Mike Brunker: Concern is growing in online chat rooms and news groups devoted to poker that sophisticated card-playing robots – known as “bots” in the nomenclature of the Web – are being used on commercial gambling sites to fleece newcomers, the strategy-impaired and maybe even above-average players.

“It is pretty much a certainty that bots are playing online,” said Gautam Rao, a 43-year-old Canadian poker pro who regularly plays three high-stakes Internet games simultaneously. “… What we don’t know is how strong they are.”

Widespread use of bots capable of beating your average player would pose a significant problem for the red-hot online poker sector, which has grown exponentially in recent years and is expected to top the $1 billion revenue mark this year. Without some way of verifying the identity – and humanity – of players, the business could be significantly undercut.

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