Poker bots: framework and pitfalls

02.04.2024
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Updated 02.04.2024
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Poker bots: framework and pitfalls

What are we talking about here? Poker bots are programs that imitate real players, but play much better due to advanced algorithms. It would seem that bots should have become a sort of trainer devices for players to hone their skills. However, some people use it unlawfully to their benefit.

What should you pay attention to here? Poker bots are prohibited in most rooms, but this does not stop scammers. Therefore, it is necessary to be able to identify fake players. The easiest way is to watch player’s activity in chat and the end time of his session (bots are inactive in chat and end the session at the same time), but there are other methods also.

Poker Bot Concept

The game of poker has always been popular. Computer program developers have created poker bots based on mathematical calculations and player experience. These bots can play against people at the table. It can use different strategies and algorithms to determine the optimal game, analyze its mistakes and learn from them. Poker bots can be used for both entertainment and making money.

At first, poker bots were basic. They followed a rule-based, probability-based strategy. Amateurs and professionals saw the potential for self-development in this software and learned to use it to train their skills.

Fraudsters began to use this software to achieve selfish goals, despite the fear of being banned and a clear violation of the ethics of the game. For this reason, many people have negative associations with the term “bot”.

Back in the 80s, the idea of ​​creating a poker bot as a basis for self-learning software appeared. At first, it was designed specifically for chess, but then the math became more complex and it allowed working with Texas Hold’em as well.

Poker bots: framework and pitfalls

Artificial intelligence is ideal for games with incomplete information. This gives freedom for a comprehensive analysis of each situation. If we compare it with chess, which has a visible number of outcomes, poker has more possible options and variations.

The level of development of poker AI in the mid-2000s made it possible to organize the World Series of games for bots. The event was free and had a $100,000 prize fund, which attracted a huge, engaged audience. The very first winner was PokerProBot. Its author used to develop bots for online games even before the start of the big confrontation with bots.

At around this time, bots began to appear that could actually make money. How do poker bots work? These programs cannot learn during the game and operate according to clearly defined algorithms and frameworks. Their predictable straightforwardness and inability to analyze make them ineffective against regulars, but online poker conditions offer bonuses and rakeback. It’s enough for the bot to play breakeven or even slightly losing to make money in the end.

The first official match between humans and artificial intelligence was held in 2007. Poker players Phil Laak and Ali Islami fought with the Polaris bot. The people won, but the margin was small. It was recognized that the AI was a worthy opponent. People won with in-game adjustments that would be impossible against human opponents. However, after just a year, the bot left people behind.

A few years later everyone was talking about Cepheus. The developers trained the bot for two months. All situations possible for two players were inputted into the program. Approaching the Nash equilibrium made the bot tough to beat, but near-GTO strategy did not earn Cepheus the status of the best player in a one-on-one battles.

Despite the fact that in principle it could not lose, such an important circumstance as its inability to “read” his opponent made it vulnerable. Experts have found that the position of an experienced regular against a beginner is better than that of a bot.

Cepheus made its developers famous, but poker players did not appreciate its capabilities and believed that AI of this level would not be able to conquer the no-limit version in the near future. However, in 2015, Claudico, that mastered the NL format, was introduced to the community. The bot lost in the battle against four opponents. People rejoiced and celebrated their victory in the main discipline.

In 2017, a new program named Libratus and developed by scientists from Pittsburgh was presented. A battle between the bot and four regulars took place, in which the humans suffered a crushing defeat. Artificial intelligence analyzed the hands played, constantly improved the strategy, and showed gaming intuition.

Despite the fact that Libratus could only play heads-up and required significant resources, the poker community considered the appearance of this bot as a wake-up call.

Two years later, in 2019, the same development team introduced Pluribus. The training concept for this bot has been changed. Instead of a clear strategy developed by people, the program received an “explanation” of the rules of Texas Hold’em and independence in constructing and conducting a session.

In a match with a team of experienced players led by Greg Merson and Nick Petrangelo, the bot won. For the first time, the poker community realized the obvious danger to itself in the form of artificial intelligence.

Poker bots: framework and pitfalls

The developers of these unique programs did not intend to break the law and make money fraudulently. Their task was to develop AI algorithms based on poker, a complex mathematical game. In addition, it is still impossible to use such advanced and recourse-consuming programs in real poker sessions.

Poker Bot Framework

What are poker bots? To answer the question let’s go over key elements of gaming programming:

  • Strategy engine. Its task is to process information and make decisions. This is the brain of artificial intelligence.
  • The auxiliary interface that contains additional program tools for coordinating the actions of the bot with the poker room player. These are the hands of AI.

Almost every programmer can handle the task of writing a code for a poker bot. However, this bot won’t be playing profitable poker. His ceiling is breakeven or even slightly negative game at NL2-NL5. Creating a competent software for a successful poker session requires efforts of a team of highly qualified specialists and a significant time investment. In case of a success, it would be a real breakthrough.

