The word "bot" stands for "robot" and a "poker bot" is a robot that plays poker. Now, I'm sure we all understand that this is not literally a humanoid robot that sits at the computer and plays online poker - instead it is just a piece of computer software that has been programmed to play poker. Now that we've defined what poker bots are, we want to know if they really exist and what are they capable of.
Poker bots do if fact exist. There is nothing particularly astonishing about the idea of programming a computer to play poker. After all, chess programs have existed for ages and most of them are pretty hard to beat by average human chess players. This would lead us to believe that a poker bot should be able to yield similar results. After all, experts tell us that poker is a game of skill, just like chess, and in any game of skill the best player wins in the long run. Along the same lines, it would also be logical to assume that the average human player must be way below the skill level of a poker-playing computer program.
Before we go any further, we should agree that there are many different types of poker bots. For starters, let's divide poker bots into two different categories: honest poker bots and cheating poker bots. So, let's first talk about the "honest" ones and see how honest they really are.
The definition of "honesty" will be opened to interpretations. Just because a specific poker bot has not been programmed to take advantage of any situations that would undeniably constitute cheating, that doesn't mean that no one will ever question the integrity of an online game if a poker bot was in use. Let's go back to our chess analogy just for a moment.
The reason I want to bring up the game of chess, again, is because there is actually a chess scam that utilizes a computer program. In a few words, the scam works by secret communication between two people. One person is an active player, and the other person is a secret accomplice entering all the data into a computer. The active player is actually just a puppet, i.e. he doesn't really make any playing decisions. Instead he waits for secret signals from his partner who gets all the information from the computer. In a game like this there is very little argument that the player is cheating. The reason why there is no argument about the integrity of the game is simply because the player does not make it known that he is not really the one playing the game. Yes, he is the one moving the actual chess pieces around the board, but all the playing decisions are made by a chess bot.
Wouldn't this be the same case if an online poker player were pretending to play the game, while all the actual playing decisions were made by a poker bot? I don't see how anyone could argue that there is any difference between a poker scenario and the chess scam scenario that we've just discussed. If you play poker in a brick and mortar card room you are not allowed to get advice from a couple of buddies who happen to be watching the game, even if they are not in the hand. So, if you can't get advice from your friend(s), in a live game, why should you be allowed to get advice from a computer, in an online game? So, there goes the first argument that poker bots, even "honest" ones, are not compromising the integrity of the game. But still, let's see what kind of "honest" poker bots there are.
By definition, an honest poker bot would be any type of bot that has only been programmed to play poker, as we would say, "on the square." This means that the bot would simply play out the hands as it has been programmed to do, without any cheating. But as we've already discussed, sometimes the definition of cheating is open to interpretations. What one person may think is acceptable another person may think is a form of cheating. So, sometimes it's not that simple.
An honest poker bot may be employed by the actual online poker site. Some sites may have such bots playing only at the "free money" tables, where players are not actually gambling for real money. Most people will see nothing wrong with this. After all, it's all just "play money" not real cash. In some ways, it is impossible to disagree with this view. But there's a bit more to the story.
First of all, we must answer one logical question. Why are poker sites offering "free" games to begin with? Obviously the reason is the same as the reason why it is very common for drug dealers to give out "free samples." Obviously not because they want to do a community service. Gambling is extremely addictive - just like recreational drugs. The "free samples" or "free games" are just a way to get people hooked. Once they get people hooked, the addicts will keep coming back. A lot of these "poker players" will get out of control. Many of them will spend hours behind computers, quit their jobs, stop bathing, start surviving on pizza deliveries, neglect their friends and families, and even stop going to the bathroom as often as the body would want. They will stop paying their bills on time, and deny that they have a gambling problem. After all, everybody knows poker is a game of skill, so they are not gambling. They are investing.
The folks who run the poker sites are well aware of all that. If they use poker bots in their free games, which they do, you can simply take it for granted that these bots have been programmed to lose. The reason they have been programmed to lose is to cause an overwhelming amount of frustration for the sucker who are logging out of the free games, with thousands of dollars in winnings, redeemable in play money. These free games are not there to help players sharpen-up their poker skills. They are there to give potential customers a chance to get a free taste at what it's like to play online poker. They are there for the sole purpose of creating an illusion that it is easy to win. The mind of the average sucker works something along those lines:
"Wow! I made a thousand bucks in a couple of hours. Damn, I wish that was real money. If I would have played a real game, instead of this free stuff, I could have made a thousand bucks, already. I really should have just played a real game..."
Yeah, yeah... Would-a, could-a, should-a...
Assuming that we agree that poker sites use bots in their free games, and assuming that we agree that these bots are really intended to lure people into real games, by creating a false impression that it is easy to win, how honest those "honest" bots really are? I would say: as honest as any average used-car salesman.
While on the subject of poker bots used by the actual poker sites, there is another question I often hear. Are poker sites using bots in their real games?
With the increasingly growing number of poker addicts that play night and day, it would be silly to think that poker sites need bots to fill-up the empty seats at some of the virtual tables. Poker sites deny the use if bots and in fact I can't really think of many reasons why they would use bots against real players. A bot would in fact just end up taking up a seat that a paying customer could be using. That would be the equivalent of filling-up hotel rooms with hotel employees, instead of keeping them available for paying customers that may walk in any second. It just wouldn't make any business sense. The only scenario that makes sense to me is to use bots in real game to cheat against the real players. But since we are discussing "honest" bots, in this chapter, we should leave this discussion for later.
