Meet the poker bots – Are artificial intelligence players the future of online poker?

The popularity of online poker skyrocketed since Chris Moneymaker’s historic 2003 World Series of Poker main event victory. Online poker has been disrupted by a new phenomenon in recent years: poker bots.

Poker bots, also known as poker algorithms or poker AI, are computer programs designed to play poker against human opponents without any human guidance after creation. Using complex algorithms and artificial intelligence, these bots calculate odds, detect patterns, and make optimal decisions during gameplay. The best bots are very hard to detect and beat even professional poker players over the long run.

Rise of poker bots

While rudimentary poker bots have existed for years, the real breakthrough came in 2017 when researchers at Carnegie Mellon University developed an AI called Libratus that beat top human professionals heads-up in No Limit Texas Hold’em. It was a watershed moment that demonstrated the immense potential of AI in mastering imperfect information games like poker. Since then, the development of poker bots has accelerated rapidly. With increasing computational power and refinement of algorithms, poker AIs have become more sophisticated and dangerous. Bots like Pluribus and DeepStack have achieved superhuman results in multiplayer poker variants too.

How do poker bots work?

Poker bots utilize several techniques to play optimally:

  • Game theory optimal (gto) strategy – Bots aim to protect themselves regardless of the opponent’s actions.
  • Counterfactual regret minimization – The bot simulates many randomized scenarios to determine the best moves that maximize the expected value.
  • Reinforcement learning – The bot refines its strategy through trial-and-error experience obtained by playing countless poker hands.
  • Nash equilibrium calculation – The bot computes the optimal strategies for itself and opponents to find unexploitable play.

Impacts of poker bots

The proliferation of poker bots is having a significant impact on online poker in several ways:

  • Threat to recreational players – Less skilled players now have a much harder time beating the games, as savvy bot users target tables full of amateurs.
  • Reduction in profits – Top regular players are seeing their win rates decline as the bot algorithms improve and get deployed by mediocre players.
  • Loss of trust in site integrity – Players often suspect bot use when seeing unlikely optimal play, harming site trust.
  • Diminished player pools – Some pros have left poker entirely rather than tackle the bot-filled games, shrinking player numbers.

Bot detection methods

Online poker sites are locked in a constant battle to identify and boot bro138 poker bots from their cardrooms.

  • Analyzing hand histories for optimal play every time
  • Looking for repetitive robotic betting patterns and timing
  • Checking for excessive multi-tabling beyond human capability
  • Comparing win rates to detect accounts with inhuman results
  • Searching for collusion between accounts playing alongside each other
  • Utilizing reCAPTCHA and other Turing tests to flag bot-like behavior
  • Employing anti-fraud teams to continuously develop new detection techniques

Despite these efforts, clever bot creators devise clever workarounds, and the detection war wages on. The consensus is that a small percentage of players at most sites today are bots.