I recently completed an in-depth review of WinHoldem (“WH”), the on-line poker-playing “bot” that recently received much notoriety when they built their launch promotion on the basis of a “team” (read “collusion”) capability. Let me start by saying that I worked only with the $100-per-year Pro version which plays as a single, multi-table uncolluded automated player. The purpose of this review is to provide the online poker community with an objective, user-oriented assessment of the beginning of a trend that is here to stay: computerized assistance to the online player. I take no position on whether bots are right or wrong, whether it is “bad” or “good” for the game, or how the online casinos will respond.
WH Pro Team comprises two separate capabilities: First is a purely technical, operational capability that identifies game status and reports it to the player, and then relays the playing decision back to the game, either automatically or in response to the user’s selection. This decision is generated by the second capability: a programmable rules engine. Both operational and rules capabilities are accessed from an onscreen console.
The process begins by the logging into their online casino and taking a seat in the normal fashion at as many tables you wish to play. The only limitation is that each table must be completely unoccluded for the operational screen-scraping software to function, so screen real estate is an important constraint. A separate console then controls each table.
WH plays a single table very robustly, and will play automatically indefinitely. However, although WH claims to support multiple-table play – an essential capability in my view for an automated bot - this capability does not work with any consistency. While connecting correctly to as multiple tables was safely accomplished, the various casino windows eventually begin random motion on the screen and eventually become occluded with the result that the screen-scraper loses its targets and play to the tables gradually ceases. The only remedy is to relaunch the consoles. So, for all practical purposes, WH should be considered a single-table system.
However, with myriad limitations, omissions, typos and inconsistencies, the user interface (UI), documentation and technical support are terrible and not worthy of a commercial product costing $100 per year. The UI is reminiscent of a high school computer lab project, and the documentation reminded me of the self-assembly furniture instruction manuals written in the Far East! Although the list of problems is too long to fully identify, some of the most serious are as follows: -No real-time feedback on the source of the playing decision and a limited, non-configurable playing log for subsequent analysis of playing decisions. This means there is simply no way to evaluate the playing session apart from standard downloads to services PokerStats. -No capability to test or debug the playing decision module (see below for a description of how this works). While there is a “manual” mode that permits you to enter hypothetical game situations , it is so cumbersome and non-intuitive that I quickly gave up trying to use it. As an example, placing a bet in front of an opponent to indicate his participation on a hand does not increase the pot size-you have to enter this information elsewhere on the console. And since this is one of the many undocumented non-intuitive features of WH, there is truly o way to efficiently play practice hands to test decision rules. -There is no way to save configuration settings, (such as the rake amount, the preferred mode of operation (manual, semi-automatic), number of simulations (see discussion below on the rules engine), hiding the WH window title (necessary to avoid rejection on some sites), colors, fonts, etc. This meant a painstaking re-entering of all user preferences each time the system was launched. -You have to be connected to the Internet and in contact with the WH server in order to even open the console. This made it impossible for me to do any programming or testing on my laptop during my frequent business flights. -Tech “support” was also of limited use. Due to the problems with the UI and documentation I had extensive email contact with the support group. And although they were fairly prompt in replying to my many queries and comments, the quality of the responses left a lot to be desired. They also provide no support on questions in coding decision rules, and do offer a user forum for the exchange of ideas among users. This problem was compounded by what appears to be a rudimentary knowledge of the game: for example, they were unfamiliar with terms such as outs, player position and game texture.
The second element of the system is its decision-making engine. And, frankly, if this were effective and robust I could have learned to live with the above-described frustrations of actually using the system.
The out-of-the-box decision-making mechanism is an undocumented, “black box” simulation engine that calculates the probability of winning the hand and then uses a simple formula to compute the associated EV of raising and calling. If EV Raise is positive, the “raise” command is given; if it is negative, and EV call is positive, the “call” command is given, otherwise you check or fold. The problems with this methodology are numerous: the win-probability calculation assumes all players hold their hands to showdown; it ignores position, game texture and the number of players remaining in the hand. This last problem is worthy of some additional comment: The way WH handles players in the game is to assume a static number for all probability analyses! This number is based on a user setting of how defense he wants to be:” max defense” uses 10 players in the calc; while “Minimum defense” uses 2 players. As far as I could tell from the limited information available, these decisions bear no relation to the actual game situation and whether the players assumes to be in the game have bet, called, raised or checked! As you would expect this creates many strange and totally illogical decisions, such as virtually always calling with 2nd or 3rd pair, never raising two-pair in a non-threatening board. Needless to say, strategic plays such as slow-playing, check raising and blind stealing are way beyond the bot’s pay grade.