Poker is a game with incomplete information and great number of variables. Its very essence creates obstacles that are difficult for scammers to overcome. However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. And there are those who can deal with it.

When developing a poker bot, a lot of attention is paid to the way the bot will receive data during the game. Without access to data about how a particular hand played out, even the most advanced AI is useless. The poker bot reads information in several ways:

  • Screen scanning. The more scientific name for this method is optical character recognition. It is used in modern scanners. The information from the screen is converted in a format AI can recognize. There are some problems with it, however, like some pop-up ads that confuse the bot. Any other unfamiliar information can also confuse the software. Therefore, due to the obvious vulnerabilities, this type of bots will not make profit.
  • Reading chat. Poker rooms often post game information in the chat in text format. The bot easily extracts, analyzes and uses this data to its advantage. It is as if the poker room hurts itself. Although, rooms come up sometimes with new ways to deal with bots, but they can’t eliminate the threat altogether.
  • Interception of information. This is quite a difficult task. If a command is intercepted, the bot penetrates the client code. And for traffic, this involves an even more complex process – rewriting it.

Depending on the operating algorithms, bots can be divided into 3 groups:

  • GTO bots. The acronym stands for “Game Theory Optimum”. These bots actions are based on a balanced strategy. In a real game, such a bot will win even against an experienced regular. After all, a person does not always choose the optimal strategy in a game, and can make mistakes. The machine will instantly recognize it and take advantage of the leak.
  • Scripted bots. The developer programs a scenario into the AI, a script according to which it plays, using the “if… then…” sequence. Scripted bots work strictly according to a scheme that is the simplest to create and rather weak in efficiency. The level of play of such AI depends entirely on the experience of the programmer. The developer is forced to generalize the algorithms, since it is unrealistic to predict all the turns of the scenario. These bots can only bring profit at low stakes. Professional regulars from higher stakes will quickly identify such a bot and adjust their game to beat it handily. Sometimes the software folds when the odds are clearly in its favor, leaving poker players perplexed.
Poker bots: framework and pitfalls
  • Exploitative bots. These are the most dangerous bots. The idea is the AI acts according to the opponent’s strategy, but also plays stunningly aggressive. A person may not notice an opponent’s weakness in a game due to fatigue or lack of focus. However, the bot doesn’t miss anything, doesn’t let up the pressure until the last moment. The programmer includes in the software options for adapting to the game of a specific opponent and algorithms that take into account different types of players at the table. The database that the AI accesses is designed to recognize and identify the opponent.

How to identify a Poker Bot

Poker bots for Discord are software developed for a perfect game. The AI does not make mistakes, never gets tired, is able to run a tournament indefinitely, easily recognizes strategy and bypasses human psychological tricks. However, the rules of poker rooms stipulate the provision of equal conditions for everyone. That’s why bots are prohibited in online games.

Their use is equated to fraud and is severely punished by account blocking and confiscation of funds. If we are talking about large amounts, the poker room may begin a judicial investigation procedure.

There are players who continue to try to use artificial intelligence, but this is more or less prevented by the security service, which uses manual analysis and computer programs to identify bots.

It is possible to detect a poker room bot at the table by the players themselves by paying attention to a number of signs:

  • It takes for a player the same amount of time to make every decision.
  • No bluff tactics.
  • The sequence of actions is constant.
  • Same bet sizes.
  • Zero chat activity.
  • The gaming session ends at a fixed time.

Having identified an opponent with such qualities, you need to initiate a check by the security service, note him as scammer and avoid playing him at the same table.

Frequently Asked Questions about Poker Bots

Which bot is considered the very first?

Orac is considered the very first gaming program. It was created by the famous poker player Michael Caro who is also knows for his book “Sign Language”.

The scientific and gaming community was stunned when, in 1984, this first poker bot performed a session on par with the best grinders of the time. Its special feature was the ability to use timing tells (amount of time players spend thinking on his decision). If it took a lot of time for an opponent to think about his next move, it was considered a bluff by the bot.

What is the danger of poker bots?

Using them in poker rooms spoils the reputation of online games. Participants fear that defeat is inevitable due to scammers, and trust in online rooms is decreasing.

Poker bots: framework and pitfalls

In addition, if new players and amateurs stop playing, it hurts the professionals as well.

Can poker bots be useful?

Although it’s clear what most bots are aimed at, they are still notably useful. Players, realizing the possibility of meeting with AI, train more, hone their skills, develop new approaches, and become more attentive. There are also GTO trainers where you can practice against a bot. Playing against a bot helps you find your own mistakes and gain experience without a risk of losing money.

Is it true that some rooms create bots themselves?

There are talks on this topic, but nothing confirmed yet. If the poker room is caught doing this, both its reputation and credibility will be lost.

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