Online Poker Bots: Threat or Not?
Are Online Poker Bots a Threat or Not?
Written by Harrison Elliot
28 September 2005
Online games from chess and backgammon to 1st person shooters are rife with people who use computer assisted play or computer robots - even when there is no money at stake. With the appropriate program any player is able to play at a world championship level ruining the game for honest players. What makes online poker different, given that there are huge amounts of money at stake?
In this article I will explain how I developed a poker bot and what I learnt from this experience. My conclusion is that although it is possible to construct a poker playing bot the threat from poker bots to the online poker player is extremely small to non-existent.
For interest and college courses I had previously written computer playing programs or bots for games including chess, Connect 4, Othello, backgammon, bridge and various others. For games such as Connect 4, Othello, chess and backgammon where all players have the same available information about the game state, the theory on how to construct expert bots is well known. Deep search techniques, looking many moves ahead, are used for games such as Othello and chess. Recently (10 years ago) it was discovered neural networks could be taught to play backgammon better than almost any human player. Games such as poker and bridge contain hidden information where the players can see their own hand but not that of the other players. The published theory behind writing expert computer bots for these incomplete information games is decades behind the complete information games and there are doubts techniques will be developed so that computers can play at expert or world championship level. At present the best techniques for these incomplete information games seem to involve some form of simulation and opponent modelling.
Anatomy of An Online Poker Bot
There are 3 basics parts to a poker bot:
My Poker Bot
My program was written in early 2004 with Microsoft .Net C++ and was developed to play at one online room only. For the technically minded the program relied heavily on MFC and the Win32 API.
1) Data Gathering
2) Data processing
Although you might run into a poker playing bot whilst playing online the odds are it plays very poorly. At any level of play you are much more likely to run into an expert human player than an expert computer player.
University Of Alberta Game's Group - World's leading researchers into games of all types. Home to Poki, arguably the world's strongest poker AI.
Computer chess programming - Excellent computer chess programming website.
Temporal Difference Learning and TD-Gammon - Paper by IBM's Gerald Tesauro on developing the first world champion strength backgammon-playing program using neural networks.
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