more often than not.

    Especially with online blackjack. Bots could make a killing on that. Between card counting and the what-do-I-do-when rules.
  • Funny (Score:5, Insightful)

    by El (94934) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @12:57PM (#10309851)
    ...you don't trust other players to not be using bots, but you trust the house to not add their own player to every game and fix the host software to guarantee that the house's player wins???
  • by panxerox (575545) * on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @12:58PM (#10309874)
    I have come to the conclusion that anything that has to do with money on the internet will eventually be hacked and exploited, why should gambling sites be any different?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @01:00PM (#10309907)
    In poker you aren't even playing against the house. And the bot is under someone's account, with someone's money. The casino just gets a share of each pot (called the rake). So in the case of poker it shouldn't concern a casino in the slightest other than the fact they might attract less players to their site.
  • No worries (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @01:00PM (#10309908)
    First of all, a black jack bot would be a silly idea. Black jack is a game that cannot be beaten in the long run. Played at it's best, the house still has a 2% advantage, which over the long haul will translate into certain losses.

    Regarding a poker bot, I'd love to play against one. Most people play like bots anyways. Many players tend to take pre-determined actions in a given situation. (Hold 'Em: 6-handed game in early position with a A-Q off suit, etc etc) So what's the difference?

    Certain poker games, like 5-card draw perhaps, might lend itself to a greater opportunity to create relatively "skilled" bots, but games like Texas Hold 'em require so much of a human element to them that there's simply no way you could create a bot that could challenge people with even the slightest level of master of the game.

    I've played poker since I was 5 years old, and feel that I know many of the games pretty thoroughly - and am a very consistent winner at home games, and the casino. I'm also a computer programmer, so I think I have a relatively "informed" view on the topic.
  • by strictfoo (805322) <strictfoo-signup.yahoo@com> on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @01:02PM (#10309946) Journal
    Exactly right. They may give an advantage to a beginning player over other beginners, as they'll advise players not to do really stupid things, but they in no way elevate a player past an average poker player.
  • Re:Good? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by over_exposed (623791) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @01:03PM (#10309951) Homepage
    If you suck at playing poker and write a bot to do it for you, your bot will likely suck as badly as you do...
  • by SplendidIsolatn (468434) <`moc.oohay' `ta' `ntalosididnelps'> on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @01:04PM (#10309969)
    Despite what ESPN would have you believe, there are a large number of people who play games other than "No-limit hold 'em'", namely Limit and Omaha. Each of those games are based FAR more on mathematical odds, probability, and having the nuts as opposed to the bluffing and gamesmanship required for No-Limit. It would be much much easier to program a bot that could play Limit and Omaha profitably. No-Limit and preventing collusion are a much more difficult task.
  • by hey (83763) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @01:06PM (#10309989) Journal
    ...so what's the problem?
  • by hal2814 (725639) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @01:10PM (#10310033)
    Picking up on a bluff is overrated. Most of the time, players are not completely bluffing (i.e. they have a lowly but reasonable hand). What constitutes a bluff? In Hold 'Em if I go all in on an 8-man table while only holding two pair, is that a bluff? Maybe and maybe not. The important thing is that you still have to beat me. If you're worried at all that I'm bluffing then you probably have a weaker hand yourself. The guy with the full house isn't worried if I'm bluffing or not. He's going to bet into me because he thinks he's going to win.

    Bots won't help you decide if someone is bluffing, but they will help you decide if it even matters whether or not they're bluffing.
  • Cheating (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bs_02_06_02 (670476) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @01:13PM (#10310063)
    While 'bots are a serious topic, there is a solution. Make the "user" periodically enter in some text that has been graphically morphed... something that only a human eye can recognize. It can be done in seconds, and that would eliminate the use of 'bots.

    What I can't figure out is how the gambling industry is going to fight "group cheating". Put 4 or 5 laptops together, and have several people cheat the rest of the table out of their money by sharing their hands. It's not hard to do, and it's impossible to detect. Especially with wireless access.

