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Poker Program Battles Humans In Vegas

timothy posted about 6 years ago | from the leds-blink-when-they're-bluffing dept.

Software 312

Bridger writes "Poker software called Polaris will play a rematch against human players during the 2008 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. Developed by an artificial intelligence group at the University of Alberta in Canada, Polaris will be pitted against several professionals at the Rio Hotel between July 3rd and 6th. 'It's possible, given enough computing power, for computers to play "perfectly," where over a long enough match, the program cannot lose money,"' said associate professor Michael Bowling.'"

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Tell (5, Funny)

illumastorm (172101) | about 6 years ago | (#24050889)

When it's bluffing, it blinks twice.

Reminds me of those... (-1, Redundant)

AgentFade2Black (968245) | about 6 years ago | (#24050911)

100%+ slots in Vegas.
Yes, over enough time you will get back 100%+ of your money.
It depends on how long "enough time" is. For the impatient among us, that could be a while.

Re:Reminds me of those... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24051159)

when I google your phrase about 100%+ slots in Vegas, I get no results whatsoever -- because why the FUCK would a casino keep a machine on the floor that lost money every year (or every five years, or every decade). They know the odds. You put money. You pull. You put money. You pull. Nothing changes whether one person continues for forty years or a hundred thousand people continue through forty years, it looks the same from the casino's perspective for that particular slot machine.

Re:Reminds me of those... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24051257)

It is possible for a casino to have 100%+ machines, but only if the jackpot is "progressive" and only at times when it has progressed enough.

Re:Reminds me of those... (1)

gfody (514448) | about 6 years ago | (#24052001)

I think it's more likely that casinos have 0% slots. The slot machine never ever pays out. This of course doesn't dissuade your average gambler.

Re:Reminds me of those... (1)

Random Destruction (866027) | about 6 years ago | (#24051357)

I dont know about over 100%, but I know some of the low denomination machines pay off really well. I guess the idea is you think winning is so easy, you might as well go to a larger denomination machine.

Re:Reminds me of those... (3, Funny)

wattrlz (1162603) | about 6 years ago | (#24051369)

Most 100%+ slots I've seen, in Vegas, stipulate that you only get 100% of your money back, "with perfect play". Which would mean the majority of people would still loose plenty of money. Besides, even if you did double your money on a 106% slot you'd probably blow it all on craps five seconds later anyway.

Re:Reminds me of those... (5, Insightful)

alrudd1287 (1288914) | about 6 years ago | (#24051507)

Playing perfectly = keeping 100% of your money in your wallet

Re:Reminds me of those... (3, Interesting)

retchdog (1319261) | about 6 years ago | (#24051389)

If the machine "loses" (assuming 100% utilization) less than $4/hour on average, they almost certainly come out ahead on amenities/drinks; family members and friends playing other games; people getting bored of the low-payoff slots and losing money on other games; etc. Slots are there partly to keep "non-gamblers" busy pulling a lever, while their acquaintances piss away larger sums.

Once the machine gives away around minimum wage or higher, you might start getting crazies and obsessives working it.

Re:Reminds me of those... (2, Interesting)

ZombieWomble (893157) | about 6 years ago | (#24051567)

100%+ "pure" slot games aren't exactly common (because as you say, they will invariably lose you money). What is very common is 100%+ return poker machines or games with similar levels of user input, where the machines pay out more than 100% if you play 'perfectly', forever. Of course perfect play is often unintuitive and involves things like taking the safe bet rather than higher payout options - not something most people in Vegas are renowned for.

Re:Reminds me of those... (1)

ConanG (699649) | about 6 years ago | (#24051911)

Actually, video poker machines with +100% payout are harder to come by than they used to be. There are actually websites out there where people track which machines have the best payouts. These are professionals who make their living (or a good portion of it) gaming the system.

Some of you are probably asking, "Why the FSCK would they make machines that payout more than they take in???"
It's mostly what the parent said. Most people don't play perfectly and therefore lose money playing. They make the payout system complicated enough so that very few people can actually play well enough to consistently win. Then they pull in the people who think they are good enough, so it works in their favor!

Re:Reminds me of those... (2, Informative)

ragethehotey (1304253) | about 6 years ago | (#24051963)

You are fundamentally mis-understanding the importance of variance. Try to think of it in the REALLY big picture of the long term. If I offer you a game you spin a wheel where the bet is $1000, and 999 out of 1000 times you will lose everything, and 1 time out of 1000 you will get paid $100,001 dollars, my game is now paying out OVER 100%. Now this is a simplified example, but almost NOBODY is willing to take those swings of variance for such a ridiculously small edge. The casino has almost unlimited amounts of money, and can ALWAYS bear the swings. This is also besides the point that there are MAYBE only a handful of them on the casino floor and they are always filled in the WAY back of the casino, ensuring that for giving up a tiny edge, hundreds of gamblers will come in and try, and give up.

