Can you beat a poker bot?
How do you tell you’re up against a poker bot at the table? Read on to find out how we, humans, have a built-in advantage against poker bots.
What is a poker bot?
Poker bots are pieces of software programmed to play online poker for you. Upon first sight, using bots seems to be an ideal way to earn a passive income.
However, while they provide a significant advantage against beginners, they are doomed to fail against a professional poker player.
It very much depends on the scenarios that the poker-bot is programmed to play. Most bots’ automated decisions are nowhere near what an average player with basic training and strategy can do. However, when AI gets in the mix, a poker-bot slowly becomes invincible, raising ethical concerns.
Is tracking software the same thing?
A poker bot depends on a tracker to work, but a tracker is not necessarily a bot.
What are the core differences?
- A tracker is a program that follows the gameplay without acting for you.
- It simply feeds you with a statistical analysis of the players at the table.
- It’s also called heads-up display or HUD.
Casino policy on poker bots & tracking software
Using bots will most likely get you banned on any online casino but tracking software doesn’t pose such a big threat. However, casinos’ policies differ on this matter: some allow them, some not.
As all serious poker players know, success in poker depends on how well you can observe the habits of your opponents and act accordingly. Therefore, a HUD can gain you a valuable edge with its statistics regarding opponents’ patterns.
As a rule of thumb, it’s best to check the Terms and Conditions of the site you’re playing at. If there’s no specification regarding tracking software, check with Support before using any HUD. In our experience, trusted online casinos often forbid the use of HUDs as well in order to promote fair play.
How to spot a poker-bot?
Here are the 4 most common cues:
- Playing at multiple tables for long hours
- Making instant decisions in seemingly difficult situations
- Playing in an obviously consistent manner
- Not using the chat at all or convincingly enough
Is it difficult to spot a bot?
Depending on how sophisticated the bot might be, it may be more challenging to spot it. It’s all about the way a player chooses to use it. Aggressive online players will always get caught faster.
Let’s imagine you’re up against Robo123, a poker bot decently programmed but no cutting-edge AI.
Playing at multiple tables for long hours
No matter your skill levels or how resilient you are, you can’t play poker all day long. Maybe you’ll pull up a 12-hour poker binge, or perhaps even an all-nighter from time to time. Eventually, you’ll fall tired, though.
That’s not the case with your pal Robo123, who’s online at the oddest of hours, from midnight to noon the other day. And not only do they have the stamina to play all night, but they play at multiple tables simultaneously.
So, whenever you see a player that’s so dedicated, ask yourself: are you dealing with a poker genius or a poker-bot?
Making instant decisions in difficult situations
You’ll notice Robo123 needs the same amount of time to handle any situation, after a few rounds. No matter the round of play, be it pre-flop wagers or river-stage bluff all-ins, the bot will need approximately the same time.
So, when a player seems to need just a couple of seconds for each decision, no matter how complicated or uncomplicated, that’s a sign you may be dealing with a bot.
At licensed gambling sites, each poker room will have its moderator. If you notice this pattern of play at your table, notify the mod immediately. They can quickly check if the user is a bot, and, in case you have lost to them, you may recover your funds.
Playing in an obviously consistent manner
Another good indicator that Robo123 is not a human named Robert, but a poker bot, is consistent play. Yes, we all have our habits and patterns, but a bot will act in ways that become easily predictable after a few rounds.
- Betting equal amounts – bots usually have pre-set stakes for certain situations
- Making the same moves repeatedly – reacting similarly to your raise or re-raise
- Folding in peculiar conditions – for instance, when there’s not much at stake
The list goes on. Depending on the scenarios coded into the bot’s structure, it will respond with an odd consistency that will most likely raise your eyebrow.
Not using the chat at all or convincingly enough
A lack of communication could mean that your opponent has turned their chat feature off or doesn’t manage English so well. However, in many cases, it means you’re playing against a non-human.
Among all the reasons players engage in poker, the occasional banter with those at the table is particularly entertaining. Poker is a social game, after all. However, bots will not participate in that very convincingly.
Most times, bots’ messages are rudimentary, and they never reply if contacted privately. Moreover, they won’t respond even if a moderator alerts them. While technically, some bots can send basic messages, their style of communication will surely be suspicious.
How online casinos changed poker for good
Online casinos changed the poker landscape for good. On the one hand, it brought numerous advantages like:
- Playing at multiple tables
- 24/7 availability
- Lower minimum buy-ins
Beneficial aspects of online poker
It’s crystal clear that playing online opens up opportunities that you simply wouldn’t encounter in land-based casinos. Playing online has democratized the game, primarily through the wide range of table betting limits, allowing UK players on a tighter budget to enjoy this game of skill.
Couple that with the widespread availability of casino bonuses, and you are most likely to return to an old-fashioned land-based casino only in times of nostalgia.
The downsides of online poker
Some UK players decry a loss of the social aspect of the game. Some users only care for their profits and forget the fun part of it.