    I have a couple of friends that refuse to play online because it's impossible to stop this behavior in online poker.
  • by 1HandClapping (720027) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @01:14PM (#10310094) Journal
    This really isn't any different then a human player

    The overhead of cloning thousands of bots is very low. So a person can spawn off thousands of poker bots and play thousands of tables at one time. A human cannot do this.

  • by iamdrscience (541136) <michaelmtripp@gmai3.14159l.com minus pi> on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @01:16PM (#10310113) Homepage
    Really, this won't make a difference. All this thing does is play by the odds. While that works well against unexperienced players, most people who play a lot of poker know how to figure the odds as well (it's not hard) and what makes the game interesting is how loose or tight they play to those odds. So if you're lucky enough to get at a table of suckers in an online casino this would be useful, but really, most online casinos, unlike real casinos, are populated by gambling addicts (most of whom know the odds, if not by numbers than by instinct) or increasingly by people who read articles about calculating the odds and think that they're going to make a killing against all the other suckers.

    Really, if you want to make some money at poker you'd be better off learning to do the odds in your head and going to a real casino to find a table of marks. Or, alternatively, fleece your friends (or your friends' friends) during friendly games of poker, if you don't have any moral objections to that.
  • by BasilBrush (643681) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @01:16PM (#10310119)
    The problem for poker is that there aren't any books that give a recipe for playing poker that could be converted into a program. There's tables of hole cards that you should play on or raise in an "average" game. But no game is average. And for 3rd, 4th and 5th street, the strategies are ever more a case of weighing up against each other and the specific playing styles of the people on the table. It is possible to produce a program that plays poker quite well, and poki-poker proves it. But you won't get anywhere near that by using the information from the books that are on the market. I've been there.

    As to Blackjack, card counting will only work if the gambling site server emulates a pack or number of packs in a shoe that are not shuffled for many games. I haven't looked into that because card counting is such an open secret, the sites would be stupid to leave the loophole open. And they are not stupid.

    There certainly are bots out there. That's a fact. But it's an altogether more complex thing to produce one than it seems at first sight.

  • by Pulzar (81031) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @01:18PM (#10310140)
    Is online poker set up in such a way that card counting can actually work? Card counting works because casinos use multiple decks to eliminate the need for time-wasting shuffling.

    You might be thinking about blackjack. Poker can only be played with one deck, which is always shuffled in a b&m casino.

    In stud games, though, one needs to remember which cards have been shown and mucked, and a computer bot would be able to gain an advantage by having a perfect memory. Most good players, though, don't have much trouble remembering the important cards, though.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @01:24PM (#10310211)
    It doesn't "need" to do anything - however, if you come up with some ad-hoc or game-theoretic bluffing index, it can give advantage in spades. Kind of like a meta-heuristic.

    Knowledge of bluffing is important, because coupled with a grasp of human psychology, it (potentially) gives more information about future game state than simple card probabilities will.
  • by bluekanoodle (672900) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @01:26PM (#10310233)
    A real poker room can force you to wear a specific brand of tie if you want to play in their club, they just choose not to.

    The key point here is that this is a private business establishment, and the owner can establish limits on what goes on in that business. (with the exception of racial, gender, dicrimination, etc) Courts have historically sided with the business owners in establishing what requirements the owner sets forth for participation in their service. Ever see a "no shoes, no shirt, no service." Sign? How about "we reserve the right to refuse service?"

    If you don't like it, go play somewhere else, but don't come up with a make believe "legal" opinion that you'll try to sell us. The casino owner has no legal obligation to ensure that you "alternative lifestyle" OS works with his site.

  • by JudgeFurious (455868) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @01:35PM (#10310349)
    Even though technically they aren't so much beating the house as they're beating other players I agree with your sentiment in general.

    I read "could this proliferation of poker-playing bots undermine the almost $1 billion online gambling industry?" and my first thought was "Fine by me, good riddance to them".

    If it meant I never had to see another online casino pop-up ad then that would be a good thing.
  • Re:Funny (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @01:37PM (#10310375)
    This is why the largest and reputable places go to large extents to prove that the algorithms are correct and as it's supposed to work, verified by a reputeable 3rd party, and regularly at that.

