Getting started with pokerbots

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Here is a summary of where, and how to start with pokerbots:

Where and How to Start

Coding the Wheel

The best source of how to start with pokerbots for complete newbies is Coding The Wheel. This is a series of many articles, writen by James Devlin, software developer from North Carolina. You need to know programming (C++) so that this is of good use to you.

PokerAI is the number one in academic and computer poker discussions (you will find research discussions that go beyond University Of Alberta CPRG reasearch); It's the #1 community for online pokerbotting. The site is not associated with any particular bot or framework, doesn't sells any software or services, or generates money in any way.

OpenHoldem and bot frameworks

OpenHoldem is open source (thus free) pokerbotting framework, where you can customize and programatically extend nearly every part of the bot. It is compatible (a derivate, and today - already better) version of WinHoldem. The OpenHoldem forum is the largest in terms of traffic (while the WinHoldem forum is nowadays pretty much silent). Another lately emerging pokerbot framework (much simpler and less flexible) is Shanky bonusbots. It is a commercial offering (where the integration with few pokersites is prepackaged, but one also has the ability to extend the bot with a simple poker programming language).

University of Alberta research

This is university of University Of Alberta Computer Poker Research Group. They organize the annual pokerbotting contest, and publish a lot of papers on the topic, more than any other university out there. Alberta's papers are purely academical, but they can be very inspirational. These (I would recommend Michael Johanson Master thesis) can also be great introductions to the game theory of poker and poker botting. The people of UofA also produced the software Poker Academy, and Poker Academy Prospector. This is really great software, but unfortunately their business isn't doing so well, so the development of these tools currently stale.

Personal Websites

There are many personal websites where you can find some goodies. E.g. the one of Ian Fellows (INOTbot), Teppo Salonen (BluffBot), Alex Selby (Optimal preflop heads upsolution), Aaron Davidson (Poki), and many more, check out this section.


Pretty much every site, and every pokerbot (with nearly no exceptions), except the ones above, is either dead, or a scam. Everyone that sells you a prepackaged bot is 99% scamming you. Keep this in mind, people discover the hot water daily by buying bots and then busting good amount of money.

Learn C++ or Java

Is what you will need to get started. Period. There are pokerbotters that manage it without that - but it's pretty much pain in the ass. If you don't know programming, you need to do it full time, and you have some chance to succeed but not big. If you are age 14-27 then learning programming can worth it anyway, it can be a lifechanging experience for you. And if you're older (but not very old) it may still worth it, independant of pokerbotting. If you are completely new to programming, be prepared for at least a year time learning curve (I mean learning "by the way", not full time) and that is if you're not stupid.

Can I make money while I sleep?

If you're are stupid and suck - you will not succeed with pokerbotting, similarly to how you are failing to succeed with anything else in your life. It is definetely not the silver bullet that will make you money while you sleep. It can be a great hobby, a lot of fun, and for some poeple - even make you money along that, but don't start it for (or relying) on the money part. Keep in mind that 80+, or even I can say 90+% of all people running pokerbots are losing money. And this is excluding all people using prepackaged bots (or bots for sale) - which all of them lose money, cause these are EV-.

Is developing pokerbots legal?

Yes, without doubt. Large universities does it.

Is using pokerbots for real money OK?

Using a pokerbot is not cheating from game theory point of view, and from that standpoint other things (like using HUD with exchanging hand histories) hold unfair advantage, while pokebotting does not. It is also justified and even encouraged in other environments, e.g. in stocks trading.

Using pokerbots in conjuction with specific poker site, however, depends strictly on their particular end user license agreements (EULA) that you agree to. Unfortunately, most poker EULAs forbids using bots. The EULAs, however, are writen in such a way, that almost every player breaks them, in one way or another. There is no common legal basis or consequences defined of what happens if you violate the casinos EULA. Most poker sites will either first warn you, or directly close your account and eventually seize all of your account money.

Getting Started blog

This getting started blog, quoted from here, was the original version of this PokerAI article. It's still worth reading it, if you're a newbie.

"Online poker robots are not easy cash machines. Before you begin writing your own code (or tweaking code you've purchased) you should consider that this will not be nearly as easy as you expect. Some points to consider...

1. You don't know as much about poker as you think you do. I can't stress this enough. I was a winning player before I turned loose my war room on the online poker world. I played at mid-limits up to $5/$10 and $10/$20 online, and higher at brick and mortar poker rooms. However, the first thing I realized was that I take some of my play for granted. I did the right things, but I didn't know why. Imagine trying to teach another person to speak your native tongue. Sure, you speak it very well yourself, but can you explain past-perfect tense? Subjective pronouns? Probably not if you've been out of school as long as I have, but this is a perfect analogy for how you teach your bot to speak the language of poker.

2. Nothing with this much earning potential is easy. Expect to spend hundreds of hours creating a bot that makes any sort of profit above the lowest of micro stakes. Read that again... hundreds of hours.

3. Don't build a rule set, build a brain. You will never be happy with a rules based robot. Trust me, I've had several. They are a quick way to get up and running but you'll find a nearly limitless amount of situations to be faced in this wonderful game. It is inevitable that you'll miss some and make EV- plays at the table. Instead, concentrate on creating a brain for your bot that uses more information than your hand strength and number of villains in the hand. Any good player will take money from an opponent that can't think above the first level of poker (seeing his own hand only). Your bot is no exception.

4. You don't understand variance. I thought I did when I began. I had Poker Tracker. I had tens of thousands of hands recorded of my own play. However, it is a whole new ballgame when you start recording tens of thousands of hands per day of the identical playing style and logic. I've had runs of 100,000 hands at break even, EV-, and EV+ all from the same bot.

5. Security is paramount. Don't screw around and get your accounts banned. You are thinking, "Oh, it's just $50 I put in to toy around with penny tables. It won't kill me" $50 loss won't hurt you but take into consideration what that account may be worth in the future. 6 months from now after you've built a killer bot, that account may have a very large earning potential. What I wouldn't give to have all the accounts back that I foolishly squandered away.

6. Don't be greedy. So you've built a winner... don't go and ruin it all with 12 hour sessions of 12-tabling. Both the site and the players will notice this. Also, don't think you can farm the micros mercilessly forever. If a human wins at the micros over a long stretch of hands, he moves up limits. Your bot should do the same. Do you expect a site to not notice that you've played 50k hands of $.25/$.50 poker every month for a year?

7. Get a second opinion. Post hands to forums for discussion. Get a session review buddy. Do whatever you have to do to get an outside perspective on your bot's poker play. It's very easy to let all of your exposure to the bot influence your own game and theory. Resist the temptation to defend your bot's play automatically. You might be talking yourself into reinforcing a bad habit that it taught you."

See also


  • Life as an Online Pokerbot: Seven things before you start
  • Max's forums OpenHoldem school level 1
  • PokerAI forums
  • How To Write An Online Poker Bot, article on RGP.
  • A guide to creating your own Pokerbot Creating a Texas Holdem Bot
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