Not your typical bots

With the meteoric rise of the Storm Worm - which, by the way, appears nowhere close to demise nearly 11 months after its initial launch - we have been hearing a lot about bots lately.

Storm's main purpose is to seed users' machines with a trojan that will connect it to an elaborate peer-to-peer bot network, from which it will seek instructions. Mostly these bots are used in spam, the pump-and-dump kind, but also to spread malware - whose goal is to build up the botnet even more.

Pretty soon, "bot" is going to become a household term.

But another type of zombie - gambling bots - are making their way in to common vernacular, especially if you're an online poker player.

Robotic poker players, controlled by humans, provide a considerable edge over the average real-life poker player - and have long struck fear in even the most stone-faced rounder.

I know I blamed robots on many nights of online poker losses before I finally decided that playing live was more profitable (and more social). Nowadays, I've stopped playing poker entirely because I can't deal with getting beat by players who get lucky. Or is that just some justification for how bad I really am???

The New York Times' Freakonomics blog has an interesting post on the subject. Not on me being a bad poker player, although that would make a great blog, but on the topic of gambling bots.

The post, written by economist Ian Ayres, says the rise of sophisticated bots could single-handedly bring down online poker worldwide.

"...the rise of gambling bots may soon depress online poker participation for a very different reason. In the very near future, online poker may become a suckers’ game that humans won’t have a chance to win. Bots are quite scale-able and it will be virtually impossible to prohibit computer or computer-assisted online playing," he writes.

Online casinos are working overtime to quell players' concerns, but as we know, the malicious cybercrooks are almost always one step ahead of the law - especially if there is money to be made.

But fear not, as Ayres reminds us, we can always count on live poker, where facial ticks and subtle hand movements still count for something.

That is, until we create a robot that looks like a human...

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