Poker bots overrated, says Dr. Darse Billings

Poker bots are a constant concern to online poker players, but now the creator of one of the most advanced poker AIs in the world has gone on record saying they don't present a serious problem for human players.

On Friday Andrew Smith, a popular blogger for, the Web site of the Dallas Morning News, published an article titled "Will computer programs destroy online poker? Probably."

The article referred to a recent competition where Polaris, a poker bot made by the University of Alberta Computer Poker Research Group, beat several pros in a series of heads-up matches.

This was in stark contrast to the competition a year ago in which Phil Laak beat a poker bot after a heads-up competition that lasted three hours.

Smith wrote in his article that because online poker is anonymous the future for online poker rooms is dark - any crook could put poker bots, as humans, into various online games.

Surprisingly, it was Dr. Darse Billings, one of the guys who developed Polaris, who quickly commented on Smith's blog, saying his was a "ridiculous conclusion."

Here is the comment in its entirety:

"That is a ridiculous conclusion - this is not a catastrophe for online poker.

"First, Ian's program only plays heads-up Limit Hold'em, which is not a popular variant. Modern programs are not strong at No-Limit or multi-player games.

"Secondly, it is not difficult to identify a known program. If you use the Fritz chess program to play chess on an online server, it will be obvious to everyone. The same applies for poker. Since using programs is against the poker site's terms of use, if you do it you will have your account closed permanently.

"I started the research into poker A.I. in 1992, and we have had a very large team of excellent researchers working on the problem for many years. We have made a lot of progress over the past 16 years, but I can assure you, the sky is not falling."

PokerListings' very own Arthur S. Reber has recently contributed articles about poker bots titled "Poker Bots: The Beginning of the End? Um, No" and "Bot This Too: Robots Don't Have Girlfriends." You can check them out in our strategy section.

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