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$100,000 Poker Bot Tournament

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the upped-my-bet-now-up-yours-robot dept.

Programming 356

Costa Galanis writes "The LA Times is reporting that a poker tournament will be held where engineers will be able to pit their automatic poker-playing programs against each other in a tournament similar to the upcoming World Series of Poker main event, with a 100,000 dollar cash prize for the winning program. The article mentions how the recent rise in popularity of poker has encouraged many to try and create the poker equivalent of chess' Big Blue, the chess playing computer program that defeated the world's top chess player in a widely publicized event, and also talks about how many engineers also are trying to make bots that are good enough to play and beat human players for money in online casinos."

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What's The Catch...? (2, Funny)

creimer (824291) | more than 9 years ago | (#12798857)

Everyone knows that the house always wins in the end.

Re:What's The Catch...? (4, Informative)

bobbozzo (622815) | more than 9 years ago | (#12798873)

The only thing the house gets in poker is table fees or tournament fees.

Re:What's The Catch...? (4, Funny)

Quill (238781) | more than 9 years ago | (#12798895)

The only thing the house gets in poker is table fees or tournament fees.

And by that, you mean the house definitely wins every time.

Re:What's The Catch...? (1)

Andy Gardner (850877) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799120)

Only all tournament buy-ins, plus a percentage of every pot of the hundreds of thousands of hands that take place 24 hours a day.

Why do you think they call the percentage they take from each pot the 'rake'?

because they're bloody raking it in!

Re:What's The Catch...? (3, Funny)

zenneth (767572) | more than 9 years ago | (#12798969)

The catch? All entries must be delivered in punch-card format.

Re:What's The Catch...? (1, Flamebait)

zenneth (767572) | more than 9 years ago | (#12798999)

OK, how about this one:

If they create a distributed client for the pokerbot, they can fold 24/7!

However this is more like.... (2, Funny)

Spectre_03 (786637) | more than 9 years ago | (#12798973)

mafia poker. what does the house get when there are two houses?

I can see the commentary now:
And program one, dubbed guido, pulls into the lead as program 4, dubbed vinnie, goes all in on a lousy full house.

Madden esque voice: I still say that somehow they have found a way to pull binary cards from their sleeve's.

Gruden esque voice: What they are doing is a standard bit swap in the packet back to the dealer server tricking it into thinking it didn't really know what it dealt to the player client in question. It's a rather common method of attack.

Re:What's The Catch...? (5, Informative)

wmajik (688431) | more than 9 years ago | (#12798975)

The "catch" is that unlike house games, the casino is only in the business of taking a percentage of the winnings in poker, known as the rake. In poker, since you are playing against your peers, if you are able to achieve a winning percentage greater than the house rake (commonly around 5-10%), then you are still a profitable poker player.

In the poker world, the common standard for a profitable, solid player is to earn two big bets per hour, which covers both the casino rake and tip. In a $3/$6 texas hold'em limit game for example, the big bet is $6, which equals a $12/hr wage for a solid player. Online, where you not only do not have to pay a tip to the dealer, but also generally pay a lower rake and play about 150% more hands per hour than in a brick and mortar casino, it's very well possible to win nearly twice what you would by playing online.

Thus, the only "catch" here is that by creating a successful poker bot that can play as well as a solid human, it may very well upheave the online poker industry as a whole. After all, if you could spawn near unlimited instances of an application that could pull in a meager $2/hr playing the $0.50/$1 low limit tables, that still means an insane amount of money. Whether or not it's legal.. that's another issue.

Re:What's The Catch...? (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799162)

Here's the proof [yahoo.com] that the house always win. :P

FP (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12798863)

FP BEEEOTCHES

overlords (2, Funny)

Jbcarpen (883850) | more than 9 years ago | (#12798867)

I for one welcome our new poker playing robot overlords...

Re:overlords (4, Funny)

NanoGator (522640) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799101)

"I for one welcome our new poker playing robot overlords..."

SHUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUT UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUP!!!!!!"

Sorry, man. I promised myself I'd do that after I had heard that joke for the millionth time.

Bluffing. (4, Insightful)

glrotate (300695) | more than 9 years ago | (#12798871)

Any poker player will tell you bluffing is where it's at. Without bluffing you play the odds and it just becomes a simple game of chance. The bluffing algorithms are were the interesting work will be.

Re:Bluffing. (5, Interesting)

kraada (300650) | more than 9 years ago | (#12798967)

Granted, bluffing is definitely a good thing. That's why a really good poker bot absolutely must bluff. I presume these bots use game theoretical algorithms to decide when and how often to bluff.

