By Ben Dugdale
23rd June 2016

As a keen poker player I love the thrill and excitement of playing against my opponents and beating their hand. I recently spent 2 weeks in Las Vegas to play in the World Series of Poker (WSOP) but when I’m not in the casino I’m playing I’m online. What I love about the casino is not just the environment but you know who you are playing, and you certainly know they are real, but when online pokerbots can come in to play, which asks the questions can they be beaten?

Vegas

What is a pokerbot?

Quite simply a pokerbot is a computer program designed by an individual to play against opponents online, meaning a game can be played without the person being present (and because of this they are massively frowned upon in the poker world).

There are different levels of pokerbots, many bots in smaller online casinos have software issues and can be manipulated and beaten (as long as you spot it is a bot before it wins) however there are stories that emerge, mainly in America, of very strong bots and ‘bot-rings’ that have beaten and “won” a lot of money from top professional poker players.

The bots rely on big data to create their strategy; in 2013 Forbes stated that there are three big data strategies to be learnt from poker playing bots.

  1. Use data to create data

These bots are continuously playing and by continuously playing they are continuously learning. When playing a game the bot will use data it has been programed with to make decisions, it then uses the data from that decision to better its next game. Ultimately this means whether the bot wins or loses it will learn from it and emerge stronger. But we can use this strategy ourselves, when playing poker, or any game, we learn by doing. Each professional poker player started out as a novice and learnt from their mistakes and gains to win big.

  1. Learn from weaknesses

The bots are clever but they can’t decipher one player from the next, meaning it can’t remember your playing style and therefore can’t find out your weakness but the real players can do this, we can learn from our opponents and use their weaknesses against them, by playing people we have previously played we have an advantage of knowing their style.

  1. Be ready to break the rules

The pokerbots are programmed with the rules of poker and unlikely to deviate away from them, if you work out you are playing a bot and then find out how it works you can manipulate it, as Forbes say “if even a single player deduces [the] inner rulebook, the machine will turn into an ATM” and as the saying goes, play the player not the cards. But unfortunately many of the bigger bots nowadays are programmed with several algorithms making them too unpredictable.

So can a bot be beaten? That I don’t know but they certainly can be manipulated and at the least be learnt from and used to improve our own game.

Are you a poker player? Do you think pokerbots are beatable? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

This blog was originally published by Ben on LinkedIn. To read the original version please click here

Comments

"Interesting article Ben. But tells, tics, expressions, emotions etc. i.e. the human element - can never be replicated. I prefer to play against people." - Sean T. Connolly

"poker bots, who'd have thought it. But I guess it's an extension of the old chess and backgammon 'player vs computer ' games. Interesting use of AI anyway" - Mark Dexter

"I agree Sean, there is a lot more which needs to be taken into consideration when you are playing face-to-face, plus it's a lot more fun! Internet Poker has its benefits though, as it allows you to play many more hands in a short space of time (Which speeds up the learning / Improvement process and gives you access to Poker Software which enables you to store valuable information on your opponents along with giving you the platform to analyse your own game in great detail." - Ben Dugdale (in reply to Sean T. Connolly)

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