Feeds

Robot wars break out on poker sites

Poachers, gamekeepers and game theory

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Bot-running accusations fly

He was considering whether poker sites themselves would ever offer clearly labelled bot opponents. “More than 10 years ago, Aaron Davidson and I wrote a poker-playing program called Poki that could win consistently in low-stakes Limit Hold'em. Despite its age, Poki is still state-of-the-art. Poki is a decent player, but it is definitely beatable by experienced players above the intermediate level. However, if there was a maximum amount that any one person was allowed to win against it, the program would certainly be good enough to net an overall profit against the entire field of opponents.”

Dr Mike Bowling, who currently heads up the University of Alberta's Poker Research Group, says no poker site has ever approached him about building bots to run in their poker rooms. “We think its a nice idea, we'd probably pursue it. Not just because of commercial side, but because of gaining more data. We'd negotiate getting access to hand logs,” he says.

“My take on why we haven't been approached is that for most part, the online poker sites don't really want to talk about bots. I don't think they want to be associated with them.”

Full Tilt has been accused of running its own bots in the past. It kicked two customers off the site in 2009 because it suspected they were using bots. They then sued the site in return. Lary “pokergirl z” Kennedy and Greg Omoto filed their complaint accusing the site of fraud, libel, slander, false advertising, and racketeering. The pair had had more than $80,000 confiscated.

The suit also accused Full Tilt pros Chris Ferguson and Andy Bloch of creating bots. Both players are well known for being able to develop computer models to improve their game. The case was dismissed.

Both have won several million dollars as professional players, and both independently developed game theory-based computer simulations to model thousands of poker hands. Ferguson became a big tournament winner, with very little tournament experience, because of the edge he had.

Bloch has an MSc and a BSc in Electrical Engineering from MIT and a Harvard Law degree. He was a member of one of the MIT blackjack card counting teams that won millions from the Las Vegas casinos. The story was told in the book Bringing down the House, and the Kevin Spacey film 21.

Ferguson has a PhD in computer science from UCLA (focusing on virtual network algorithms) and has written several game theory poker research papers with his dad, a maths professor at UCLA.

Interestingly, the upside of playing a bot is that they are always ready to play and are nice and polite about it. “They're much better-behaved than most humans protected by anonymity!” Billings says.

If you want to play poker against the University of Alberta's human beating Polaris software, it has been licensed to Poker Academy. ®

Update: This story has been updated with Dave Martin's discussion of the "bot score."

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Netscape Navigator - the browser that started it all - turns 20
It was 20 years ago today, Marc Andreeesen taught the band to play
Sway: Microsoft's new Office app doesn't have an Undo function
Content aggregation, meet the workplace ... oh
Sign off my IT project or I’ll PHONE your MUM
Honestly, it’s a piece of piss
Return of the Jedi – Apache reclaims web server crown
.london, .hamburg and .公司 - that's .com in Chinese - storm the web server charts
NetWare sales revive in China thanks to that man Snowden
If it ain't Microsoft, it's in fashion behind the Great Firewall
Chrome 38's new HTML tag support makes fatties FIT and SKINNIER
First browser to protect networks' bandwith using official spec
Admins! Never mind POODLE, there're NEW OpenSSL bugs to splat
Four new patches for open-source crypto libraries
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.