Lets mess with it (5, Funny)

TornCityVenz (1123185) | about 6 years ago | (#24050917)

I'd love to see one of the guys slick at handleing cards, slip a couple extra aces into the deck, or the like. Would the program adapt? Draw a laser and call him a no good sack of mostly water?

Re:Lets mess with it (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24051531)

You got to know when to holdem, know when to foldem, know when to walk away,,,and when to run exploits,,

With apologies to Kenny Rogers.

They have to turn the monitor on it's side (5, Funny)

StaticEngine (135635) | about 6 years ago | (#24050919)

If they want to correctly display the advanced AI "poker face": :|

I'm at least as good as this software... (1, Redundant)

toetagger (642315) | about 6 years ago | (#24050935)

'It's possible, given enough computing power, for computers to play "perfectly," where over a long enough match, the program cannot lose money," said associate professor Michael Bowling.'

I'm at least as good as this software! I also won't loose any money playing Poker. In fact, I'm better, because I don't loose any money in the short, near, or long term! I just don't gamble!

Re:I'm at least as good as this software... (2, Insightful)

iONiUM (530420) | about 6 years ago | (#24051043)

You can't lose what you don't put in the middle. But you can't win much either.

Re:I'm at least as good as this software... (5, Insightful)

brady8 (956551) | about 6 years ago | (#24051479)

I was hoping this wouldn't have to be said, but playing Poker isn't gambling if you play it properly. The house takes a small cut from each hand which reduces your winnings by a proportionally small amount, but otherwise it's like anything else requiring skill - over time, the best player will always win more money, and the worst player (skill-wise) will lose the most money.

Re:I'm at least as good as this software... (1)

Thinboy00 (1190815) | about 6 years ago | (#24051543)

I was hoping this wouldn't have to be said, but playing Poker isn't gambling if you play it properly. [snip]

Hmm... but there's more chance than in other games like e.g. chess.

Re:I'm at least as good as this software... (2, Insightful)

brady8 (956551) | about 6 years ago | (#24051673)

For people who play professionally, or even amateurs who play often over several years, the chance aspect of the game disappears as the card distribution converges, and skill is all that is left to decide the winnings.

Over a career playing poker, there's just about the same chance/skill ratio as there is in chess.

Re:I'm at least as good as this software... (2, Insightful)

pxc (938367) | about 6 years ago | (#24051785)

The chance/skill ratio in chess is 0, because there's no chance in chess. I don't understand how you can say that.

Re:I'm at least as good as this software... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24051899)

It's called convergence of a random variable. If you play enough poker hands, the chance aspect of it goes to zero... which would be the same as chess. Which was my original point.

Define 'Long Enough' (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24050949)

"It's possible, given enough computing power, for computers to play "perfectly," where over a long enough match, the program cannot lose money,"

Unless the match is infinitely long, that is not true.

Re:Define 'Long Enough' (2, Interesting)

Edward Kmett (123105) | about 6 years ago | (#24051265)

and played with infinite money

This is like "computer battle human in tennis" (3, Insightful)

D.McGuiggin (1317705) | about 6 years ago | (#24050959)

Only to find out it's Wii tennis, a very small subset of "tennis"

The statements made regarding this subject apply only to the subset of poker being played, seven-card limit Texas Hold'em.

Re:This is like "computer battle human in tennis" (3, Insightful)

JordanL (886154) | about 6 years ago | (#24051073)

Limit hold'em? No wonder they can write a computer program to play perfectly. Let's see them do no-limit and make the same claim.

Re:This is like "computer battle human in tennis" (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24051215)

actually, Java has been playing "perfect" poker (all variants) for years now. It's the clever new "Just-In-Time" virtual machines that make it possible, compiling and optimizing the program in real time.
"Poker face"? No problem with the latest Java 3d facial animation libraries.
The end result is perfect play and code that runs (at least) 10 times as fast as that from a modern C++ compiler.
Even the very best hand crafted assembler poker games can't reach a quarter of the speed of Java.

Re:This is like "computer battle human in tennis" (2, Funny)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 6 years ago | (#24051407)

Even the very best hand crafted assembler poker games can't reach a quarter of the speed of Java.

Speed of Java!?! Don't make me laugh. Java has, and will always be slower then assembly.

