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Are AI bots ruining online poker?

Image: iStock

It was a shocking accusation, a cheating scandal on an unprecedented scale. According to a report by one TylerRM on the Two Plus Two forum, a bot farm was able to scam innocent victims out of nearly 10 MILLION dollars on America's Card Room (ACR).

It comes as no surprise that people will do anything they can to get an edge on the competition. If there’s an exploit to be made, you can better you socks that poker players will push it as hard as they can.

Now, in the age of artificial intelligence and software programs that are better at the game than people are, it’s more important than ever that the sites monitor their traffic and protect their players.

The response

After the allegations against ACR surfaced, the company’s CEO, Phil Nagy, posted an official statement.

 “I want to clear the air about social media buzz regarding concerns about a potential poker bot issue on our network. After contacting our security team, I learned we’d already reviewed all 368 players mentioned in this report. After investigation, over half were cleared of misconduct; many accounts had already been closed prior to receiving this report.” The company also gave some more specifics, such as banning virtual machines, banning third party communications, and ramping up their data science team to detect botters.

Chris Moneymaker also decided to “lay down the gauntlet” by offering a bug bounty. He said that the first person to create a bot and have it run 5,000 hands on ACR without getting caught would get $100k and a job on the spot. “I don’t think anyone’s going to create a bot that could break our security, but we’ll see,” he concluded.

To that, Doug Polk quipped, “Also, please stop after 5k hands… please.”

At least they’re trying to put their money where their mouth is.

What’s next for online poker?

The real question isn’t whether botting will continue. Of course it will. As long as there’s an incentive to cheat, people will try. But just like casinos have invented tons of ways to stop cheaters on the premises, online poker games need to create similar measures for cybersecurity.

The elephant in the room—at least according to Polk—is whether people actually care about this issue. Of course there’s always going to be some vocal critics, but for the vast majority of players, as long as they’re having a good time, why does it even matter if they lose to bots sometime? “I’m starting to feel jaded, friends,” he concludes.

It’s 2024, and AI definitely ain’t going anywhere. How online poker platforms respond to this new technology will really set the course for where the action goes in the coming decade.


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