Thursday, May 11, 2006

Party Poker Makes Bots Go "BUTSO" with CAPTCHA Pop-Ups

A day or so ago, your blogger happened across a funny, yet intriguing, post at 9-2 Offsuit. Funny because... well, you can see why, and intriguing, because it's another facet of the counter-measures against poker "bots" that we seldom get to see.

The pop-up pictured here features what is called "CAPTCHA" technology --- CAPTCHA being one of those things that we encounter every day but, for the most part, don't know what it's called. Go look it up at Wikipedia if you want to know what the acronym stands for. The image was first posted over on the 2+2 discussion forums, where such topics are often discussed. But, all the subsequent comments about going "Busto" aside, it's an interesting spotlight into the current state of bot-detection efforts.

Based on the information in various posts, the pop-up occurs for certain multi-tablers after a minimum of two hours of play, and the distorted, random-generated letters must be input by the player within 120 seconds, or else that player is made to sit out.

Clever enough. Your blogger e-mailed Party about when the upgrade to the detection software was put into place; I didn't expect an answer... and I wasn't disappointed. Moot point, anyhow. But since such a pop-up is a neat, elegant solution to the type of poker-bot runner epitomized in some of the "sky is falling" articles that have appeared on the topic, the question is this: Why hasn't a major site implemented something like this before?

The logical explanation is that, to date, the proverbial bark has exceeded the bite --- the implementation of effective poker-playing bots has been both overestimated and overrated. I find that reassuring. In fact, this can be seen as a preventive measure as much as anything, more an indication of goodwill and planning than a knee-jerk reaction to something already out of control. Because why? Because a fix like this is so commonplace; it's just not that big a deal to implement in the overall scheme of online-poker software. Since it is so commonplace, it means that the underlying impetus couldn't have been out of control for any length of time, if ever.

While there certainly are poker bots in use, their impact is likely smaller than the doomsayers would have us believe. Yes, there are cheaters out there, but bot-players are one of the cheating methods least likely to be effective to any real extent. They'd rank (at best) at #3, behind multi-accounters and IM/phone collaborators, certainly the two areas where the online game suffers most.

With the "bot" menace now properly sized, perhaps those proclaiming their use and proliferation will just return to their normal "online poker is rigged" meanderings.

It's doubtful... but one can always hope.


Grinder said...

Excellent! I have never been concerned about bots at all. A good player can crush any bot.

When the time comes when a bot is actually using REAL AI there will be bigger concerns in life then it taking over poker.

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