Re:This is like "computer battle human in tennis" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24051571)

whoosh?

who can say.

Re:This is like "computer battle human in tennis" (1)

stinerman (812158) | about 6 years ago | (#24051669)

Well trolled, sir.

As I'm sure you know, the language (be it assembly, Java, C, etc.) doesn't matter. What matters is how well the compiler optimizes, since everything gets turned into assembly anyway.

By your comment and the context you are claiming that writing a program in hand-coded assembly is faster than writing the same program in Java and that this is true for all programs. That, sir, is one of the most asinine things I've ever heard. Hardly ever does even an expert assembly programmer do better than an optimizing compiler, but it does happen occasionally.

Please read the Wikipedia article on dynamic recompilation [wikipedia.org] for more information.

Not necessary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24051941)

>Java has, and will always be slower then assembly.

It all depends on who writes the code.

Re:This is like "computer battle human in tennis" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24051947)

Make the Java strong enough, and I'm well-nigh supersonic.

Re:This is like "computer battle human in tennis" (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 6 years ago | (#24051797)

Oh, yes, whatever. BTW, Common Lisp compilers have been able to compile code generated at run-time into native machine code for the past two decades.

The end result is perfect play and code that runs (at least) 10 times as fast as that from a modern C++ compiler. Even the very best hand crafted assembler poker games can't reach a quarter of the speed of Java.

You need to take off those pink Java glasses. Unless you are truly trying to benefit from JIT optimization, e.g., by generating a genetic algorithm and letting the runtime to cook it into native code, a good C++ compiler will still in most cases beat a JVM hands down. They can do most of the JVM optimizations ahead-of-time, and then some. True, they cannot do certain things that JVM can do, but they have at least much, much more time to do the rest.

By definition, improving a JIT stops making sense when the increase of the CPU time slice of the JIT outweighs the performance increase of your app code, whereas C++ compilers can happily spend their time making fancy expensive things including AOT profile-guided optimization (much like HotSpot's feedback based compilation) almost as long as they wish. Oh, and since when does Java allow you to exercise the SSE unit, for example? (And not with just scalar SSE2 FP math, please...)

(Note that I am a C++-- person. I would not touch C++, my brain has already been irreparably damaged with such a large dose of Lisp and Haskell that C++ would probably take me out. But the things you are writing here simply make very little sense to me.)

Re:This is like "computer battle human in tennis" (1)

D.McGuiggin (1317705) | about 6 years ago | (#24052019)

"actually, Java has been playing "perfect" poker (all variants) for years now."

Thanks for the laugh, I enjoyed it. However, if you'd like to pick any Java based player (or several, I'm open) and put up some money, I'll happily help you prove your point playing some OH8. You can even choose the stakes (real money please, no pissant stakes, say 10-20?).

Well?

Can't lose money? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24050969)

the program cannot lose money," said associate professor Michael Bowling

Riiight. So why are you an associate professor instead of cleaning up with online poker?

Re:Can't lose money? (4, Insightful)

InlawBiker (1124825) | about 6 years ago | (#24051163)

The online poker sites are already filled with "bots" that play statistically perfect poker. Or at least perfect enough to earn a profit over time.

It's not a terribly difficult calculation to know if a bet has sufficient pot odds [wikipedia.org] . Playing against imperfect players a bot is virtually garaunteed to make money.

Against professionals though it might have trouble winning, since pros also calculate pot odds more or less perfectly, but can change their play to throw off the computer. It's sort of akin to how a chess master might beat a computer.

Re:Can't lose money? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24051365)

It's also not terribly difficult to decide which cards should come out of the digital deck next. I would never trust an online gambling site without some assurance of legitimacy by an accredited auditing agency.

Re:Can't lose money? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24051509)

The online poker sites are already filled with "bots" that play statistically perfect poker.

I have a friend who retired at 30 after successfully using his bots to win enough money to make him able to live off the interest. He still uses his bots, but now more cautiosly and mostly when he wants to buy a new car, boat etc.

I would never ever play online poker. It is much safer in real life.

Re:Can't lose money? (2, Insightful)

MobyDisk (75490) | about 6 years ago | (#24051519)

That is not akin to how a chess master beats a computer. In chess there is no bluffing and no chance.

Re:Can't lose money? (1)

InlawBiker (1124825) | about 6 years ago | (#24051789)

You could be right, it depends on the poker AI. In chess everything is known so all possible moves can be calculated. But a chess player can disguise a strategy, causing a computer to calculate probable moves incorrectly. If it's done well the computer will makes moves to defend an attack that never comes. That's sort of a bluff.

