Friday, November 14, 2008

How to Find a Working Pokerbot and Make it Win for You

As I am writing this page my poker bot just made the final table of a 90-player tournament as the clear chip leader. All I did was join the tournament and when I was seated I pressed start on the pokerbot software. Pretty cool, huh?

Let’s back up a little. My story is quite a bit longer than that actually, so let’s start at the beginning. I started tinkering with online poker bots since they first hit the scene four or five years ago. I probably have purchased every single one that has ever been for sale, including a few outright scams. The road has been very rocky, to say the least.

The first such product ever to become available was called Pokerbot Pro. What it turned out to be was a short report telling you that poker bots can be programmed, gave you a few ideas on how the structure of them can be designed, recommended that you learn how to program so you can make your own, and threw in an example of what was supposed to be a working script for Party Poker. It didn’t work. I was one of the early few who got their refund requests honored, but from what I heard later he stopped honoring refund requests because every single customer requested one.

The amazing thing is that product is still for sale today! I have no idea what it has evolved into by now, but since the guy ran a shady, misleading hustle in the beginning it’s probably a fairly safe assumption that it’s still garbage. One of the things the short report recommended was making a simple script to push the poker room buttons based on actions fed by another piece of software called Online Poker Inspector (now simply referred to as OPI by the poker botting crowd). OPI is a real-time odds calculating program that you configure to give you betting/folding/raising signals for Limit Holdem.

So I purchased the OPI software and started fiddling with it. It was pretty fun, but I couldn’t see any use for it other than programming a bot to follow it’s signals. I mean, why do you need a piece of software to tell you to take the actions that you already told it to tell you to take? Anyway I started hanging around the OPI forum and a guy posted about a bot he developed and was starting to sell so I purchased it and joined his website and forum. That was a pretty good piece of software known as Pokerbot Plus. The developer’s name is Ron and that website is still in business as well.

There is a decent-sized community of OPI-based botters who trade and sell profiles for Online Poker Inspector. They all claim to be winning profiles of course. The reality is that none of them are. It’s just a bunch of smoke and mirrors. The problem with OPI is that it just doesn’t include enough variables to program a winning bot. It doesn’t know it’s position, number of opponents in the hand, or what happened on a previous betting round. It simply makes decisions based on hand strength alone. And that isn’t enough to beat the game.

A little while later something called Win Holdem came along. And it’s still here today as well, but most of the people who were into it moved to an open-source platform called Open Holdem. These are basically empty shells, button pushing programs that act as platforms for programmers to start working from. If you are going to use either of these you need to be a decent C/C++ coder and it’s going to take you months of hard work to have anything you can let loose in a real-money game.

Win Hold’em caused a bit of a stir among the online poker rooms when it first came on the scene and most of them put scraping programs in their software to hunt for it. As a result you now must use a complicated two-PC setup to avoid detection in using it. This was years ago and poker rooms aren’t so panicky about individual poker bot programs hitting the market any more, so Open Holdem doesn’t have the same trouble. Nowadays the poker rooms who actually care about preventing bots from playing (which is pretty much just Poker Stars at this point, being the biggest and having a brand-protecting attitude) simply watch for patterns instead. For example if you are playing 8 tables for 36 hours straight and never take a bathroom break – that sort of thing.

More OPI bots have surfaced over the years, including Frog Bot and Android Bot (probably the best one), but they all suffer from the same problem of not enough variables to be able to program a winning bot. Ron at Pokerbot Plus now offers bots based on other poker odds calculator programs including Texas Calculatem, but the reality is OPI is better than any of them still for botting purposes.

Enter Shanky Technologies. These guys have been selling a Blackjack Bot for cashing online casino bonuses for two years, and also a pretty good Omaha Hi/Lo poker bot that their customers use for clearing deposit bonuses and earning rakeback. In March of this year they released their Holdem Bot and have been upgrading it constantly ever since. This poker bot has evolved far beyond anything else that has ever been sold to the public. It keeps getting better and it keeps getting more and more user-configurable.

The Shanky Technologies Holdem Bot plays at two major poker rooms (plus a few other minor ones). It plays both Limit and No-Limit. Never before has there been a bot on the market that plays No Limit, and this one does it well. It knows how many players are at the table, how many are still in the current hand, what the bet/fold/raise count is, and what it’s position is. It remembers what happened on previous betting rounds and takes that into account in it’s decisions. It plays Tournaments, Sit and Go’s, cash games, 6-max tables, 9-max tables, play money or real money games. It recognizes bet sizes and will make good laydowns to large bets and raises. It knows the pot size and will draw when getting the correct odds. It will play up to three tables at a time, and each table can be a different game type or even a different poker room. The thing is amazing.

The Shanky bot has a large list of option settings for the user, including tournament settings where you can set it to just shove all-in based on hand strength before and after the flop. Those were the settings I was using to get to the final table in today’s tournament. I told the bot to shove with AA, KK, or AK preflop only if somebody else raised first – otherwise make a normal raise to 3.5 x the blinds and shove if reraised with those hands. I also told it to shove all-in post-flop any time it had a good hand (top pair or better on non-scary boards and two-pair or better on scarier boards, etc.) but only if there had been a preflop raise – otherwise play as normal.

It worked. Those are good settings for tournaments! I use different settings for cash games. And look – the tournament has gotten down to 3 players now and my bot is still in it with the second highest chip stack. Because there are only three players left the bot will automatically load a different profile for me now, one which I have set to play very aggressively and just go all-in with a lot of hands. We’ll see how it does.

Previously I cleared the $600 signup bonus at Full Tilt using this bot and not only did I get all of that bonus but the bot won some additional money as well. Now I am killing the tournaments with this thing. To check it out for yourself just Google something like Shanky Poker Bot. (I think their website is called Bonus Bots.)

Will an even better poker bot be for sale soon? Who knows. Seems unlikely, especially since these Shanky guys are way ahead of the curve in development. Some days I just like to hang out in their forum and talk about botting.

Recently a product called ICM-bot hit the scene. It’s not really a bot because it can’t make poker decisions. All it does it play SNG’s by method of shoving all-in preflop according to hand strength. Believe it or not this actually does work to a small degree. However this methodology is somewhat flawed because it cannot play post-flop. So when you get a free play in the big blind and flop a full house it will just fold. The Shanky bot now does everything this bot does by using the aggressive tournament setting, plus it plays good post-flop poker. So I see no reason to own the ICM-bot.