I tested this default system on a major online site. The only game I did not rapidly lose my entire stack on were the $0.50/$1.00 and $1.00/$2.00 games. These games are classic weak/tight or loose/passive, so the kinds of mistakes WH was making were rarely severely punished, although I would often cringe when my player would re-raise on the river with 2nd pair against 2 or more opponents! I played about 2,000 hands at this level and ended up winning about 0.1 BB per hour.
I next moved up to the $2/$4 and $3/$6 games. It quickly became apparent that the bot had no chance now that opponents were displaying some degree of competence, and I quickly cut my losses, it being apparent to me that the default system is essentially useless. So I went back to the drawing board trying to modify the bot to play more intelligently.
This required using the WH “Formula Editor”, which the user can write his own specific playing rules, that could theoretically even avoid use of the simulation mechanism by writing from the ground up a “rules-based” system, in which every hand and board situation needs to be explicitly identified. (Those familiar with the Wilson TTH system will be familiar with one way of thinking about this is.) A rules-base system requires two distinct elements: a unique identification of the game situation, and the associated decision rule. (IMHO TTH provides an excellent baseline for the first of these - game-situation identification - but is weak on the way it makes the actual decisions.) Writing a rules-based system from scratch is a HUGE undertaking, even with sophisticated programming and development tools. In the complex and user-unfriendly WH environment this is an impossibility. For example, you need to be somewhat proficient in the C++ programming language; you need to develop this in an editor that provides no testing or debugging capability, and you need to do it with a rules se that is incapable of considering kicker rank, game texture, player position, kickers, bluffing, semi-bluffing, check-raising, slow playing and opponent recognition.
With this in mind, I set about reprogramming WH to incorporate a combination of simulation and rules-based systems. A word of caution: this is NOT an exercise for the weak of stomach and keep the headache pills handy! I have programmed an awful lot of code, but I was totally unprepared for the difficulties of this beast! As any programmer will tell you, the ability to segment your code into manageable segments and syntax and debugging tools are essential for productive coding. With none of these capabilities, WH requires you to work without sub-routine and function calls, without case or if..then statements, so the rules you write are essentially one long single statement for each of calling/checking and betting/raising decisions. There is no capability, so you need to write every condition as a concatenation of “or” and “and” statements. This means you need to repeat all the conditions for each element of your decision, and god-forbid if you make a syntax error, the only indication you get is, when you hit the Calculate button, the word “error” appears, with no indication as to the location or source of the problem!.
However, being a glutton for punishment, I persevered with the objective of replicating the HPFAP rules pre-flop for loose games, with some modifications from authors such as Lee Jones suggestions for low-stakes games.
Pre-flop was relatively easy since you can specify the hands you wish to play in one of 6 distinct tables and then reference these tables with simple code statements. This allowed me to specify what I wanted to play from each of five positions: SB, BB, early, middle, late.
Coding for post-flop was where the real headaches began. Since I could not calculate outs or identify the strength of my kicker I made many simplifying assumptions such as modify the EV calc so that the threshold for putting any money in the pot is significantly greater than zero, so be overly conservative when calling down a raise or raising without a killer hand. The only strategic option I included was to raise on the turn when on a nut or near-nut draw after limpers in a family pot.
The result of now more than 40 hours of work was several hundred lines of syntactically correct code.
I then took my “new and improved” bot back to the online sites I had played earlier. Remember, this is a totally untested in a playing environment due to WH’s lack of testing capability, so the real world was going to be my lab.
After a couple dozen hands it was apparent that somewhere my programming logic was flawed – there were playing errors everywhere: positions were not being correctly identified and folds, calls and raises were all over the lot. It was clear that additional work was needed, but there was simply no way to debug the code. Normally, I would have put “markers” in the code to identify the source of each decision. But this is not possible in WH, so, in effect, my efforts were at an impasse and I cut my losses and quit the effort.