I would think that the best poker AI does not try to anticipate what's in the player's hand based on what he does, but stays strictly with math based on known cards. The minute the AI starts adjusting to what opponents are doing it becomes vulnerable to being tricked.

Either way it's an intersting problem. It's entirely possible that, since poker is a game partly based on luck, that both human and computer are playing perfectly enough to never know which is really better.

Re:Can't lose money? (1)

Thinboy00 (1190815) | about 6 years ago | (#24051585)

Since when do computers get "thrown off"? If you use miniMax and opponent chooses to play optimally, computer has anticipated this, in other scenarios (i.e. opponent plays suboptimally), it just recalculates.

Re:Can't lose money? (5, Insightful)

Karganeth (1017580) | about 6 years ago | (#24051707)

Poker sites are not full of bots. The one I play at is full of terrible players who enjoy throwing their money away.

No bot plays perfect poker. I'm sure that no bot will be perfect for a very, very long time (way beyond my lifetime). The mathematics behind poker is incredibly complex. A good book about it is the mathematics of poker by Bill Chen and Jerrod Ankenman. From reading your post it seems to me that you have a very little idea about the problems with solving poker and even how to play poker. You can't just call when you have the odds and fold when you don't. It just doesn't work that way - that strategy is easily exploited. I'm also not sure why you were modded +5 Insightful... I guess there aren't many poker players here at /.

Re:Can't lose money? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24051871)

Incredibly complex? Do yourself a favour and pick up a real mathematics text for once. Then you'll at least have some frame of reference to use before you go spouting off and looking like a dummy.

Re:Can't lose money? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24051793)

No offense, but you obviously don't understand poker very well. For example, unless the betting structure is very restrictive (e.g. heads up game with 2x BB stacks) a bot could not possibly play "statistically perfect poker" (an erroneous statement in itself) because it's a game of incomplete information. Perfect poker is only possible when you can see everyone's hole cards. Computers do not have any intrinsic edge in this regard.

Re:Can't lose money? (1, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 6 years ago | (#24051485)

But if I was running an online poker game I would make the house win like 50% of the time and a "player" which was another bot win 25% of the time leaving the other players to fight over the extra 25%. Also, if you control what comes out of the deck and who it goes to, it is not that hard to win

Re:Can't lose money? (4, Informative)

InlawBiker (1124825) | about 6 years ago | (#24051665)

The online poker houses don't ever "win" because they're not in the game. They're just the host, and they make money by taking percentage of the pot for each game.

It's for this reason they have an interest in making sure the games are fair. If there was ever reason to suspect the games were weighted or unfair everybody would leave to another host.

They are way too busy (literally) raking in the dough to cheat. The big online poker sites go through a lot of trouble to keep their reputation clean.

Re:Can't lose money? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24051763)

It's for this reason they have an interest in making sure the games are fair. If there was ever reason to suspect the games were weighted or unfair everybody would leave to another host.

Riiight. The people who run Absolute poker [pokernews.com] got caught doing exactly that.

Re:Can't lose money? (1)

AuMatar (183847) | about 6 years ago | (#24051699)

You obviously never play poker. There is no house player. The house doesn't have a hand. Only real people do. The house makes its money by a rake- they take a small percentage of every pot. So it doesn't matter who wins to them, so long as money is being bet.

Zero sum game (5, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | about 6 years ago | (#24050975)

Poker is a zero sum game. Pit two of these 'perfect' players against each other, and one of them will lose money.

Re:Zero sum game (5, Funny)

pbhj (607776) | about 6 years ago | (#24051005)

Almost exactly what I was thinking, but for me it was "put 3 of these computers against each other and they'll devalue the currency?".

Re:Zero sum game (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24051033)

If they're both 'perfect', then they will both break even an infinite amount of times, given an infinite amount of play (unbiased random walk).

Re:Zero sum game (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24051069)

Poker is a zero sum game. Pit two of these 'perfect' players against each other, and one of them will lose money.

For a single hand, yes. Over time they should average back out to zero.

Re:Zero sum game (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24051565)

Less than zero, because this is in Las Vegas. The house is taking a piece of every pot. They're the ones who are guaranteed to win.

Re:Zero sum game (5, Funny)

jandrese (485) | about 6 years ago | (#24051203)

I think the point is that two of them facing off would end up with just as much money as they started with over the long run.

