Playing poker online? Beware of the bots…

so i’ve been bitten a bit by the poker bug that has been sweeping by of late. I’m a pretty newcomer only having played for the last 2 years or so. A friend that worked for a poker dotcom got me start playing while beta testing their software. I have since played on several of the online sites even thought I enjoy playing in person more. In fact they usually have mini tourneys at work about twice a week with between 8-16 players.

Anyways, because I’m a bit of a techie and also have a dotcom background I’ve kept up on advancements occuring in the online aspect of the game. I came across this article in wired magazine about the impending poker bots that are starting to invade online play that was also picked up by boing boing. I have begun using the Texas Calculatem online aid program while I play. This program runs in the background and watches the board while you play and gives advice as to how to play your hand but in my case more importantly just shows the hands odds. I simply use it as an aid and to make sure I’m not missing something stupid on the board (since I do other things sometimes while playing online)and make a bonehead move.

The difference between an aid and a bot is that the bot plays for you. With the aid I still make the decisions and click as needed. The bot does all this for you and can even be playing while you sleep. The bot mentioned in the Wired article is Winholdem. If you go to the site, the first thing you see on the home page is show you advisory’s regarding the sites that are banning the program and how to get around the ban.

Beyond the aids & bots there is also tracking programs available. Poker Tracker is a program that can track the stats on how you play by collecting your hand histories from the sites you play on and how you acted. It can also track your opponents this way.

There are many tools out there that make online play a totally different game than your firendly human table games. At this point I’m not too worried about playing against a bot if it’s simply using odds to play against me but it can get evil if there are several bots playing against you at the same table where collusion is involved. This is when the bots can share card information and team up against you. Winholdem calls it “team” mode which I find pretty funny. But collusion is outright cheating and at that point there is no way to compete against team bots.

In any case if it’s just a human against a bot I think the humans are still well ahead. I read this story which discusses how a human beat the worlds best poker bot. unlike Chess I think Poker has quite a few aspects that a simple algorithm can’t solve and will take quite a while to play as good.