Bottom line: Although clearly designed by competent technicians, WH is basically unusable if making money is your goal. Given the complexities of the code it will be a practical impossibility for any non-professional programmer to even hope to master the coding environment, and while there may be some of you out there that had more success in determining functional rules that can play profitably, I am conclude that we will have to wait until someone comes along with a poker bot that is both robust and flexible enough to be used by skilled poker players who are not also software programmers.
P.S. I’m interested in hearing from anyone out there who has their own experiences with this product. Feel free to respond here or by IM.
Quote: Bottom line: Although clearly designed by competent technicians, WH is basically unusable if making money is your goal. Given the complexities of the code it will be a practical impossibility for any non-professional programmer to even hope to master the coding environment, and while there may be some of you out there that had more success in determining functional rules that can play profitably, I am conclude that we will have to wait until someone comes along with a poker bot that is both robust and flexible enough to be used by skilled poker players who are not also software programmers.
P.S. I’m interested in hearing from anyone out there who has their own experiences with this product. Feel free to respond here or by IM.
How bout not waiting for a new bot to come out and just playing yourself, weird idea but I think that is the best way to be profitable. No computer program, no matter how complex, could ever be as profitable as a good player due to the inconsistent nature of decisions and why or why not you make them, i.e. player reads.
Fantastic post. We need to fear programmers coming up with much better formula sets and selling them, so this product will only get better if the company survives, and needs to be watched with a careful eye.
Sites will easily come up with detection methods that will eventually kill the product. The maker and seller of this program is a single individual with a $350,000+ Government judgement against him, so there will be a point where he will not be able to continually release countermeasures, or he will be in jail.
Search Result 3 From: James Campbell (firstname.lastname@example.org) Subject: Re: pokerbot.com - winholdem - new release - COURTESY POST View: Complete Thread (53 articles) Original Format Newsgroups: rec.gambling.poker Date: 2004-07-16 09:20:21 PST
Here are the facts on WinHoldem Software:.
1) The use of WinHoldem software is not permitted on Paradise Poker, Poker Stars, or Party Poker or any of their affliates. 2) Poker sites are capable of detecting WinHoldem Software. 3) Players using WinHoldem software have had their accounts closed. 4) If a player has their account closed for using WinHoldem Software their bankroll could be confiscated. 5) After an independant third party test WinHoldem Software won an average of $2 an hour playing $3/$6 Limit Poker. 6) After 50 hours of play WinHoldem will pay for itself unless during that time the user's account is closed due to detection.
Here are the facts on Hixoxih Software makers of WinHoldem Software: 1) WinHoldemSupport has stated several times on this forum that they have several support people and technicians. 2) WinHoldem Software is developed and published by Hixoxih Software. 3) A D&B report on Hixoxih Software confirms that Hixoxih Software has a total of 1 employee. (www.dnb.com) 4) That employee and owner of Hixoxih Software is Ray Bornert. 5) Ray Bornert poses as WinHoldemSupport on this newsgroup, RiskDeluxeSupport on rec.games.board. 6) WinHoldemSupport believes collusion in online poker is ok. 7) Currently Ray Bornert, owner of Hixoxih Software has a Federal Tax Lien against his person to the tune of $351,635 details can be found at http://www.gsccca.org/search/Lien/lienindex.asp
A few questions for WinHoldem's potential customers: 1) Are you willing to risk your entire bankroll to make $2 an hour when it will take 50 hours just to pay for the software? 2) Do you wish to support a company that blantalty misrepresents themselves? 3) Do you want to give your credit card information to a person who believes cheating is ok and owes the government $351,000?
A poker playing bot that beats high-level competition is either in use already or will be in use very soon. It is unlikely to be detectable or commercial and will blast thru the win rates of any human alive. It will be able to play in many games and 24-7 (with the use of different computers and IPs of course). It will be so profitable that the developer will not sell it to others.
Bots will be able to kill the online games eventually. (In less than 5 years, I'm pretty sure). My hope is to get high enough, fast enough to be able to play live against drunk humans in LV...before the BOTs kill the online games.
Like it or not, that's the deal, much like the law of gravity.
I own Poki, and it plays a tough game, and it's commercial, and it can beat most low limit players and many medium limit players. I wonder what other "non-commercial" products the developers of Poki are developing or using already.
