Death by Gambling Bots: First real money online backgammon, next online poker?
The world’s financial gurus are constantly making predictions as
to which companies will thrive in the foreseeable future. Investors
look to firms like Morgan Stanley for reliable advice on
high-profile stocks. According to their latest reports, the owners of
major online poker operations like The Stars Group (TSG) are
poised for a ‘Jack and Jill‘ moment.
TSG’s top-performing internet poker brand, PokerStars, has
been trotting uphill for years, fetching pale after pale of liquid
profit. Now, thanks to the exponentially rising intelligence of AI
poker bots, analysts says this and other operators are about to
trip and stumble the whole way back down.
Gambling Bots a Major Threat to Online Poker
Internet poker has been a volatile industry for the last 15 years,
experiencing more financial swings than Viktor Blom in his ‘Isuldur1‘
days. The boom began in 2003 with Chris Moneymaker’s WSOP
championship, crashed in 2006 with passage of the UIGEA, and burned
in 2011 when the US Department of Justice took down PokerStars,
Full Tilt and Absolute Poker. It’s been on the mend
ever since, but Morgan Stanley’s Ed
Young says the
end is in sight.
“The (re)emergence of superhuman poker bots in the online
ecosystem now appears to be a matter of when, not if,” wrote Young.
Young and his team site the recent launch of one computer software program as the primary catalyst in the impending demise of an entire online gambling vertical. Its name is Pluribus, and it is the latest sibling in a family of supreme AI poker bots that have gotten progressively smarter with each immaculate conception.
It began in 2015 with Cepheus, a poker bot developed
by scientists at the University of Alberta in Canada. Cepheus
was admirable, having efficiently solved the equation that is
heads-up limit holdem poker. A few months later, researchers at
Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania introduced
Claudico, a bot designed to beat heads-up no limit
Claudico narrowly lost to a team of the world’s best human poker pros, but his younger brother, Libratus, destroyed the same opponents in January 2017. Now Pluribus is here, and he was groomed to be the best and brightest poker bot ever conceived, capable of taking down a 6-max table full of pros, not just a single opponent at a time.
Pluribus the Smarter, More Agile Poker Bot
Comparatively speaking, Pluribus is far more advanced than any of
his predecessors. Claudico and Libratus underwent 3 million hours and
15 million hours respectively of core poker strategy training, and
had to be tethered to super-computers during their matches. Pluribus
completed his training in just 8 days, and runs on a standard
He is, without a doubt, an imminent danger to online poker, and
the very reason Young is downgrading his evaluation of TSG by more
than 5%. He also projects smaller but equally disturbing decreases in
value for GVC Holdings (partypoker) and Playtech
The Fate of Real Money Online Backgammon
If you don’t think artificial intelligence is capable of
destroying a global, multi-billion dollar industry, take a glance
back in history to the short-lived boom of real money backgammon.
A strategy-based game through and through, backgammon was once very
popular online; the most popular gambling activity on the web in its
hay-day. But that boom crashed, burned, and buried itself beneath the
ocean floor as quickly as it surfaced.
Unlike poker, backgammon is a game computers have been beating
since long before the internet was born. The moment online backgammon
games arrived, gambling bots appeared to defeat human players. Soon
enough, there were far more bots than real players, and it was
incredibly obvious who was using them. No one wanted to play anymore
and the industry dissolved.
Online poker operators have been stating for years that poker bots
are illegal; that they are against the rules, and that any player
caught will suffer dire consequences. They promise to do everything
in their power to monitor, detect and eliminate bots. But can they
really identify and stop them all? To put it simply, bad-guy
technology has to exist before good-guy technology can be developed
to counter it, and few can afford to spend even a few hours against
the likes of Pluribus.
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