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Play like a Bot

How to Play like a Bot

Poker bot controversies abound.

Last year a couple members of the twoplustwo community raised concerns that a bot ring had made over $1.5 million in the PokerStars PLO games.

Most of us react to news like this with a mixture of awe and disgust.

They must be completely devoid of all moral fiber. But WOW they also must be damn good programmers.

Yes, the bots are out there.
We can complain about it.
Or we can learn from them!

How do bots win?

One way you can frame a poker game is to say: the biggest winners make fewer and smaller mistakes. As we’re all too painfully aware, many (the majority?) of our blunders can be traced back to our emotions.

For instance, imagine a hand you play where everything “gets there” on the river.

You know you should fold, but your curiosity gets the better of you. You talk yourself into a call by focusing too much on a small part of your opponent’s range that you actually beat.

This kind of rationalization works against our logical faculties and hurts our profits.

Bots obviously don’t have this problem. They live in a world of 1’s and 0’s, bits and bytes. It doesn’t matter how many times they get sucked out on that day, they will still execute the same line of code in the same way.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could do that? It would certainly curtail our mistakes.

Reducing your Emotions

Even simply embracing the idea of “playing like a bot” can help. Apply this phrase as a silent mantra in game to remind yourself to take the digital high road.

We all suffer from different levels of emotional entanglement while we play. It’s unrealistic to expect that we can quash this beast entirely. Attempting that will just lead to more suffering.

Rather endeavor to lessen the effect that emotions have on your game over time by employing certain habits and techniques on and off the table. There are numerous books on the subject as it relates to poker as well as other kinds of performance.

But there’s one specific technique we can steal from the bots.

Thinking in Code

Bots run on computer code, which is a series of logical statements or instructions.

For the bot to succeed, the programmer has had to think through as many poker situations as possible and come up with a response. The coder must generalize situations and employ generic responses, since a specific response to every scenario would be impossible given the relative infinitude of possibilities.

We can do the same in our game.

First we must find ways to generalize scenarios. And then we can build “scripts” to handle them.

Here’s a simple example. You open ATs in MP to 3bb. A 20bb short stack on the button jams. It’s folded to you.

We could generalize this situation to be: facing short-stack pre-flop jams. And our script might look like this:

  1. Calculate our pot equity (as a percentage).
  2. Estimate the range that our opponent is jamming.
  3. Estimate our showdown equity versus that range.
  4. If our showdown equity is greater than our pot equity, call. Else fold.

Notice the final conditional statement. It reads just like a program. These scripts can also be created as flow charts.

The Benefits of a Script

There’s much to be gained from writing and executing such scripts.

First, it leaves little room for emotions. You’re forcing your brain to employ it’s logical faculties, which are distinct from the emotional.

Second, you now have a specific technique that you can practice away from the table. And if you’re using the same technique in game, then all of that practice will have a directly positive impact on your play.

Lastly, knowing you have a means of solving certain poker problems can give you confidence. Eventually you establish enough of these that you feel comfortable solving any poker problem.

At higher levels you spend less time trying to figure out how to solve a poker hand, and more time working out your assumptions, calculating solutions, and exploring tolerances and various counter-strategies.

A Complete Set of Pre-written Scripts

In my upcoming webinar, I’ll be distributing a complete set of these scripts to use on the river. They’ll cover the three major scenarios: value-betting, bluffing, and bluff-catching for large pots and small, for in position and out of position.

If you’re interested, then feel free to join me. As of this writing, there are still some spots left.

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1 Comment
  • Mika Hämäläinen
    July 15, 2016 at 2:02 pm

    It would be very interesting to pit different scripts against each other, and learn from it. This is why programming is useful, you can do all sorts of stuff with it, and most importantly, learn poker. =)

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