Here's some of what a seasoned high limit pro has to say about bots:
As I posted previously, I have been living in Ljubljana, Slovenia for much of the last year. The winter was a bit hard to take, with the last snow less than two weeks ago. And this language is so hard for me to learn. But I'm living the dream of a professional nomadic online poker player, and I look forward to some balmy nights playing poker by the Adriatic. I don't even bother with travelling to Vienna for live poker any more, because of the opportunity cost for three hours travel time each way. Plus, Europeans smoke like there is no tomorrow. So, I much prefer to play online.
It's kind of old news, but in case you haven't heard, the Slovenian government is sponsoring a program to train poker players. Slovenia is a socialist country, at least by American standards, and the government seems to like to waste money. The government also sponsors billiards players. The Slovenian poker players have funding for computer simulations. They get free airfare to travel to tournaments. When you see them in big games you can be sure they are playing with government money. The whole thing strikes me as a bit like fusion... sure it works, but the amount of money the Slovenian government is investing is far more than the money they get out.
That could change, though, since a big part of the research is bots. I know at least one bot here is ready for action. Someone here showed me figures suggesting that as much as 1% of the Slovenian GNP could come from poker bots playing online poker in the future. I am concerned that a country (albeit a tiny one) would so aggressively pursue money that is for some a fun pasttime and for others a serious career.
Not too sure about the $$ on this one...it does show the lien, but doesn't detail the amount. At least not that I could see on the site. Wonder where the number came from. OTOH, I don't really care either...I wouldn't buy it anyway, even if it did work well.
I think you underestimate the benefits of automated or semi-automated play, particularly for HE since there are so many weak players in the low-limit games. Also, the two are not mutually exclusive. You program your bot to play solid ABC poker on multiple tables 24/7 and maybe earn 1BB/hr on each table. Also, this kind of win rate will not break the online games or set off any alarms to the OLC's. You, meanwhile continue playing solid real poker and maybe earn 3 BB/hr. Just do the math.
uh uh....in this test, out of the box this thing made .1BB/HR at the .50/$1 games?
With some tweaking and better codes (that can be shared on the internet), I think we could all agree (even those who hate it) that winholdem could make 1BB/HR at the soft .50/$1 level. If played continuously (which isn't a possibility) that would be $24/day or nearly $750 month.
So...lets say I only set the BOT to play 15 hours/day (to avoid detection) that is about $15/day or $450 month. Get 10 computers/10 accounts and you are making $4500 a month. Rotate the machines to avoid playing "everyday" and you can still probably easily make $3000/month.
This scares the crap out of me. Am I the only one?
Quote: uh uh....in this test, out of the box this thing made .1BB/HR at the .50/$1 games?
0.1BB/HR? What was the sample size. You need a much larger sample to be "confident" in 0.1BB/HR than you do of a normal win rate. I moved off of .50/1 pretty quickly so it amounts for about 5% of my hands played. But I did play some recently when I wanted to try 4 tables, and when I wanted to build up a BR on a site I had cashed out most of my money. My WR was consistently at least 50 times better than this, per table, with little variation over time.
Quote: With some tweaking and better codes (that can be shared on the internet), I think we could all agree (even those who hate it) that winholdem could make 1BB/HR at the soft .50/$1 level.
That's a bit of a leap, especially considering the shortcomings in this area.
Quote: So...lets say I only set the BOT to play 15 hours/day (to avoid detection) that is about $15/day or $450 month. Get 10 computers/10 accounts and you are making $4500 a month. Rotate the machines to avoid playing "everyday" and you can still probably easily make $3000/month.
You could still get caught. Or someone could find a pattern of weakness in your bot's play that would cripple its WR.
Or, you could just learn to play poker and make even more.
ok, wow, you can get good and make money, yes, or.....you could get a great bot and have it play for you and make money while you. a) go on vacation with the extra money you now have. b) work and make more money. c) watch tv. d) you get the gist of it now i hope. my point is that you can make money doing nothing, would you rather make money doing something or nothing?
Quote: ok, wow, you can get good and make money, yes, or.....you could get a great bot and have it play for you and make money while you. a) go on vacation with the extra money you now have. b) work and make more money. c) watch tv. d) you get the gist of it now i hope. my point is that you can make money doing nothing, would you rather make money doing something or nothing?
