Internet Gambling Invaded By Poker Bots

Thirty Six year old Bryan Taylor suspected foal play when three of his opponents at an internet poker site were winning consistently.

Taylor started playing professional poker in 2008, suspected he was playing against computers. In particular bots or short for robots programmed to play poker and to beat the odds. His suspicions turned out to be right. He immediately launched an investigation against PokerStars and found out that his “opponents” were computers masked as humans and closed them down.

Poker bots are rather common but they aren’t that good. Humans are better at playing poker, for instance at bluffing and could beat machines regularly. However, artificial intelligence (AI) improved significantly the last couple of years, so good in fact that poker bots can now win thousands of dollars at premier poker sites.

The bots identified by Taylor in July on PokerStars were shut down. In October, one more poker site, Full Tilt notified its players that it had imposed various measures to limit bots, such as closing down certain accounts. (Internet gambling is banned in the United States, many internet casinos operate abroad.) “PokerStars has invested a substantial amount of cash to combat bots,” Michael Josem, security manager of this internet casino said to Cassaon-casino recently. “The moment a player is identified as a bot, PokerStars immediately removes them.” All winning are confiscated, he said and the internet casino will “offer reimbursement to players when suitable.”

Unfortunately bots could be purchased via the internet. For the Holdem Poker Bot Shanky Technologies sells licenses targeted Full Tilt’s site since last October. Brian Jetter, who is the co-founder of Shanky, also mentioned to Cassaon-casino via e-mail that more than 400 of his customers were banned recently from Full Tilt. (Full Tilt refused to comment).  Jetter said that Full Tilt seized approximately $50,000 of his customers’ cash. He stated that the gaming site was losing in excess of $70,000 monthly in profits by shutting down his customers’ bots.

“They want to get rid of us,” Jetter said. “We hope that other poker rooms we support won’t follow the same route.” According to the Web site, known as Internet poker, there are more than 600 Web sites where patrons can wager via the internet. Jetter said that Shanky does not have any “water tight business dealings with poker at this stage,” some of them tend to turn a blind eye when bots play.

It’s still a relatively new concept the science of poker bots; this might be one of the main reasons why internet casinos have not shut them down. Nothing like Watson, the I.B.M. computer that won on “Jeopardy!” poker bots can’t play a decent game of poker at all. However, they are improving mainly due to the way computer scientists are programming software nowadays to play games.

“A large proportion of bots are bad news,” said Darse Billings who consultants to PokerStars and Full Tilt; he’s also the ex- chief of data analytics at Full Tilt. “90 Percent of them lose copious amounts of cash.” It’s easier to build an ideal chess player than a poker expert. Chess is unique for storing information: if you look at a chessboard, you know both players’ positions on the board. The game’s rules are not affected by chance, for instance such as the drawing of a card. In poker however, an imperfect game, it contains a lot of unfamiliar variables. A player is not familiar with his opponents’ cards and may not be familiar with their style of play; how aggressive they play, for example how frequently they bluff.

Dissimilar to a chess bot, most of the poker bots’ work is done before the match; before the first card is dealt it runs millions of simulations first. Even with modern computers today, storing or even computing information for every possible scenario is improbable. The best poker bots in the world come from the University of Alberta computer Research Group, it’s nearly two decades old. Since 2005 professor Michael Bowling spearheaded this group since, says the breakthrough came in 2003, when researchers opted a different line of research, moving away from the method used to design chess bots.

In 2006, the first Annual Computer Poker Competition created more interest in poker-playing computers and established a friendly competition between the University of Alberta and Professor Tuomas W. Sandholm’s poker research group at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

Professor Sandholm said, that today poker bots “can match good players, but won’t be able to beat the best poker players on the planet — yet.”

The majority of poker bots floating around on the internet today were designed by programmers as a pastime. Unfortunately there are those buyers who think they can make fast cash by using poker bots to play at internet casinos Jetter said. Buyers are able to program their bots make a variety of strategies in different situations and then study which outcomes are more convenient when applied in real-world games.

“By employing poker bots it’s regarded as an addition to the game of internet poker,” Jetter said, who added that Shanky sold 5,000 copies of its Holdem Bot software in 2008. “To create one’s playing profile is challenging and enjoyed by many players.”

On the contrary PokerStars is against poker bots. In 2010 having been tipped off by Taylor, this internet casino discovered 10 bots and returned approximately $57,000 to players who lost money whilst making use of it.

The arrival of these poker bots is just another sign of an up-and-coming world where humans, knowingly or unknowingly, encounter robots on a daily basis. As it stand humans already talk with computers when they call customer service centres or when making use of GPS’s in their vehicles.

“Taylor’s smartness for detecting these poker bots landed him a job at PokerStars where he helps to protect our casino’s credibility,” Josem concluded.

For now the humans win the first round.



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