Update from our CEO Phil Nagy Regarding Bots on the Winning Poker Network
By Bob Garcia
Yesterday on Twitter, a customer asked me for a status update regarding poker bots on the Winning Poker Network.
Here’s an update as to how our war against BOTS is going, what we’ve done over the past months and its effectiveness.
We devoted some manpower in analyzing how exactly bots work and how they interact with the poker client. As a result, a major discovery has changed our approach in how to attack them.
Our security teams discovered that both commercial and private bots process the information at a poker table (what cards they have, what position the bot is in etc.) by reading the graphical pixels. We found this was a common trait among all bots we tested.
As a result, we found that if we change the graphics within the poker client, it renders them useless until the new layout is solved, taking considerable manpower on their end in order to remap the table. Over the past months we’ve made 4 graphical updates to the poker client in order to break the bots.
They were on the following dates:
1. May 20th
2. September 5th
3. October 15th
4. November 14th
This proved considerably effective in slowing them down as the programmers of the bots then had to remap the table which often takes weeks or even months.
Here are screenshots from some commercial bot messages to their clientele:
We then further staffed a Customer Analysis Team to specifically evaluate the gameplay volume of both new and existing accounts. Specifically, they would look at the gameplay before and after the dates the bots were broken because of the graphical update, and then flag players who were playing consistently high volume before the update, and considerably slowed or stopped their volume altogether once the new graphics were introduced.
Once these players were flagged, they are then requested to complete a BOT protocol. The steps involve producing a video of playing/recreating a session with the same amount of tables/length that they have been consistently playing. We then compare the player stats of the recreated session versus the stats of the historical session to determine whether they are a match.
For those who pass the BOT protocol, their accounts become reinstated. For those who do not, they are banned and added to our refund list to those players who have been affected.
To date, we’ve banned and refunded 46 discovered bots and refunded over $450,000 to affected customers. We have more banned accounts and refunds to credit to our database. Since our update, we are still having problems accurately importing historical data, which is the reason that refunds have been delayed. We want to ensure the data is correct and every affected player gets their fair share of the refund.
They are coming, and every bot and every dollar credited will be publicly posted as per our Transparent and Verifiable Policy outlined here.
Within the client, we’ve also added a CAPTCHA service powered by Google Technologies that automatically prompts the player to correctly identify images. This CAPTCHA is displayed to the players after hitting certain milestones of hands played. Any player who is not present while their bot is running will fail the CAPTCHA test and have their account suspended for further review.
Our next step is to implement graphical changes on individual hands and on individual players while live play is happening. This way, the bot will break that specific hand and we’ll be able to spot check, ban, and investigate players immediately with irrefutable evidence in hand.
This is, and will always be, an evolving battle. As we get better modes of detection, bot operators will attempt to find workarounds. Regardless, we will continue to implement the solutions above while developing more tools to make our gameplay environment the safest on the internet.
We will keep you posted as our progress continues.
Phil Nagy/WPN CEO