    For example: http://www.paradisepoker.com/pwc_review.html [paradisepoker.com]

    Pro, amateur and play for fun poker players are a well organized and a well informed community and do not take poker sites with skewed algorithms or any other sort of slight of hand lightly.

  • Re:Funny (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hellfire (86129) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [vdalived]> on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @01:42PM (#10310442) Homepage
    There are LAWS to prevent that, dude.

    Your talking about American laws right? Those tough and strict gambling laws ensuring every gambling game is on the up and up?

    Pardon me while I contact my Albanian, Chinese, and Nigerian contacts and we all have a good laugh at your expense.
  • by lobsterGun (415085) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @01:43PM (#10310451)
    He was probably losing to himself as a way of laundering the money.
  • by geekpolitico (743680) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @01:43PM (#10310452)
    is a network of bots that know how to communicate with each other. Then they when they randomly end up in the same room, they can team-play and totally destroy even really good players.

    If the gambling industry went belly up tomorrow, I for one would not be sorry in the least.
  • by Sinterklaas (729850) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @01:47PM (#10310511)
    As it stands poker is still a game of chance

    Skill plays a major factor in the long term. If it wouldn't, poker professionals would not be able to exist. But they do exist and they do earn a decent living. The reason why skill is so important is that odds are only part of the equation. Straightforward betting on good hands and folding when the odds are not in your favor is easily exploitable by just not calling the bets and bluffing to get the opponent to fold. So a good player must use deception. That element of deception turns the game into an unstructured game that is very hard to beat algorithmically, so I have my doubt about being able to create world-class bots.

    If bots exist that are beating inexperienced players, how is this different from the poker pro who logs 10 hours of online poker a day?

    The difference is that the bot doesn't have to sleep, eat, pay taxes, etc so there are much lower expenses for a bot and it can work 24 hours a day. That means that if good bots exist, they can be let loose at tables where most people play for fun and where it's currently not worth it for a professional player to play. Then the poker games will split up in very low limit games that nobody plays seriously and the high stakes games where only the best professionals can live. There will be no middle ground, but that is where most money is made for the casino's and where most semi-serious players play. The result might be that online poker loses its appeal to 90% of the players.

    If you're looking for real human vs human action without worrying about cheat tools find a game in your neighborhood and go play there.

    That's not really realistic, is it? First of all, online poker is different from 'live' poker because you don't need a poker face and a lot of players like that. Also, you can play it whenever you want, without having to coordinate schedules with other people. You also don't have to play with the same 9 neighbourhood guys all the time. Then there are more games to pick from online. You can play big tournaments online. You can play freerolls online, where you can win money for free. I could go on, but I think you get the point. Online poker is just a different ball game.
  • Re:Good? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mi (197448) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @01:48PM (#10310521) Homepage
    If the bots become so good that the humans can't beat them, the humans will stop playing.

    Behind every bot is a human (or an organization). The bots play with real money, so casino will get its piece.

    There could be a danger for casinos on becoming dependent on a few big-players instead of many smaller ones, but so far the existence of star human players did not diminish the casinos' market too much. Why would a star bot be (substantially) more dangerous than a star human player?

  • by jfengel (409917) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @01:54PM (#10310606) Homepage Journal
    That's interesting. In theory poker is a zero-sum game. Less than that, since the house takes a cut. You're taking money only from other people, and minus the house's cut the game is even. Perfect bots playing each other is a wash.

    So the whole point is to get slightly higher odds than somebody else. Even a tiny advantage is the difference between winning and losing money, if that's your game. Many people play just for fun, and their losses are effectively payment for that. You see that all the time at 21, where simple card counting strategies can win you small sums of money but most people don't wish to expend the effort for that; they're playing just for fun.

    Personally I kinda like the idea of bots playing each other. It's nerds playing each other at a totally different game. Humans still have heuristics that out-play the best chess programs, but only barely (a handful of people will just barely beat the top software, at best. The rest of us get creamed.)
  • by gorbachev (512743) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @02:01PM (#10310702) Homepage
    "It seems like bluffing wouldn't be very useful against an opponent who paid attention only to probabilities."