Of course if the pool of money is not unlimited, then in the short term one will pull ahead of the other, and can "win" through sheer random chance. This isn't really that hard of a concept, the idea is that if another player is playing slightly suboptimally, then against this computer and both with a limitless pool of money and playing forever, the computer will slowly but surely pull ahead of the flawed opponent. It does not mean the computer will win against the human players in Vegas for several reasons:
  1. The pool of money is limited (and fairly small)
  2. The playtime is finite and also fairly small
  3. Human players can walk away from the table if they get a short term advantage (quit while you are ahead), I'm guessing the computer program doesn't do that

This reminds me of an old mathematician joke:

One day this guy is finally fed up with his middle-class existence and decides to do something about it. He calls up his best friend, who is a mathematical genius. "Look," he says, "do you suppose you could find some way mathematically of guaranteeing winning at the race track? We could make a lot of money and retire and enjoy life." The mathematician thinks this over a bit and walks away mumbling to himself.

A week later his friend drops by to ask the genius if he's had any success. The genius, looking a little bleary-eyed, replies, "Well, yes, actually I do have an idea, and I'm reasonably sure that it will work, but there a number of details to be figured out.

After the second week the mathematician appears at his friend's house, looking quite a bit rumpled, and announces, "I think I've got it! I still have some of the theory to work out, but now I'm certain that I'm on the right track."

At the end of the third week the mathematician wakes his friend by pounding on his door at three in the morning. He has dark circles under his eyes. His hair hasn't been combed for many days. He appears to be wearing the same clothes as the last time. He has several pencils sticking out from behind his ears and an almost maniacal expression on his face. "WE CAN DO IT! WE CAN DO IT!!" he shrieks. "I have discovered the perfect solution!! And it's so EASY! First, we assume that horses are perfect spheres in simple harmonic motion..."

Re:Zero sum game (1)

palegray.net (1195047) | about 6 years ago | (#24051713)

Maybe I'm a bigger geek than even I supposed, but that's the best joke I've heard all week (and I work on a naval base). Mod parent up :).

Re:Zero sum game (2, Interesting)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | about 6 years ago | (#24051337)

Pit two of these 'perfect' players against each other, and one of them will lose money.

Over the long term, both would stay fairly close to even. Or, to put it another way, play is perfect if taking no different move is to your benefit. When both players play perfectly, it is a Nash equilibrium.

An interesting note, even though they are of equal skill, one will likely be in the lead for the vast majority of the time.

The summary is poor in that it says it is impossible for a perfect player to lose. Given bad enough luck, a perfect player can lose their entire stack before they manage to win it back.

Re:Zero sum game (1)

Hatta (162192) | about 6 years ago | (#24051373)

An interesting note, even though they are of equal skill, one will likely be in the lead for the vast majority of the time.

Thanks, that was my point expressed more elegantly. I remember the effect from stats class, I don't remember what it's called though, if it has a name.

Re:Zero sum game (1)

Thinboy00 (1190815) | about 6 years ago | (#24051627)

Is that at all related to positive feedback (i.e. the more money you have the easier it is to make money)?

It's not fair... (3, Interesting)

Thelasko (1196535) | about 6 years ago | (#24050981)

professional poker is a psychological game. Unless the computer has the feeling of anxiety it will have an edge.

What I find impressive is the fact it lost in the past. It would also be interesting to see what it can do with some sort of lie detector software.

Re:It's not fair... (1)

VeNoM0619 (1058216) | about 6 years ago | (#24051021)

These are not the cards you are looking for...
It can't be programmed to never lose, part of poker is LUCK, if you keep getting dealt bad hands, you still have to pay the blinds/ante.

Re:It's not fair... (1)

Thinboy00 (1190815) | about 6 years ago | (#24051661)

RTFA: He said "In the long run." Either you mean in the short run (i.e. a finite amount of time) or you think that the same bad hands will be dealt to the same player forever (technically impossible unless the dealer is cheating).

Re:It's not fair... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24051945)

professional poker is a psychological game. Unless the computer has the feeling of anxiety it will have an edge.

What I find impressive is the fact it lost in the past. It would also be interesting to see what it can do with some sort of lie detector software.

yes poker is a psychological game and this is why a computer DOES NOT have an edge. A person can evaluate another persons psychological reactions and make adjustments, a computer can't. Also the computer must rely incredibly heavily on maths and odds for there play, while this makes it an incredibly solid player it also makes it easier to exploit by a human player. In tournaments some of the easiest people to send broke are the ones that play like a computer (ie all maths and no psychology), you just slowly drain them.

hmmmm (2, Insightful)

v_1_r_u_5 (462399) | about 6 years ago | (#24051011)

"It's possible, given enough computing power, for computers to play "perfectly," where over a long enough match, the program cannot lose money,"

So what happens when you pit two of these against each other?