Another obvious downside is that poker bots would not have been possible without the advent of online casinos. It’s crystal clear that they changed poker history forever.
Why poker bots can ruin a beginner’s first steps
Beginners may fall prey to the mathematically sound gameplay of poker bots. For them, a bot may be a dangerous opponent.
New players enter the scene constantly, and they usually start at the micro stakes level. Unfortunately, here is where the most bots are to be found since engaging in play with high stakes wouldn’t go unnoticed by casinos.
Instead of a place for players to learn and practice their skills, online micro stakes poker runs the risk of being dominated by bots.
Poker bot vs human – who wins?
The good part is that poker is not metaphysics, although a newcomer will not take our word for it. Poker has a lot of uncertainty built into it, and many decisions are totally up to the player, making the possibilities countless.
The first attempt at something is never right. With virtually infinite options and zero experience, you are prone to fail against a bot. Still, after a few losing rounds and some observation, you will get the hang of it and start seeing the bot’s repetitive actions.
How good is a poker bot?
The success of a bot against a human depends mainly on factors like:
- The level of software design
- The type of strategy coded into the software
- Whether AI is used
- Whether or not bots work in collusion
Bots are classified by how well they’re able to ‘solve’ the game of poker. The year 2015 marks the creation of the first authentically competitive poker software. Developers implemented systems based on advanced scientific theories like the Bayes theorem, Nash equilibrium and Monte Carlo simulations.
In 2017, a bot named Libratus made waves. Developed by a team from Carnegie Mellon University, it managed to win more than £1 million worth of chips in one-on-one play.
Poker Bots ranked by complexity
The table below comprises the history of poker bots. We rank their complexity based on the algorithms used on a scale of 1-5.
|Bot’s name||Complexity||Launch year||Author|
|Polaris||1.5||2007||University of Alberta|
|Cepheus||2||2015||University of Alberta|
|Libratus||3||2017||Carnegie Mellon Uni.|
|Pluribus||4.5||2019||Carnegie Mellon Uni.|
The ethical status of poker bots
Using bots is against the Terms of any legitimate online casino. But beyond this, it is immoral towards other players at the table. Generally, well-intended UK players choose online poker for recreational purposes. Even if there’s a chance they may leave with the pot, that’s not the main aim.
Just imagine. You create an account on a poker platform, top it up, claim a welcome bonus and start rolling. But just a few hours into your gameplay, you realize that your funds have been drained by what seems to be an expert poker player. You unknowingly succumbed to the machine. Not such a fun situation to be in, isn’t it?
The community frowns upon bot-using players and will do what’s needed to keep them out. Let’s see what online casino sites do to catch and stop bot-using players.
What can online casinos do to stop bots
Casinos take various measures to prevent bots from infesting the online poker landscape. Maybe in the initial stages of bot use, back in the early 2000s, you would have had a solid chance to go unnoticed. Nowadays, however, security measures have been enhanced.
Poker sites’ weapons against bots
- Using CAPTCHA technology at login and in key moments of a round
- Employing moderators to analyze players’ actions at the table and kick bots
- Embedding software that can detect non-human play at online tables
- People that are caught using such software may face significant penalties.
What you will face if caught using bots
You will not only have your account instantly terminated by the casino’s staff but also have your funds confiscated and returned to the players who lost against you. Moreover, your IP address might be blacklisted by that poker site and any other partner they may have.
Constant tweaks to your program may buy you some time, but in the end, you will be caught.
Are poker bots illegal?
No law regulates against them. You won’t go to jail if you use them. However, we hope we pointed out clearly enough that using bots for profits is unethical and harmful to the online poker community.
The educational purpose of bots
It might be that despite all the negatives presented throughout this article, bots may have a good use after all. Some developments point to the fact that bots hold educational value.
As recent of 2017, a team from Carnegie Mellon University built an advanced bot based on artificial intelligence provided by Facebook. Poker experts Jason Les and Chris Ferguson have both claimed it was one of their most fierce opponents.
So advanced was this piece of software that the developers didn’t release the source code to the public out of fear that it might be misused.
Moreover, the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology holds a yearly poker bots’ competition. Developers are thus challenged to come up with innovative applications of Artificial Intelligence.
The intricate complexity of poker
Creating an AI that can bluff just like a regular player is undoubtedly a step forward from a scientific point of view. It means that AI is becoming able to learn handling hidden variables.
Such applications can be further transposed into other fields like cybersecurity or medicine. This proves that poker bots may hold value outside the online poker world.
Why you shouldn’t bother with poker bots
- They are cumbersome to set up, let alone develop
- You will face penalties if caught using them at online casinos
- Penalties include having your account suspended and funds confiscated
- You would act unethically against fair players
- While bots’ prices start at £100, most are potential scams; a good program is costly
- A regular user will not be able to access cutting-edge AI bots
- Even with advanced programs, a bot competing against pro players is doomed to fail
- Moreover, a relatively good bot will need a lot of time to yield minimal profit
- Thus, you won’t become a millionaire by using a poker bot