1) You underestimate: - a) The amount of work and cost to maintain a fleet of bots - b) The difficulty of getting a winning bot - c) The chances of getting caught and losing a fleet of bankrolls 2) Work sucks 3) TV sucks 4) Cheating is bad
Dude, you've already got a bad reputation here, but seeing that you came clean and claim you don't do it anymore most of us are willing to let it slide. Then you post this garbage. You know what it sounds like to me? "Bots are great, and could be even better than my other cheating methods".
If you want to be a cheating scumbag, good for you. There's nothing I can do about it. but why come here a rub our faces in it?
I had a couple of questions/comments I hope you might respond to, since you seem to know what you're talking about.
1. Aside from WinHoldem, are you aware of other commercial products that work better? (I'm taking it from your post you don't think WinHoldem works at all.)
2. Don't you think a winning commercial product would destroy the game? I mean - if it was a winning product - it's hard to see how it wouldn't spread geometrically. Imagine all the people willing to buy the product, turn it on, and leave the room. The poker rooms would fill with them, and I just can't see how the fish - or anyone, for that matter - would want to stick around for that. Even just the rumor of bots would drive many people away.
3. Have you heard of Jonathan Schaeffer?
He wrote a checkers program called Chinook a while back, and he's working on poker programs now.
This is from Schaeffer's website (apparently he wrote Poki):
Q: How good is Poki?
A: The older version of Poki that plays in full 10-player games is better than a typical low-limit casino player, and wins consistently against average opponents; but it is not as good as most expert players. The newer programs being developed for the 2-player game are quite a bit better, and we believe they will eventually surpass all human players, perhaps within a few years, or less.
Q: Does Poki play on any of the online poker servers?
A: No. Poki may participate in online games in the future (including real-money games), but the program will always be clearly identified, so players will always have a choice of whether they want to play in a game with Poki or not. [If you are a manager of an online poker server, and you are interested in having Poki play at your site, please contact email@example.com].
"A poker playing bot that beats high-level competition is either in use already or will be in use very soon. It is unlikely to be detectable or commercial and will blast thru the win rates of any human alive. It will be able to play in many games and 24-7 (with the use of different computers and IPs of course). It will be so profitable that the developer will not sell it to others."
What if they do get caught? Then they will probably sell them to the public like Winholdem. Then we will know FOR SURE that they exists. Cardrooms will have to stop them once the rumour becomes REAL!
The cardrooms trying to stop those bots will probably end up closing accounts of many innocent college kids, halting wrinkly pensioner's only form of domestic adult entertainment, and other innocent bored housewifes. Innocent people will be frustrated.
Rumours of other bots will seem REAL and anybody with the Player names "Terminator", "Alien", "Cyberxxx" will clear all the tables due to the "reverse prop effect", I think was discovered by the Slovenian scientist Mikhail Bezrabotat. Any obnoxious players will find that they can clear tables faster than before they had their chat taken away.
"They get free airfare to travel to tournaments. When you see them in big games you can be sure they are playing with government money. The whole thing strikes me as a bit like fusion... sure it works, but the amount of money the Slovenian government is investing is far more than the money they get out."
The complimentaries in Slovenia are amongst the most generous in the world, I got flights tripled comped and money reimbursed despite winning thousands from Blackjack. The casinos there seems to have no idea with basic comp maths, so my guess is the Slovenian bot is Loose-Aggressive.
"That could change, though, since a big part of the research is bots. I know at least one bot here is ready for action. Someone here showed me figures suggesting that as much as 1% of the Slovenian GNP could come from poker bots playing online poker in the future. I am concerned that a country (albeit a tiny one) would so aggressively pursue money that is for some a fun pasttime and for others a serious career."
Slovenia has many casinos for such small country because nearby Italy have very few, 3 casinos last time I checked. Italians likes to gamble and so takes trips to Austria and Slovenia to play blackjack.
Poker is very small stakes penny games, but the girls are the most gorgeous around that area so I decided to impress them with my skill, courage and generosity at the poker table, for a few hours I terrorised the field, winning the biggest pots and made them play serious when they realised that they are up against a pro. After the great performance I won $2, and tipped it away generously.