    That's very true. That's why bluffing is very difficult against low level amateur players [1], and is generally discouraged in a low stakes game, unless you KNOW it's going to work.

    You also never bluff to a loose player.

    I imagine playing against a "dumb" bot would eliminate bluffing from the game almost entirely.

    1. low level amateur players either think they have the better hand no matter what, if they're in the game, and will call the bluff. Or more often they will always call no matter what, because they already committed to the pot the first time they put money in it.
  • by spworley (121031) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @02:01PM (#10310703)
    The article mentions in passing one other danger.. "Team Edition". It doesnn't mention details but it clues you to the the obvious way of successfully cheating.

    Imagine the advantage of having two machines side by side EACH playing a hand in the SAME game. Not only would you know more cards in play, but more importantly you could always have the ability to use the stronger hand as your main betting hand, folding the weaker hand to avoid wasting money on it. The mathematical advantage of that must be Very Large.

    Seems like this cheat would be undetectable, easy to do (two internet connections so they can't compare your IP #s), and doesn't require any bot coding at all.. very adaptable to any casino or player changes or questions.

    Summary: you can't trust any online betting activity.
  • I call bullshit. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mosch (204) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @02:02PM (#10310714) Homepage
    Beating a 0.5/1 table for 5-6BB/100 hands is considered destroying the game. You're claiming that you're beating it for about 40-50BB/100h.

    Even if your bot is four-tabling, your alleged winrate is double what can be reasonably expected by an excellent player, simply due to the nature of the game.

    It's a cute story, but next time try grounding your MIT tales of evil genius in a little reality.
  • by tgibbs (83782) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @02:06PM (#10310775)
    Since bluffing is meant to fool human heuristics that judge the strenght of other players' hands based on those players' bets, why would a bot that works on probabilities NEED to consider bluffs?

    Bluffs are also intended to foil human intuitive statistical analysis. The fundamental problem is that the strength of a perfectly rational player's hand can be determined from his bets. So the player must introduce noise or bias into his betting strategy to maintain the advantage of hidden cards. Since computers are even better at statistical analysis than humans, bluffing becomes more important, not less. The problem is that a bluffing strategy is itself subject to statistical analysis. Probably ultimately, there is no constant bluffing strategy that consistently beats sufficiently randomization.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @02:10PM (#10310824)
    There are fairly easy ways to get around card-counting in black jack. How about hiding how many decks are in an online "shoe"? How about putting 10000 decks in a "shoe"? Wouldn't that more or less defeat the card-counting factor?

    There's PLENTY of a human element to online poker play. There's a lot more you can read into a player than just their faces. The amount of time someone takes to bet, and the way in which they increment/decrement their bets can tell you a lot about what's in their hand, particularly if you've observed the player over the long haul and determined their relative "tightness"

    The fact is, knowing perfect statistics doesn't help your game in Hold 'em. Knowing how/when to raise against the players you're at the table with are what matters most. Most of the time, you're not betting on getting the "winning hand", you're simply playing mind games with your opponents, getting them to fold before the river, or putting yourself in a position to put a player to a tough decision.

    Most Hold 'em players know the basic stats you need to know. Knowing that you have a 30-something percent change (roughly) of pulling a flush on either the turn or the river when your suited pocket cards met 2 of the same suit on the flop, is enough to know how you're going to bet. Knowing that's exactly 34.789127%, version 38.2139871237% really doesn't make a lick of difference.
  • by Anita Coney (648748) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @02:14PM (#10310871) Homepage
    I remember the first time I went to Las Vegas. I saw signs bragging about how "loose" each casinos slots were. Some bragged that they paid as high as 97%.

    I just loved it, they ADMITTED that for every dollar you gave, on average you'd get back only 97 cents. To put it another way, you get better odds from a change machine.

