Ever since poker moved to an online setting in the 2000s, strategies and ways of playing have drastically changed. In a sense, online poker is an entirely different game to the live version in which players sit across a table from each other and have the opportunity to read bodily cues. When playing in an internet setting, statistics, probability, and knowing exactly how much to bet in different situations all contribute to enjoying success at the game. In these situations, players also need to try to spot bluffs by assessing other players’ varying bets in different circumstances. When players can put all of these things together, they can do extremely well. All of these things can arguably be done better by AI bots nowadays. For that reason, players may soon look to bots for tips on how to win every time.
What are Game/Poker Bots?
Bots have been used in games since gaming began, and when a player plays a game against the computer they are playing a game against a bot. For instance, games like chess, hearts and Scrabble can be played against bots when played on the computer. Now that more games are taking place in online settings, bots are being used even more frequently. In multiplayer games such as Call of Duty, bots are required to fill in the playing zones when players move on to other titles in the franchise. For instance, when Call of Duty WWII came out in 2017, a number of players moved from the previous instalment, Infinite Warfare, to play the new offering. When Black Ops 4 is released later this year, it will be the same scenario. There are fewer players playing the older titles. However, because some players are still going online to play them, the developers need to install bots.
Bots can be static, which means they are programmed to play in a certain way. They can also be dynamic, which means they figure out the game as they go and develop strategies while doing so. Dynamic bots are now being used to master games like poker, and are actually enjoying success against the professionals in the game.
Examples of Bots Being Used
As AI becomes more advanced, there are frequent tests to see whether it can be used to outsmart humans in different games. One of the most reported bits of news in 2017 was when Google’s sibling DeepMind created the AI AlphaZero, which managed to master chess on its own in under four hours. The dynamic bot taught itself how to play the game without any human instruction and then went on to beat the world’s best chess-playing computer program. It did this by trying out a number of different combinations of moves before settling on the perfect strategy. This bot was previously known as AlphaGo, and it had already beaten some of the world’s best Go players using a similar strategy. The bot has now been generalized so that it can learn other games. It seems that a time in which artificial intelligence can outthink humans is upon is.
This was highlighted further when a supercomputer took on some of the world’s best poker players and managed to beat them with ease. The machine called Libratus entered a no-limit Texas Hold’em poker tournament at Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and won 120,000 hands to pocket nearly $1.8 million. The test took place over twenty days and featured four professional poker players staring at screens while trying to beat the computer in heads-up gameplay. They were thrashed by the AI bot which didn’t get tired, didn’t make rash decisions, didn't experience poker tilt and always employed an optimum strategy.
How Players Can Learn From a Bot
There is certainly a lot for poker players to learn from these highly advanced bots. No matter how logical someone’s poker strategy may sound going into a tournament, things can quickly change when emotions start to come into play. It should be noted that not all bots are as efficient as the Libratus, and there are weaker ones that sometimes appear online and are quickly banned by poker sites, because they go against the T&Cs.
For the purposes of getting better at poker, its best to look at the strategies employed by the best bots in the business. By watching hand after hand and seeing what they do in certain situations, you may discover that a lot of the time you are betting at the wrong time and playing bad hands. One of the main problems that human players have is they think with their hearts instead of their heads. This is not a problem with a bot, and there is never a tough decision for it to make or a hard lay down. Tiredness is another thing that affects the decision-making of poker players and causes them to do the wrong thing. The bots don’t get tired.
The main general lessons to learn from bots are to make sure you don’t exhaust yourself by playing for too long and try to switch off emotions when playing.
How Players Already Practice and Learn
Online players have been employing strategies similar to those used by bots for years, and a heavy focus has been on being able to quickly calculate the probability one has of winning a hand. There are general rules of thumb for the amounts to bet in various situations, and novice players often watch the pros for tips. There are many videos on YouTube helping players refine their strategy and showing clips of experts in action in major tournaments. Soon, however, poker advisors may suggest watching videos of bots in action as a way to improve.
Bots could be key for poker players to take their games to the next level because it appears that they have managed to achieve an even more refined strategy than the best in the world. Watching bots in action could soon be the number one method of developing a better poker strategy.