Poker Bots - Are They Legal?
Is This Casino Techonology Legal?
You've read about poker bots and what they can do for you. But is deploying a one illegal?
The robot army
The existence of poker bots is slowly but surely having an increasing impact on the world of online poker. It's a piece of software that an unscrupulous person uses to play poker for them at an online poker site.
The theory is this. Humans are susceptible to being made of meat, and so we forget stuff. But a bot never forgets, and is constantly building up data about the players it is facing. It makes decisions based not only on the mathematical probability of the success of the hand, but also on the actions of the people it is playing against.
It is thinking about when they fold, when they raise, when they bluff – in short, everything a truly skilled poker player should be thinking about. Only the bot is completely fearless and ruthless, because it never experiences adrenaline rushes and it can't be tilted.
Therefore, these bots will always eventually win. That's the theory anyway.
The reality is, the bots' strategy is based on rules that a human programmer must define. Thus they are very beatable.
If it were that simple, there wouldn't be a legal issue here. The problem is that bots cheat.
Sneaky little cheats
The real difficulty with poker bots is that they have now evolved to the point where they collude with each other. A skilled bot programmer – or, since such products are now commercially available, a bot purchaser – can set up a number of bots that use their own server to communicate with each other.
This means you could have four bots at a poker table, all sharing their hole cards with each other. Any human player at the table is going to be at an instant disadvantage, and will probably be fleeced in very short order.
Suddenly bots became a real threat to the online poker community. How do you know if you're on a cold streak or if you're being systematically relieved of your chips by an army of little cheating robots?
This has to be illegal.
It's got to be against the law, right?
Bizarrely, it's not. It's against the terms of service of the poker sites, definitely. For example, Party Poker allegedly employs more than 100 people whose sole task is to scan for and eliminate accounts with behaviour that suspiciously looks like poker bot activity – it is in fact detectable.
It's clear that these bots hurt poker players, which is why online poker companies work so hard to get rid of them. But they're not actually breaking the law. They're just being evil, which isn't in and of itself illegal.
You see, the problem is that most online poker companies are forced to operate in a legal grey area. The majority of their business comes from countries like America, who have specific laws discouraging the practise of online gambling anyway. Efforts are under way to get unfair laws like the UIGEA overturned, but until that happens, lawmakers aren't about to help poker sites police the terrain.