MIT is offering a course (for credit) on poker theory. I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that a school known for technology and producing blackjack systems would want to capitalize on a more complex theoretical game as poker. BTW, they have a second generation blackjack team out utilizing a completely different strategy - something I considered 20+ years ago when I was counting cards and shuffle tracking, but never pursued (can't really talk about it tho). Anyway, MIT isn't the only school teaching poker. Many colleges have had software classes for years where creating bots was a typical project. There are two reasons why this is disturbing as a professional poker player.
Firstly, it just gets a lot of smarter-than-average people involved in poker that perhaps would not have otherwise been. That's never good. I suppose the competitive side of me will say "bring it on!", but adding a large crop of solid grinders to a game EVERY YEAR will only reduce my win rate in the long term. Poker is a zero sum game (with costs) after all.
More importantly, I am quite certain that over time, a good bot will be better than almost all human players. A lot of people on 2+2 seem to think that poker can't be beaten by bots. They are outright wrong. Why do I think this? Because I've seen bots dominate large parts of the global trading markets over the course of my short career, and the trend will continue. The technology hedge funds generally do multiples better than their human counterparts. And the level of technological sophistication involved would blow away a lay person.
It's actually quite laughable to think that a game with a limited decision tree (only four rounds of betting and generally 3 possible actions per round) as online poker can't be beaten with a machine. While poker bots tend to be simple now, a good bot will be able to do everything optimally - steal, bluff, bet sizing, ranges, etc. and most importantly, make optimal use of all datamined hand histories. There have been plenty of times where I could have made the EXACT correct play preflop, if I didn't have just 2 seconds to decide. There's only so much information I can process. All the positive qualities you can imagine for a human player - creativity, applying pressure, etc. can all be programmed, and programmed to do so OPTIMALLY. There are documented decent winning bots in small stakes NOW. I do not think the bot I am envisioning is out there YET. But if I can picture it in my mind, I don't see how it wouldn't be 5-10 years away.
So why do I keep playing? I DO think it's in the poker site's long term interests to keep a site bot-free, so that's going to help "some." And since I already have accepted the inevitability of bots and can think like a bot (programmer), that can only help me. But at the end of the day, I enjoy the game and I enjoy the challenge. So I keep playing. And I have a few back-up plans in case poker doesn't evolve as I hope. You should too. As Joe Gibbs used to say, "A winning effort begins with preparation."