Re:hmmmm (4, Funny)

darkhitman (939662) | about 6 years ago | (#24051039)

They realize the only way to win is not to play?

Re:hmmmm (1)

felipekk (1007591) | about 6 years ago | (#24051123)

They've done that. It turned out that the dealer lost everything he had: car, savings, house...

Duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24051977)

Over the short term, one wins by chance.

Over the long term, they tie.

These people don't understand poker (4, Insightful)

taustin (171655) | about 6 years ago | (#24051057)

professional poker is a psychological game. Unless the computer has the feeling of anxiety it will have an edge.

Poke is almost entirely a game of skill, not chance, at professional levels. The average dufus at his weekend poker game will play for luck. Professionals play the other players. A computer has no tells, and can't read them in a human player. The computer therefore has a distince edge against the amateur, and a distinct disadvantage against the pro.

What I find impressive is the fact it lost in the past. It would also be interesting to see what it can do with some sort of lie detector software.

The only lie detector that has any hope of working - as you should know, if you read /. - is a professional poker player.

Re:These people don't understand poker (1)

felipekk (1007591) | about 6 years ago | (#24051157)

Professionals play the other players.

Exactly. How do you expect a professional to win when he is playing against a player that does not give out tells and other clues?

Re:These people don't understand poker (1)

ElizabethGreene (1185405) | about 6 years ago | (#24051273)

The same way we take down 12,000 player online poker tournaments. Just grind it out.

Re:These people don't understand poker (1)

felipekk (1007591) | about 6 years ago | (#24051451)

Exactly. Since the gaming interface is now very limited (no tells), a computer can and will, over time, learn and play the game in a manner that he will always win over a human player.

It's simple: if you make the game all about math (odds), a computer will simply be better at it. He will be able to look through historical data for that player flawlessly and make decisions based on that that will have the best EV (expected value).

And when you go from online to live play, the interface is still limited because the computer does not give out tells. The game becomes a simple matter of calculating pot odds and evaluating previous hands to calculate the correct play.

When it comes to play poker against a computer, in the future, the correct move is not to play.

Re:These people don't understand poker (4, Insightful)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 6 years ago | (#24051513)

I'm not sure you're entirely correct. Poker is a game of skill, yes, but so is chess. The difference is that poker is based on incomplete information whereas chess is not. That just means you have to play probabilities though.

The whole tells topic is important in professional poker for increasing your odds against flawed human players. That can give you an edge over the basic statistics. However, if you're playing a computer that doesn't have any tells, my intuition says that the game reduces to basic probability.

That means the computer, given enough computational resources to play a perfect game, can wipe the floor with amateurs, and will be more closely matched (but never at a disadvantage) with the best players.

That doesn't mean that the computer would be unbeatable. Since the game is based on probability, you could still beat the computer, but in the limit you could only expect to win as many games as you lost.

The computer would also be at a disadvantage if it were playing a game with multiple human players. A good psychological poker player could use his advantage over the other humans at the table to take a chip lead, which would be an advantage over the computer.

Re:These people don't understand poker (4, Insightful)

ElizabethGreene (1185405) | about 6 years ago | (#24051709)

The whole tells topic is important in professional poker for increasing your odds against flawed human players. That can give you an edge over the basic statistics. However, if you're playing a computer that doesn't have any tells, my intuition says that the game reduces to basic probability.

The assumption here is that the computer has no tells. That is not a safe assumption. Most tells aren't about whether or not the guy licks the oreo on a bluff (Reference: Rounders), heart rate (a really good tell), pupil diameter, or galvanic skin response. They are about how an opponent plays in a particular situation. After a few rounds you get a feel for the types of starting hands a player will play, and their betting patterns. Unless the software opponent has each and every one of these actions randomized to a good extent, it will be read and played. "Perfect" poker software is not impossible, but it is a harder problem than it looks.

-ellie

Re:These people don't understand poker (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24051839)

Poke is almost entirely a game of skill, not chance, at professional levels.

Not even remotely true.
From a larger separated pool the pros always beat amateurs , overcome bad hands and raise to the top but not when pitted against each other .

Statistically over maybe many many hands everyone could be dealt equally strong cards evening things out . But in reality someone with repeated bad hands early on would never even last till he can get favorable cards if playing against players of equal caliber .

A computer has no tells, and can't read them in a human player. The computer therefore has a distince edge against the amateur, and a distinct disadvantage against the pro.

why does that put a computer at a disadvantage against a pro ????

