Poker bots threaten honesty of online pokerA poker player sits hunched over his computer, frantically trying to read the behavior of his opponents, looking for all-too-human habits and weaknesses that will give him the edge in betting. Unfortunately, the opponent he's trying to read could well not be human. Welcome to the world of poker robots, commonly known as poker bots.

Even since the supercomputer Deep Blue defeated chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov and Watson won Jeopardy, the ability of a robot to dominate a human in a game has been increasingly obvious. Now, poker "bots" are for sale over the Internet. They allow anyone with a PC and the ability to follow directions to set up a bot to play one of the panoply of on-line poker sites such as PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and PartyPoker.The sites are fighting back, though. According to The New York Times, PokerStars and other sites will refuse playing privileges to those they determine are bots. Happily, many if not all of the publicly available poker bots are unable to adequately mimic human behavior, and so can be recognized for what they are.

Many are also unable to play well enough to make money against shrewd human opponents, so caveat emptor. An industry consultant told the Times that over 90% of the programs are losing money.

But with the rapid advancements being made in artificial intelligence, how much longer can this be the case? The field is being advanced by hard science, as teams from various colleges attempt to win an annual bot-poker tournament held as part of a yearly conference on artificial intelligence. Last year, the winner reigned victorious after 89.4 million hands of Texas Hold'em.

Many a fortune has been lost by our human inability to calculate odds on the fly, something computers excel at. Once they master the art of the bluff, on-line gaming could become a sucker bet. This would be great news for brick and mortar casinos.

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