If two bots were identical and one bluffed 3% of the time (and didn't bluff away all of his chips), in the long run the bluffing bot should win. Because the non-bluffing bot will believe the bluffing bot has a hand those extra 3% of hands, and thus the bluffing bot will in the long run win more than half of the hands and do better in the long run.

The interesting question is how often one should program the computer to bluff in what situations. . .

Re:Bluffing. (2, Insightful)

Hosiah (849792) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799179)

Um, actually, bluffing wouldn't be that hard - the whole idea of bluffing is to be unpredictable. Meet mister random number generator!

Re: Bluffing. (2, Funny)

Alwin Henseler (640539) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799034)

Any poker player will tell you bluffing is where it's at.

And in case you are not playing online (a bit off-topic, I suppose), that is where your poker-face comes into play. Now for humans, a bit of Botox(tm) might help. But for bots, putting up a poker-face would be hard... without a face. Or would that make it easy? Will future bot programs include code for moving robotic face muscles? Will poker playing robots actually like playing poker, or will they hate their job? Will they drink beer and eat peanuts while they're at it?

Damn, my face... eh, head starts to hurt.

Re:Bluffing. (0)

pHatidic (163975) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799042)

Perhaps one could create a program that could be used in real casinos to automatically calculate the odds. The player would type in their own cards on a device in their pocket, and a second person would keep track of the pot and the community cards. Thus after the player was done entering their own cards, they could concentrate purely on watching for tells instead of calculating the odds at the same time. The data would be displayed to the player secretly through glases that projected an image over the persons eyes. This would actually work, because Poker is the one time where it isn't suspicious to be wearing sunglasses indoors.

Re:Bluffing. (1)

DoorFrame (22108) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799062)

Yeah, it would work fine until somebody smashed your hand with a hammer. Cheating in casinos, especially in obvious ways that include technology with no purpose other than to cheat, or frowned upon and not recommended.

Re:Bluffing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12799238)

Oh definitely. Casino security personnel are completely oblivious to this sort of attack. You're definitely the first to suggest it, nevermind try it.

Re:Bluffing. (5, Informative)

wmajik (688431) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799050)

Parent is somewhat right. Bluffing can be an integral part of the game, depending on the format of the game being played, along with the limit played (amount of cash wagered).

In a high stakes game or no-limit game, bluffing is very common, because every bet and action often involves a significant amount of money and little mistakes over the course of a session can end up costing large sums of money. Thus, bluffing becomes a viable weapon in these game formats because you can use your opponents' fear of making mistakes against him.

However, in a small stakes game, bluffing is often close to impossible, as many players are simply put, unbluffable. With the current poker boom, the skill level of the average player has decreased considerably; often causing poorly skilled players to play hands in a very losing fashion, such as showing Ace high at the showdown. Against these type of players, a bluff is generally quite ineffective and a losing proposition, since the theory behind bluffing is to force your opponent to fold a better hand. Thus, when your opponent simply does not fold, the point becomes moot.

As such, it would actually be easier to create a bot that plays low-stakes poker, as a non-bluff game involves simple math, decision trees and a bit of fuzzy logic. What it is not however, is a game of chance, as it is still a profitable game that has edges to be exploited.

This has been a bit off topic, but I wanted to clear up the notion that poker comes down to chance, when there is very solid mathematical theory behind it.

That's not the point of bluffing. (3, Informative)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799334)

The point of bluffing is to convince the other players that you ARE bluffing when you've actually got a good hand. Then you can milk them for all they've got. If you're bluffing a low hand, you should be prepared to lose. In fact, you should be expecting it.

There's a 'rule' in texas hold'em: If the other players are playing loose, you play tight. If the other players are playing tight, you find another table. Some games really can't be bluffed.

And I want to clear this up: an indivual game is still a game of chance. A bunch of games in aggregate have some theory to use.

Re:That's not the point of bluffing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12799386)

How can bluffing be when you've got a winning hand and want people to call? Bluffing is about lying - pretending you have a good hand when you don't, if you DO have the best hand, then it's not bluffing, it's slow-playing or other deceptive tactics, but it's not "bluffing".

Re:Bluffing. (4, Interesting)

cpeikert (9457) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799066)

Without bluffing you play the odds and it just becomes a simple game of chance

Not true at all. To be a successful player, you must detect patterns in your opponents' play so you can infer whether you are likely to be ahead of them, and how to maximize the pot when you think you're going to win. This is very difficult for computers to do, even with sophisticated learning algorithms.