    It's my opinion that the stupid and ignorant should not have money. Casinos do a great job at ensuring that.
  • Re:Good? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by geoffspear (692508) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @02:14PM (#10310877) Homepage
    I think being a good programmer is a lot more important in this case than being a good poker player. 95% of the top players probably couldn't write a "Hello, world" program, much less a program that could beat something the worst software engineer who'd never touched a poker chip could come up with.
  • Re:Funny (Score:2, Insightful)

    by wiedmann (51749) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @02:15PM (#10310885)
    This is a specious argument. The house has a lot more incentive to keep the game honest so that more players come to them. Look at how much money the house makes in an honest game - they don't need to cheat.

    Individual players don't care about the site's reputation, so they would be much more likely to want to cheat.
  • So what (Score:3, Insightful)

    by richard_willey (79077) <richard_willey@hotmLIONail.com minus cat> on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @02:32PM (#10311101)
    I don't see how poker bots present any kind of a unique problem.

    Online casino's exist in order to rake money off the table. They don't care if this comes from bots or humans. Lets assume that the bots get so good that every single human gets replaced by a poker bot.

    What does it really matter? The online casino's will still generate money, only they'll be funded by bad bot writer's rather than bad poker players.

    Think of it as a more intellectual version of battlebots...
  • Re:No worries (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jeff4747 (256583) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @02:36PM (#10311129)
    counting can take the odds away from the house.

    Card counting doesn't work when the casino shuffles after every hand. They don't do that in live casinos, because shuffling takes a while. They do shuffle after every hand in online blackjack, because it is instantanious.

  • by zuzulo (136299) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @02:59PM (#10311385) Homepage
    On the other hand, a network of several bots playing *at the same table* could do some fairly serious damage over time, and with relatively uncomplicated heuristics.

    Something to think about. ;-)
  • by tsotha (720379) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @03:16PM (#10311604)
    Honestly, I think it would be _trivial_ to write a poker client that could kick the stuffing out of any human player

    I think this goes right up there with it being trivial to write a perfect operating system or a cypher nobody can crack. Lots of people have tried, and it's never been done, to my knowledge. Remember there's more to it than just figuring out what the other players have and adjusting your strategy to it. Your bot will have tendencies, just like any human player. When other players figure out how to exploit those tendencies your bot will start to lose.

    So far, if poker sites have bots they're not very good - I have more than 100k hands logged on Party Poker and I'm not having any more trouble beating it than ever (I win a little more than $1/hand).

  • Re:Good? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Pulzar (81031) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @03:39PM (#10311913)
    Yes, I agree, but when you gamble you always lose. The odds are always against you.

    Not true with poker. You're playing against other players, not against the house. Your odds to win are you make of it. The house can make it tougher to win by increasing the rake, but generally if you play better than other players, you will win money.
  • by bigtallmofo (695287) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @03:46PM (#10312013)
    Anyone who has spent a decent amount of time playing poker in the casino knows to be on the lookout for colluding partners at your table. (i.e. Two or more friends sitting at the same poker table that are able to exchange information about their hands between each other or even to use various combined betting styles to bluff or raise the pot to artificial levels). When done properly, having a colluding partner at a poker table is a significant advantage for you. On the Internet it would be very easy to have, say 3 or 4 seats of a 10-seat table controlled by you. Or hell, have 9 of 10. Just load additional casino accounts into web browers that go through different gateways. Or any number of dozens of other ways to make it appear to be coming from a different machine.
  • by julesh (229690) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @04:11PM (#10312280)
    No, counting cards doesn't apply to poker, just blackjack.

