Partypoker is at the forefront of the online poker industry’s efforts to tackle bots. The operator has been leading the way since 2018 and the figures suggest that it might just be winning the war.
In the first two months of 2021, it closed just 64 fraudulent accounts, seizing a mere $9000 in the process.
Partypoker was one of the first operators to take a serious stand against poker bots. It realized that an online poker room stands or falls on the integrity of its games: a trustworthy site is a sustainable site.
So, what exactly is a bot? Put simply, it is a computer program that plays poker. Like tracking software or solvers, they compile databases of hands and analyze situations to find correct plays. Unlike tracking software however, bots can play the game for you. There are plenty of them available and their skill levels are constantly improving.
To beat the world’s best poker players requires an awful lot of processing power, but even the simplest bots have two massive advantages over human opponents: they do not get tired, and they do not tilt. So a bot with the tiniest of edges can play for hours on end to generate profits.
In December 2018 partypoker announced that it was taking a stand against fake, A.I. poker accounts. Since that time it has closed 1,461 illegal accounts, but the story does not end there. It is of course important that those who have lost out to the bots are recompensed, and to that end partypoker has returned over $1.8 million, seized from those accounts, to victims of the fraudsters.
The War on Bots: A Matter of Trust
It would appear that the criminals are getting the message. Botting on the site has dropped dramatically during the last couple of years. For the six months between March and August 2019, partypoker was closing 86 accounts a month on average. The most recent six months we have figures for—September 2020 to February 2021—show that only 35 accounts per month were being shut down.
|Avg Seized per Account||$1385||$761||-45.05%|
It certainly seems that players using bots are giving partypoker a wide berth these days. But the rest of the industry needs to step up to ensure they do not just go elsewhere. PokerStars for instance knows only too well how damaging criminal activity can be, after a massive bot ring was uncovered on the site back in 2015.
Since then, PokerStars has been vigilant in monitoring illegal activity on the site and no more big botting conspiracies have been uncovered. But when it comes to tackling illegal activity, poker room operators have tricky balancing act to pull off.
They need a level of transparency to put their players at ease, but divulging too much information on how they catch cheaters could easily backfire on them. Any publicly available information could be used by fraudsters looking to get around safety measures.
Party is lucky to have the infrastructure and money to throw at the problem, which cannot have been an insignificant amount. Can other operators afford to do this? As game integrity becomes more and more import to players online, the question really is, can they afford not to?
Balancing the Eco-System
Ecology is a concept that has been around for a while in the world of online poker, but one that operators have taken on board relatively recently. In the days of the poker boom, it was easy to take large player pools for granted, but post Black Friday, that is no longer the case.
Catering for the pros and regulars was once the order of the day, but as player numbers dwindled throughout the last decade, operators began to realize that without recreational players, the poker eco-system is unsustainable.
Just like any real-world eco-system, there needs to be enough for every level of the poker food chain. Over time, recreational players will lose money to the pros, so there needs to be something else it for them. If there are too many sharks, it scares the fish away.
Innovations such as Lottery Sit and Go tournaments have proved extremely popular in this regard. Recreational players enjoy them for their quick turnaround and potentially large payouts. But there is still enough skill involved to keep the regulars interested. This is exactly the kind of balance poker room operators need to strike if they are to make their sites sustainable.
In recent years, we have seen a raft of changes to encourage recreational patrons to play—and stay—at a given poker room. These have included blind lobbies, restrictions on heads up tables, and the banning of HUDs. Cracking down on bots is the latest measures taken to make players feel safe online.
In February 2021, partypoker announced its Strategic Material Policy, which prohibits the use of virtually all external software. However, the operator has its own built-in analysis tool—My Game—for players wishing to study the game. It is a neat way of leveling the playing field.
There is no doubt that the poker world is worried about bots—and with good reason. Many commentators say that A.I. is the single biggest threat to the future of the online game.
But what partypoker has shown is that if sites are serious about tackling the problem, it can be done.
With enough determination, it is possible to keep the bots at bay.