Computer poker players are usually computer programs which are designed to play the game of poker against other computer opponents and sometimes even against human players. They are more commonly known as poker bots.
Most of these bots are used either as actual opponents for human players or as a form of cheating. Whether or not the bot is considered cheating is usually decided by the poker room that hosts these games. Most card rooms though forbid the use of bots.
This is a very controversial subject in the online gambling world. The opinion of players is pretty varied when it comes to deciding which types of computer program can be considered unfair for other players. One of the most important factors when deciding this is if the computer program can interface with the poker client, in other words if it can play the game without any human assistance. A lot of this depends on what types of information the program can process and what artificial intelligence is available for it.
One of the main problems some players have with these bots is that they do not suffer from certain human weaknesses. For example a bot will not get tired and suffer from fatigue affecting his decision making capacity. It will also not become influenced by any human emotion when affected by the normal variances in the game of poker. On the other hand they also have some disadvantages. For example a bot will find it very difficult or next to impossible to read a bluff or adjust its strategy depending on what actions its opponents take.
Most terms and conditions of online poker sites clearly forbid the use of bots. Some will seek out the players who do use bots and ban them. Poker clients can be programmed to detect bots but some people fear that this is too similar to embedding spyware in the client software. Another popular method they are trying out is using CAPTCHAs at random periods during play.
House bots are even more controversial because of the conflict of interest that they pose. Generally a house bot is an automated player running under the rules and regulations of that particular online poker site. They control what type of strategy it will approach. A lot of players consider these types of bots a problem but the fact remains that they can’t really tell when a user is actually a house controlled bot.
The most important factor for an efficient poker bot is Artificial Intelligence. Because poker is a game of imperfect information, it is thus impossible for anyone to deduce the final outcome of a hand, even for a computer. Because of this the programmers have to implement system based on the Nash equilibrium, Bayes Theorem or Monte Carlo simulation. All of these are imperfect methods though which can only approximate poker strategy.
Who knows, give technology another decade and we might start to see poker bots who can go head to head with some of the top poker players of the world.