    Counting cards can help in poker, just not as much, and not in all variants. Take for instance "stud" poker where all players have some cards (number varies according to the precise variant) dealt face up at the start of the game. If a player has, for instance, two aces face up, and is playing reasonably high bets, a normal inference might be that he has a third ace in his and also. But if I know that the other two aces are on the table elsewhere, it is more likely he has two-of-a-kind instead.
  • Poker Bots (Score:3, Insightful)

    by KMonk (612700) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @04:12PM (#10312298)
    This whole idea is sort of irritating. I play a lot of online poker, and yes it is possible to write a poker bot to do some basic strategy. In limit hold 'em this may be particularly true, but in no limit? You have to deal with a real valued scale of bets every time... this is by no means an easy problem to deal with. Writing a player that irritates people heads up is relatively easy - lots of aggression. However, writing a full featured poker bot to play no limit hold em and fleece tables? I don't think so. However, putting aside all the computational problems with this - they act like this will KILL ONLINE POKER. It won't. Consider this scenario. Your poker playing program only needs to 1) show your hole cards 2) show the board. Encrypt the transfer to and from the application. If you change the keys enough, this will will force the user to type in his hole cards and the board cards as they come out. Also encrypt the traffic such that the only commands accepted by the server are those that come from their downloaded applications only. This may require more sophisticated authentication in the program but it makes sure that if anyone wants to use a bot they have to 1) type in hole cards and board cards manually 2) click the buttons in the actual application, or emulate a mouse enough to do the clicking for you. This forces a human to be involved, and would make it pretty obvious which players are bots. You can also monitor suspicious play and send a human observer around to interact with players in chat and see what they have to say, this is an annoying solution but still it would solve the problem. Anyway, these are simple off the top of my head solutions to the bot problem. I am sure there are more. This is just a hyped up story, and nothing to be worried about.
  • Easy to Stop (Score:3, Insightful)

    by strook (634807) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @04:15PM (#10312331)
    If they really want to stop bots then they could just have each player solve a captcha [wikipedia.org] every once in a while. Somewhat annoying, but you could always have non-captcha rooms and captcha rooms so you could decide how much annoyance you would trade away for the security of knowing you're not playing against bots.
  • Detectable (Score:3, Insightful)

    by phriedom (561200) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @05:27PM (#10313111)
    I think it would be pretty easy to detect that two players always play at the same table together and never play against one another, or re-raise one another to force out other players when one has a weak hand. Any collusion behavior that actually gives you an edge is going to be pretty easy to detect statistically.
  • Re:cheaters! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DavidTC (10147) <slas45dxsvadiv D ... neverbox DOT com> on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @06:20PM (#10313649) Homepage
    Let's just forget all this 'poker' crap and send some money directly to the casino.
  • by mabu (178417) * on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @06:50PM (#10313947)
    First I think it's fascinating, the whole notion of trying to create an effective bot. I generally agree with most of the comments here. Bots wouldn't put an end to the industry; for every angle they may be able to exploit, there's at least one angle to exploit and/or discover them.

    I've been playing a bit of online poker and there are times when I felt I was at a table of "non-humans" the way they played so mechanically and didn't talk.

    However, if I were the developer of a poker system, one of the first things I'd do would be to regularly inventory the list of running processes on the machine - this would be one way of eventually identifying bots. To thwart this, you'd need a much more elaborate multi-machine system.

    I think it's a lot easier to design systems to thwart bots than it is to create an effective one.

    As I see it, the entire online gambling industry, even at its most reputable level, is still extremely dubious and unstable. You never know if you hit the big jackpot, whether or not the company will pay you or come up with some excuse to not do so, and since online gambling is a questionably legal activity in the first place, I think anyone who takes it too seriously is foolish. Then again, fools have always been drawn by the appeal of easy money.

    I believe most tech people really aren't that interested in gambling. Once you know the odds, if you're smart, you know better than to gamble. OTOH, there is definitely an appeal to creating a bot/design that can manipulate the system.
  • Re:Good? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by novitk (38381) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @09:14PM (#10315017)
    I'm sure if a star player could play on a thousand different tables at the same time the game field would be a lot different....
  • by HellYeahAutomaton (815542) on Wednesday September 22, 2004 @12:45AM (#10316147)
    Is this question a troll or what? 2 problems with this means of authentication: 1) Its annoying to be chatty at an online game, and it slows down the playing of the hands. (I've seen people swearing quite a bit on Pacific Poker because people are taking too long to make their decisions) 2) What will be your criteria? This sounds like the poker equivalent of a literacy test. It would be hard to come up with an unbiased way to do it, and it could be easily defeated.

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