Re:Bluffing. (1)

nametaken (610866) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799139)


Interestingly enough, this was sometimes the case with chess and checkers with online play-for-money sites. People would download and run chess and checkers engines, and transcribe the moves to the online games. I'm sure this also happens on Yahoo alot... but a big part of the game was in tossing the occasional game or move to make someone think they were playing a person. Later you could take them for a bigger bet. A pirated copy of fritz could add a little bit of spending money to a persons budget.

Eliza (4, Funny)

GreatRedShark (880833) | more than 9 years ago | (#12798879)

I'm going to submit a modded version of Eliza. It will win by confusing the other bots into submission! :) :P

Re:Eliza (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12798917)

Please, tell me more about confusing the other bots into submission. How often do you confusing the other bots into submission?

Texus Holdum (2, Interesting)

pdevor (603443) | more than 9 years ago | (#12798886)

A friend of mine at MIT already found a simple mathmatical algorithm for winning at Texus holdum in partypoker.com. I'm not sure if he's using it because I haven't talked to him in a long time, but apparently the people at the $10 tables suck enough that you can just play very conservatively without altering your style of play at all and win.

Re:Texus Holdum (1)

pdevor (603443) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799121)

How is this flamebait??? It's true.

Re:Texus Holdum (1)

rudedog (7339) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799364)

How is this flamebait??? It's true.

Not it isn't, because if there was a "simple mathematical algorithm" for beating poker, it would have long ago been discovered and would be in common use. Winning a few games does not make you a winner at poker. Bad players can have winning streaks that last months, and vice-versa for good players. The only way you could even evaluate if the algorithm is correct is if it has been making you a consistent winner for at least a year, maybe longer.

The bot... (3, Funny)

EntropyMan (628831) | more than 9 years ago | (#12798887)

"Cause the bot always wins. You play long enough, never change the stakes, the bot takes you. Unless, when that perfect hand comes along, you bet big, and then you take the bot." - Danny Ocean

I for one ... (-1, Redundant)

bizitch (546406) | more than 9 years ago | (#12798890)

... welcome our new pokerbot overlords ....

Re:I for one ... (1)

Jbcarpen (883850) | more than 9 years ago | (#12798901)

someone mod him -1 redundant, (read post 2)

Re:I for one ... (2)

NanoGator (522640) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799141)

"someone mod him -1 redundant, (read post 2)"

Read post 2? Try reading any other Slashdot article. It was redundant years ago. They're taking over Slashdot! "I, for one, welcome our overused-as-an-SNL-skit overlords."

Be easy to beat if its anything like... (4, Funny)

Zeussy (868062) | more than 9 years ago | (#12798896)

Microsoft Poker on Windows 3.1. Just make a huge bet and all the computers Fold :P

1. Let openents Place you their bets.
2. Place a stupidly huge bet.
3. They fold.
4. Profit!

Deep Blue (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12798897)

The chess machine is Deep Blue. It was created by IBM (AKA Big Blue).

Re:Deep Blue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12799303)

It wasn't deep thought?

Entries? (1)

tonsofpcs (687961) | more than 9 years ago | (#12798905)

Is it still accepting entries?

Bot Training (1)

Nasarius (593729) | more than 9 years ago | (#12798911)

"The hard part is: What if I've got two 10s? What am I going to do?" As he scans poker books for strategy tips

Well, clearly he's not much of an engineer either. Let your program simulate all possible situations, and figure out the best choices like that. You can determine the best strategies based on statistics, not conventional wisdom.

Re:Bot Training (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12798971)

Anyone who thinks the best poker stategies are dictated by statistics has no idea how to play poker. That won't make much of a poker playing strategy. The trick is representing stength and guessing what kind of hand your opponent has despite what they are representing.

Against real players the primary way of determining this is through the unconscious betting patterns almost every player has. Bots with some AI could do well at this. Bots against other bots is potentially an even more difficult problem.

What I fail to see is why anyone who had a well functioning bot would enter this kind of contest. There is far more money to be made without getting yourself the undue notoriety of this sort of success.

Re:Bot Training (4, Interesting)

vslashg (209560) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799280)

And likewise, any poker player who thinks poker is only about representing false strength and putting your opponent on a hand has no idea how to play poker. The real trick is a balanced approach. The best poker players are great at both reading hands and psychological warfare, but you had also better believe they know exactly what odds the pot is offering and whether finishing a draw is a positive or negative play.

If you disagree, you're more than welcome to join our weekly game.

Re:Bot Training (1)

learn fast (824724) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799113)

Let your program simulate all possible situations

Hey, math whiz, any idea how big the set of all possible situations is?

