poker bots: The truth about online poker cheating

In the dark underworld of online poker cheating, the key to success of the cheaters is collusion. Collusion is considered evil in the marketplace, and it's evil in poker. How can someone engage in collusion with online poker? By using online poker bots.

Online poker bots are similar to the bots that get used to spam people on their Instant Messenger services (usually for some kind of sex service). They operate on behalf of a human, but they do all of the work for the human outside of making crucial decisions. They are computer programs designed to crunch numbers with all of the incredible rapidity of a chess playing computer mind.

poker bot

Online poker bots should not be confused with bots such as those used in electronic Forex market trading, either. Those latter bots are also known as EAs, or Expert Advisors, but they are programmed to simply carry out the bidding of the human trader. They help give the human trader feedback on what's happening in the marketplace, and then they act on behalf of the human with a speed and precision that the human could almost never match. But they are perfectly legal because they are being told what to do by humans, and so they are not upsetting the marketplace in any way, shape, or form. As a matter of fact, they help get more money into it.

But online poker bots are blatant deception--and this all goes back to my opening statement about their ability to collude. In poker, collusion of any kind is cheating and it's illegal. The entire game is based on the premise of each player playing one-on-one against every other player and on the secret knowledge (the non-community cards held) that each individual player alone has. When these two fundamentals of the game are violated, there is no more poker game, there is only a game of cheating. Instead of the best player winning, the best cheaters "win".

It has been said that poker bots don't pose that big of a problem because they can be caught and then held out of a poker room; because they are only as good as their human programmers made them; and they cannot consistently beat truly good poker players.

However, there is cause for greater alarm than these skeptics would have us believe. It's true that poker bots cannot consistently beat truly good poker players, because bots rely 100% on odds calculations, and odds calculations are only one aspect of an advanced poker player's game. Bots can't bluff, nor can they read bluffs. Bots cannot create a poker image. Bots know nothing about an aggressive poker strategy. A bot would probably not even play hole cards of 7-2, whereas a poker great like Phil Ivey can potentially win the pot with the game's worst starting hand.

Poker bots operate by taking money off the table--the money of the typical online poker player who is not all that good, who will routinely get beaten by a numbers crunching bot. The good online poker player comes to find it unprofitable to play online because the players he used to take money from don't have any money, so they don't show up anymore either out of fear or because of the lack of a poker bankroll. When the well runs dry, the good poker player goes elsewhere.

But this is the really bad part--online poker bots can sit at hundreds of tables simultaneously, and they can be programmed to share their secret knowledge with other bots. Even the world's best poker player cannot win many hands if his hole cards are always known, now can he? Well, the bot may not know exactly what the player is holding, but by knowing what the other bots are holding that bot can now make even more precise calculations.

As far as the bots being easy to catch--that's not true (enough), either. Captcha technology is not as reliable as it was thought it would be, because the bots' human master can intervene and get around these bot-traps. If a bot was suspected in a room and other players attempted to identify it through chatting with it, the human can respond to chat and make it seem as if the bot is just a very good human poker player.

When it becomes too difficult even for skilled players to make money online because they no longer have enough secret knowledge, the entire foundation of online poker will collapse. Because of collusion, online poker bots equal online poker cheating. They are not legal EAs. They are illegal programs.

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