Re:These people don't understand poker (1)

SecretSquirrel321 (1256326) | about 6 years ago | (#24051873)

If the computer has no tells and can read no tells, then I would think it would be at a disadvantage against a human player who has no tells but can read opponents tells.

If there are 5 players, including 4 humans and one computer, and one human can read tells and hide his own tells, that player should dominate the other humans. The computer may play statistically perfect poker, but it cannot take advantage of the human tells.

Killer App (1)

Plazmid (1132467) | about 6 years ago | (#24051083)

Best application of AI ever

Re:Killer App (1)

ElizabethGreene (1185405) | about 6 years ago | (#24051395)

Software is actually at a disadvantage when it comes to playing poker at the professional level. A person can infer when another player has a read on her and adjust play to neutralize or take advantage of the opponent's confidence. This all becomes quite fuzzy and recursive when you try to emulate it in software. Sort of like the princess bride. "I know that you know that I know that you know that **TTL EXPIRED IN TRANSIT"

At the cheaper blinds though a software application could easily make money. I am NOT a great player and can make about $10 an hour just playing the top 5 hands on a 1-2cent table at Pokerstars. People are really predictable at that level, but it feels like work after a while and I enjoy my day job more.

-ellie

Re:Killer App (1)

clampolo (1159617) | about 6 years ago | (#24051477)

The guy heading this thing up is Jonathan Schaeffer. He wrote the Chinook program that was the draughts(checkers to you and me) championship. So there are some heavy hitters behind this thing.

perfect game? (4, Funny)

circletimessquare (444983) | about 6 years ago | (#24051089)

i don't believe it. he's bluffing

I for one... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24051093)

I for one welcome our new poker playing robot overlords.

So What! it's Chess all over again! (1)

Robert Halcombe (1319415) | about 6 years ago | (#24051111)

This is akin to the Human Chess Player vs The Computer. Why is this even news?

Re:So What! it's Chess all over again! (5, Insightful)

ragethehotey (1304253) | about 6 years ago | (#24051223)

Because Chess is a game of complete information, and is largely a matter of brute forcing out the best move from tons of choices. Poker is a game of incomplete information (You do not know your opponents hand), as the decisions your opponent will make influence what the "correct" decision for you to make is. Chess was a matter of computing power, whereas poker is a matter of implementing game theory abilities in the AI.

Re:So What! it's Chess all over again! (3, Insightful)

Tragek (772040) | about 6 years ago | (#24051237)

Because as they've said at their page [ualberta.ca] poker has a lot more applications to the real world later. this is all about making intelligent decisions with imperfect information. Chess can simply be brute forced eventually, just like checkers was.

To correct the article (1)

tansey (238786) | about 6 years ago | (#24051201)

We're not so sure about that, though. Poker is a very complicated game incorporating not only mathematical betting and statistical odds but also the important skills of expectation, observation and learning, psychology and deception, intimidation and subterfuge.

So to break it down:

Expectation - This is a "statistical odds" issue.

Observation and Learning - Yes, and this is a program designed by the Machine Learning group at UoA.

Psychology and Deception - Deception is simply varying your play by making it probabilistic rather than static. Psychology is only necessary if you wish to take advantage of your opponents' in order to maximize your own play, it has nothing to do with a game theoretical approach. Also, the computer has no such psychological weaknesses.

Intimidation and Subterfuge - Subterfuge basically goes back to deception again. Intimidation in the world of online poker is essentially proper bet sizing, timing, and position.

An AI player has very little downside here, except for the fact that hold'em is a very computationally intensive game. The UoA team has spent the last decade developing better algorithms and game theoretic approximations to combat this.

All that said, they are still a long way from being able to sign their laptop up for the main event at the WSOP, or sit it down at the Bellagio's high stakes table.

Also, the competition is in July (i.e. right now), not June like the article says.

Wrong date? (1)

Antwerp Atom (1306775) | about 6 years ago | (#24051229)

Polaris will be pitted against several professionals at the Rio Hotel between June 3rd and 6th

Uhm is this date correct?
If it is give me the results already if it isn't the article was wrong and the submitter copied the error.

Re:Wrong date? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24051329)

Next year will have a June, too. I thought you knew that.

Re:Wrong date? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24051333)

The Article itself says June, so either its OldNews, or they printed the wrong date in the news article.

Re:Wrong date? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24051535)

http://www.wsop2008.com/wsop-2008-schedule.php

I thought the same. Do they do the '08 finals in '09?

Put two in a room... (0, Redundant)

binaryspiral (784263) | about 6 years ago | (#24051263)

Put two of these in a room and see who wins.

