Has anybody been following the story about recent claims that computer programs will “destroy online poker”?

Last week, Andrew Smith’s widely read column on the Dallas Technology Blog claimed that this was “probably” the case, citing as evidence recent articles on the topic that ran in the EE Times (“AI beats human poker champions” and “Card-playing bots could doom online poker“).

Smith’s blog entry seemed to touch a few nerves, triggering a debate that still continues.

And today, according to InfoPowa News, Polaris creator Dr. Darse Billings has gone on record to discredit the notion, stating that such a claim is “ridiculous”:

Polaris probably sports one of the most advanced Artificial Intelligence systems yet developed for applications of this sort, but Dr. Billings wrote that it does not present a serious problem for human players despite its impressive performance against professional players and Stoxpoker coaches alike in recent times.

Blogger Andrew Smith opined that because online poker is anonymous, this could impact the future for online poker rooms as the integrity-challenged could put poker bots, as humans, into various online games. This assertion appeared to overlook the millions of dollars invested in sophisticated poker bot identification software by major online poker companies like Poker Stars and Full Tilt.

Billings did not hold back in his response to the opinion, calling it a “ridiculous conclusion.”

Polaris was the product of scientific research, and had never been used to compete online in contravention of the rules of most Internet poker sites, and the use of bots was not a catastrophe for online poker, he observed. The program only plays heads-up Limit Hold’em, which is not a popular variant. Modern programs are not strong at No-Limit or multi-player games.

“Secondly, it is not difficult to identify a known program. If you use the Fritz chess program to play chess on an online server, it will be obvious to everyone. The same applies for poker. Since using programs is against the poker site’s terms of use, if you do it you will have your account closed permanently.

“I started the research into poker A.I. in 1992, and we have had a very large team of excellent researchers working on the problem for many years. We have made a lot of progress over the past 16 years, but I can assure you, the sky is not falling,” he concluded.