This month’s Wired features an engaging article about the emergence of bots or automated players in online gambling. In particular, it discusses WinHoldEm and its inventor, Ray Bornert:
By fall, Bornert was ready to test his software. He logged on to a $5-limit hold ’em tournament on Paradise Poker and watched the program go. A crucial element of the test was to see how long the application could stay online without being detected. Eventually, Bornert went to bed – but the bot didn’t. The next morning when he checked his computer, WinHoldEm had won. It wasn’t a lot of money, only $30, but it proved a point. “I almost shed tears,” he recalls. “I know what Dr. Frankenstein felt like. It was a totally intoxicating experience.”
This will be a fascinating phenomenon to watch. Will innovation by poker hackers consistently pass the Turing Test? Will online gambling devolve into a game of who’s-bot-is-better?
When considering digital culture like this (or, say, copyright), I often pay attention to the ‘grey-market industries’ like porn and gambling. They’ve innovated on the Web for at least a decade, and often arrive at the most equitable solutions for companies and consumers alike. For example, have you ever heard of a porn production company suing a P2P user for pirating their material? Clearly the pornographers recognize that’s a loser’s gambit, and (despite the massive porn piracy online) still manage to make boatloads of cash.