Just to get back on the subject of free games, for a moment, one could argue that it would also make very little sense to clog up the free games, with poker bots, for the same reason it makes no sense to use poker bots in real games. However, here we are talking about apples and oranges. All the customers playing the free games are getting a free ride, but the customers playing the real games are paying a rake. Furthermore, if the free games are not filled up with poker bots that have been intentionally programmed to lose, then real players will have to end up losing, so that some other real players can win. OK, it would all be just play-money, so they wouldn't lose any real cash, but by losing they would be less likely to be tempted to sign up for the real games. The point is to create the illusion that winning is easy. So, in every poker game, for every winner there have to be some losers... ...and we don't want people to get the impression they will lose their shirts, if they play on our site, because, if we don't make them win on our site, our competitors will make them win on their sites, so they will end up signing-up with our competitors. And we don't want that to happen. So, let's just put-up a few bots that are going to lose, to make our potential customers happy... Get the picture?
Now that we've concluded our short discussion about the possibilities of poker sites using "honest" poker bots let's move on to the next discussion.
I'm sure, by now, you've all seen the online ad for the amazing poker bot that will make you so much money you won't be able to spend it fast enough. Let's first look at their sales pitch.
Amazing, isn't it? If you read their long description it actually get's even better than that. Let me go over some of the highlights.
It says that, "If you are averaging less then $100 an hour playing online poker..." you are basically wasting your valuable time. Let's see: an average of $100 an hour is an average of $800 a day, which is an average of $4,000 a week, which boils down to $200,000 per year, if you decide to take a two-week vacation. So, let's make sure we understand what they are saying. They are saying that $200,000 per year is a salary you should be too happy with. Do you make that kind of money at you day job? Anyway, their poker bot can make you much more than that so you can "...earn a GREAT living from online poker..." instead of, I guess, wasting your time making a mere $200,000 per year playing poker on your own.
It also says that, "You do not need to endure another losing night at the table, watching in disbelief as you get robbed of another pot by bad beats and inferior players," and that, "...no more worthless books on poker 'theory'..." and that it is a, "...push and go Poker Bot that will go undetected, and take down pot after pot!" and that it is able to, "...process millions of complex mathematical calculations per second playing on your behalf..."
Amazing! It does all that, ha? But there's more. Here is the part that cracks me up. The software developer that sells this poker bot claims to be also a client. He says that he uses his own bot for his own poker playing and that the clever little devil makes him lots-a lots-a buckaronies. But I don't want to say something wrong, so why don't I just copy his own words, from his site. Here we go...
Just LOOK AT THE AMAZING RESULTS from just one of my poker accounts.
Did you catch that last sentence? He says, "You do the math!" OK, why not! I have a calculator right here, so complex mathematical calculations should not be a problem.
So, if he started with $400 and ended up with $46,982.93 after 3 months, that would mean that he made $46,982.93 minus $400, which is a total of $46,582.93 in profit, in 3 months. If the bot made $46,582.93 in 3 months, how much is it going to make in a year? Let's see. There are 12 month in a year, so, according to my calculator, 12 divided by 3 is 4, which means I have to multiply $46,582.93 by 4 to find out how much it would make in a year. How much is that...? Here it is! WOW! It comes up to a total of $186,331.72 per year.
Great! Let's buy this thing... Oh, wait! How much, again? $186,331.72 per year? But isn't that less than the 200 grand we talked about at the beginning?
What's wrong with this picture?
Any person with an IQ high enough to light a match should ask a couple of logical questions. If this system is such a money maker, why are they selling it? And what happens if all the online poker players start using this poker bot?
These questions are in line with the usual questions that people always ask when presented with a deal that is too good to be true. And, historically, all the "deals" that are too good to be true always turn out to be junk.
This system is in fact junk. No, I did not try it out. I just know it to be so because it simply can't be any other way. Also, what the ad fails to mention is the fact that many poker sites have simple countermeasures against poker bots. One such countermeasure is the use of a CAPTCHA image verification. That is the (now standard) system used on many sites to stop SPAM bots. It consists of a gif image that contains hard-to-read random text (see image on the right) combined with a text-box verification field asking the player to enter the same text into the text box. As of this writing, a bot that can trick this simple security check does not exist.
But this system doesn't claim to be a cheating poker bot. It is just supposed to play perfect poker strategy and it claims to be making money when used against human opponents. So, it just claims to be an honest poker bot that, as one would expect from a machine, just does a better job than any human player.
I wrote up the previous description over two days, July 2 and July 3, 2007. While browsing through the Poker Bot Pro site, I couldn't help noticing the following sales pitch, at the bottom of their page:
Now I am curious to know what will happen after July 4, 2007. I can think of two possibilities: a) they will keep the same sales pitch, but change the date, or b) they will really withdraw their offer and close down their site. If I were them, I would opt for option "b" and really withdraw the offer. Then I would start-up another site and sell the same exact product, under a different name, and pretend to be someone entirely unrelated to Poker Bot Pro. Some of the same suck... hm, I meant to say, some of the same customers that already purchased Poker Bot Pro, may buy the newest bot on the market. One of the biggest scams in history was perpetrated by Victor Lustig, one of the best smooth operators in history, who sold the Eiffel Tower to some sucker; he didn't sell it once, he sold it twice.
I'll check out the Poker Bot Pro site in a couple of days and I'll let you know how "smooth" they are.
... Ah, it is now July 4th, 2007 and I just checked their site. It now says that the offer will be withdrawn on July 6th, 2007. My guess is that there is a bot on their site, changing the dates automatically.
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