Friday, November 12, 2010

Silicon-based Life Forms Not Wanted

Apparently Full Tilt Poker and Pokerstars, two of the biggest poker sites have recently been having a purge of poker bots, according to The Register. They spot them by the similarity of play, but also the more obvious metrics of players who play for long consistent periods of time. I dunno, if I were designing a bot, I'd spend at least some of my coding prowess figuring out ways to make it look unpredictable (take random, non-normally distributed breaks of time at random points, occasionally make weird bets, etc.)

It's hard to see this as anything more than a PR exercise. Suppose I have a poker bot sitting next to a person, who just inputs their moves. Would this be a violation of the terms of agreement? Beats the hell out of me. What if I hire some guys in Bangalore  at 12c an hour to input the moves, but one in 50 moves to do something weird? It would be pretty hard to prove anything.

But check out this outrageous line:
In October, Full Tilt removed an unstated number of players, confiscated the funds in their accounts, and pledged to redistribute this money to players who'd lost to the bots. PokerStars took similar action with 10 accounts in July.
Got that? They suspect you of being a bot, and they take your money. Not your winnings. All your money.

Now, I think two things when I read this kind of thing.

1. If you're doing anything that might be breaching a contract, read in advance damn carefully exactly what you've signed, and what provisions are allowed. It may be startlingly different from what you think a fair outcome is.

2. If it's unclear whether what you're doing is actually legal, then it's also unclear whether you have a contract at all. And if it turns out you don't, when the Poker Site takes your money because it claims you're running a bot, you're basically S.O.L. You're in the same position as the guy who calls the cops because somebody stole his marijuana plant. Except the guy who stole your plant is a faceless corporation with a lot of lawyers, so there's nobody's arms to break and not much chance of successfully suing them. Yeah, good luck with that.

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