Poker bots: Their Flaws and How to Detect One

A poker bot is a computer program that is designed to play poker. Functioning as a real player at a table, it plays against human opponents with its own algorithms and programming making driving its decisions.

Now, of course, these are forbidden. Thankfully, most online casinos are very good at detecting them and banning them. Plus, who is to say you would rather play a human than a bot - they’re not yet very good.

How poker bots are usually made

Poker bots are usually developed using machine learning - in particular, neural networks. This means the bot runs through millions of simulations, learning from each and amending its strategy as it goes. Thus, the programmers behind them are not enforcing a certain strategy - they’re letting them learn and create their own - so long as their goals are programmed to be long-term profit maximization.

If you’re skeptical of their existence, Vegas casinos themselves are hosting limit Hold’em machines in which the user can play Vs AI. Thus, they’re using them as a means to play poker without relying on other players, so more revenue can be taken.

Are poker bots a problem for online poker sites?

Poker bots do exist, but they’re far from rampant. This is down to two reasons. Firstly, poker sites have automated ways of detecting bots that are somewhat effective. Secondly, they’re not that good. Whilst there are no doubt some highly sophisticated bots being developed by expert researchers, this is a difficult endeavor. Creating one as an everyday programmer is difficult, let alone creating a really good one.

Bots typically tend to use fairly basic strategies and lack dynamic play. They’re often vanilla and tend to look for a long-term edge as opposed to radical games. Of course, they have two advantages over humans: stamina and a lack of emotion. This means they can play out their strategy ruthlessly consistently, with no emotional interference.

Of course, there are downsides too. They typically struggle to read bluffs, and they struggle to quickly adapt to the other players’ decisions and strategies. This is because their strategy has been learned over thousands of games, so they have an overarching strategy, meaning they can’t adapt in isolation to one new player at a table.

How to spot a poker bot

There are a few things users can do to spot a bot. Firstly, by nature, the bot is exercising decisions from a consistent strategy. This means that you have a chance of spotting repetitive behavior that appears unhuman-like - repeatedly using identical bet-sizings, repeated use of certain lines, identical timings of decisions, and so on.

You can even message them on the chat because a bot would never respond (and if they did, this would be even easier to figure out they’re a bot). Additionally, the bot will never take a break or be late for a decision because it doesn’t need refreshments or bathroom breaks.

Of course, being a robot, they can play multiple tables at once. Whilst this is possible for a human to do, our limits are much smaller than a bot - so check for recurring usernames between different tables.

What to do if there’s a bot at your table?

Again, this should be stressed that bots aren’t all that common, so don’t get paranoid about everyone being a bot. But if you do find one, you have two options.

First and foremost, remember the bit about most bots not being that good? Well, if you feel like you have the beating of them, why not turn the tables and exploit the fact they’re repetitive bots - it might become easier to guess their decisions when you know they’re not good at spotting bluffs or reading emotions.

Of course, if you’re weirded out by it and see it as a threat, just move table. If there’s an option to report the player bot then do so, because it will help poker sites clamp down on them.

Final Word

Most companies state they have procedures in place to detect bots, and so are proactively looking for them to save the user the hassle. There are often some punishments in place too, such as confiscating player funds and such.

This isn’t something worth worrying about too much, but being aware of its existence is important. Furthermore, actually playing against the legitimate AI players in Vegas would be an interesting experience, and finding its weakness could be good practice. Playing GTO perfectly may be a great way to beat the bot - but this is something that may depend on which bot you’re playing.

Poker bots are very much a form of cheating, so don’t consider building one yourself - it will be a long road that’s unlikely to be successful, anyway. And, to put your mind at rest, the bots you see at poker tables aren’t the same level of sophistication as ones you may read about in a scientific journal.


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