Friday, May 11, 2007

Poker bot vs. gold farmers: what's the difference?

Am I bot or not? There's a fascinating discussion thread on the 2+2 forums about some bot-like activity at The thread is currently at 166 pages long, and I've only made it about halfway through, but it looks like a poker player analyzed more than 300,000 hands and found four players who had statistics that were so similar that it was statistically unlikely (beyond three standard deviations) that they weren't being run by a bot. In addition, among the 300,000 hands at the same game ($1/$2 NLH), the four players had never played against each other. The poster reported his findings to FullTilt in February. The accounts were locked in April, then recently reactivated.

After about 40 pages of discussion -- which included IP tracking and net searches that revealed the alleged bot operator's name, home town, photo, and the fact that he played in the WSOP main event last year, the names of aliases that he uses on several other poker sites, and players razzing him from the rail while he continued to play -- a forum regular, Nation, disclosed that he was an acquaintance of the player in question (nlnuts), and had seen the player's setup: five players on five computers in a room outside of Pittsburgh, with a very specific script, all playing identically, providing each other with encouragement and advice, and sharing in the winnings. Some people on the thread refuse to believe that a team of players can be disciplined enough to follow a script and have results be so statistically similar. Others question whether it's ethical for players not in a hand to be giving advice to someone playing. Others seem to have no problem with it.

I do believe that they've basically got a team of five poker playing gold farmers. The question of ethics, interestingly enough, was brought up a few weeks ago in the Ante Up podcast, when professional player Paul Wasicka (2007 National Heads-Up champion, 2006 WSOP main event runner-up, cover boy on the May 15, 2007 issue of Card Player)...

got this all started with a recent article in Bluff Magazine where he outlined the advantages of joint sessions online (two players share a bankroll and decisions, but play only one hand). He called in to give us his views on it. He admits that he never considered the fact that anyone would consider it unethical when he wrote the article, but was forced to consider the notion based on feedback he got. In the end, though, he decided that it's alright because online poker is a different animal, and since everyone else can use joint sessions or tracking software or any number of other aids, you shouldn't deny yourself the same advantages. His final point: If you play online, you need to be aware of these issues.

The rule forever has been one player to a hand. Because it's not able to be enforced, that appears to no longer be the rule online.

FullTilt's response: "During the investigation we found the evidence to be inconclusive in supporting either determination (human or bot). After careful consideration, the evidence did not warrant the seizure of funds and permanent account closure."

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