Re:Put two in a room... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24051667)

Imagine a Beowulf cluster of these!

Computers aren't yet "intelligent"... (1)

ag3ntugly (636404) | about 6 years ago | (#24051417)

and thus, if the human is good enough, they might be able to pick out patterns in the decisions the computer makes and exploit them. The computer can't learn how to adapt to each opponenent nearly as well as the human players can. I play hold 'em all the time and I can tell you if you can't keep up with someone's changes in strategy you're going to lose. Also, if you play exactly the same every hand, everyone else on the table will pick up on it, and own you.

Re:Computers aren't yet "intelligent"... (1)

Thinboy00 (1190815) | about 6 years ago | (#24051721)

Only if the computer's play is entirely deterministic. If it's probabilistic (think oddly angled room), patterns are pure statistical artifacts/anomalies depending on the type of pattern, and are completely useless for making predictions.

Limited information ruins 'perfect play' (1)

bigmacd24 (1168847) | about 6 years ago | (#24051559)

Computers play 'perfect' poker, i.e. the computer looks at the cards on the table, the cards in it's hand, and the bet's it opponent has made, and figures out if calling the bet, or raising the bet is appropriate statistically, based on the chance of it's payout vs. it's chance of getting 'the winning hand'. In the end, when two perfect players play against each other, they both get the same amount of information, and the difference between their scores will be determined by the random-chance of the deck. The critical flaw of the 'perfect play' system is too rigid adherance to the system. By betting on a predictable system, they grant their opponent an insight into their hands, and therefore, more information. A bet from a perfect player communicates more than just the new odd's on the pot for his opponent, but also allows his opponent to have a better read on what hand the perfect player /has/. More information=better play. Of course, this is seven card limit texas hold'em, a very formulaic and restricted betting structure will severly limit players abillity to exploit their informational advantage. Professional poker requires an adaptive system which compensates for the meta-game of people's betting. It's possible their AI does this, but simply playing 'perfect poker' is no acheivment, any grade 12 math student with a bit of practice and a head for odds can play /near/ perfect (i.e. perfect enough that in the limited set of hands they see they have a good chance of making no mistakes). If beating professionals was as easy as not having any tells, and being able to perform reasonable amounts of math, the final table at poker tournaments would be alot more diverse.

BIG DEAL. They are talking about LIMIT hold'em! (3, Insightful)

javabandit (464204) | about 6 years ago | (#24051637)

I'm not sure why anyone thinks this is such a feat. In LIMIT hold'em, bluffing, psychological aspects, and implied odds are diminished to the point of meaning next to nothing. It is almost a purely computational game. So, yes, a computer can play technically "perfect".

There are already poker "bots" out there that will play pretty much perfectly when it comes to Limit Hold'em. I'm not sure why this is so different.

I want to see this team of academics write some code that will beat a human at *No-Limit* Hold'em. Or maybe *Pot-Limit* Omaha. NEVER going to happen.

I don't care how well such a program is coded... it will absolutely buckle under the pressure of a professional who constantly bets half his stack on nothing. The machine would turn into a professional folding station that only plays AA, KK, or AK. Guess what? That strategy isn't winning any games or any period of time in a no-limit or pot-limit world.

Re:BIG DEAL. They are talking about LIMIT hold'em! (4, Funny)

tommeke100 (755660) | about 6 years ago | (#24051777)

AK? That's Called an Anna Kournikova...She looks good, but never wins ;-)

Re:BIG DEAL. They are talking about LIMIT hold'em! (1)

the brown guy (1235418) | about 6 years ago | (#24052029)

+1 informative if i had points

I assumed that it was no-limit hold'em because that's what most people play, and all the poker shows on TV are predominantly no limit based, it's just more exciting.

Impossible by definition (1)

Weaselmancer (533834) | about 6 years ago | (#24051787)

'It's possible, given enough computing power, for computers to play "perfectly," where over a long enough match, the program cannot lose money," said associate professor Michael Bowling.'"

Impossible.

Here's why. Put four of these at the same table with no humans.

Someone will *have* to be the loser.

haha (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24051847)

We're not so sure about that, though. Poker is a very complicated game incorporating not only mathematical betting and statistical odds but also the important skills of expectation, observation and learning, psychology and deception, intimidation and subterfuge.

Lol @ poker players who don't understand math

Intellivision Poker? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24051907)

In my head, this computer's monitor is sitting at the table using a likeness of the dealer from that old Intellivision poker game.

Running Commentary: (1)

Fluffeh (1273756) | about 6 years ago | (#24052015)

You Bluff.

You have been eaten by a Grue.

You die.
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