Theta(1) (1)

KingEomer (795285) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799323)

Sheesh. What did we learn in CS now, kids? The total number of possible situations is static. So, a brute-force calculation of all possiblities has a constant running time. This is fabulous! Computer Scientists kill for running times like this! Who cares if the constant is huge! Heck, it's faster than a binary search in a perfectly balanced binary tree... Assuming the tree is really, really big. :P

Interesting but... (1)

blueadept1 (844312) | more than 9 years ago | (#12798913)

What the hell is a robot going to do with 100 g's? Get cold cathodes for it's body?

Heres hoping this doesnt ruin online poker (2, Interesting)

Gantic (460802) | more than 9 years ago | (#12798916)

Whilst its not actually explicitly against most online poker sites terms and conditions, I forsee this contributing to the problem of bot users on poker sites. As it is at the moment they are considered a problem amongst the low level players. Suppose a really good AI is invented. Whilst we wont know we are playing against a bot it will be making 100% correct decisions without the user having to do anything. Leave a few of them running over night and some people are going to get absolutely fleeced... by artificial intelligence. I dont approve.

Re:Heres hoping this doesnt ruin online poker (1)

Pollardito (781263) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799158)

unless they're holding this contest to draw people out. learning who's working on the technology and being able to analyze the patterns that their bots use would help in blocking them.

besides, let's be honest, this contest's money isn't going to spur any research that wouldn't be spurred by the existing online poker goldrush that anyone with a sufficiently skilled bot could be mining

Re:Heres hoping this doesnt ruin online poker (2, Interesting)

NilObject (522433) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799166)

If it takes down some of the poker sites (IN FLAMES!), I'm all for it.

I, for one, as a blog and website operator am SICK AND FUCKING TIRED of comment/trackback/referral spam. Do they honestly think that by spamming my server logs I'm going to going to be interested in throwing my money at them? I seem to be missing something, but I'm guessing the people in charge of advertising and promotions for these sites aren't that far removed from Percy from The Green Mile.

I'm sure many will agree with me: die poker sites, die!

Then... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799279)

You are busted, Mr Case. The charges have to do with conspiracy to augument an artificial intelligence

Re:Heres hoping this doesnt ruin online poker (4, Interesting)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799290)

There was an article [kuro5hin.org] on this topic recently on kuro5hin, although it was focused more on human-human play, with the possibility of bots discussed as a possible reason why humans might think the game was rigged against them.

It may be that current bots can beat some of the worse human players, but it's not clear how many of the human players are that bad, and it's not clear how good the companies that run the servers are at detecting bot behavior.

One thing I'm still wondering about is human-human collusion. It's a big concern in breathe-the-same-air games between humans who don't know each other. Not sure about online poker, however -- do you get thrown in a table with randomly chosen players, none of whom you're likely to know? What about collusion between bots? E.g., you could be the only player at the table, not realizing you're playing against 6 bots, each of which knows what cards the others have.

Re:Heres hoping this doesnt ruin online poker (1)

Duncan3 (10537) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799343)

Too late by over a year. We passed the majority are non-human players a while ago.

Of course, the same applies to the stock markets now, erasing volitility as far as the eye can see.

erm.. WTF (0)

Turn-X Alphonse (789240) | more than 9 years ago | (#12798921)

Chess takes skill and can be played many different ways.. Poker is just getting random cards and betting on them.. Two sets of AI will just be drawing random cards and betting set amounts over and over untill one loses..

Re:erm.. WTF (3, Interesting)

DoorFrame (22108) | more than 9 years ago | (#12798959)

Have you ever played poker?

Have you ever watched poker on TV? Did you notice that the same few people seem to be at the final table a disproportional percentage of the time. It's because although the cards themselves are random, the game is not. Every bet and every action is a subtle piece of a conversation about your perceived strength of your own hand versus your perceived strengths of your opponents.

There's a lot of skill. It's not simply high card wins. The really good poker players willoften win without the best hands, because they know when their opponents are weak and will be willing to give up on a pot.

So, yeah, a poker bot could replicate this.

Re:erm.. WTF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12798994)

The thing is, drawing cards from a deck is not random in any sense of the word. Shuffling? Give me a break. There is a lot to know about what cards are shown and what cards have been shown that gives you information about how to bet. Any good card player will tell you that. Combined with a computer's great ability to compute, statistics of the distribution of cards to different players could show interesting trends that most people wouldn't be able to see.

Re:erm.. WTF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12799020)

Poker does take a lot of luck, but a bit skill as well.

A "stupid" AI could simply bet based on the cards in it's own hand. With a set of such AI the game ends up being tied in the long run.

However, because an computer program written to play poker can be deterministic, another AI can take advantage of this fact and in the end beat him. As stated in a previous post, the interesting part of this event is in creating an AI that can bluff other players as well as try and guess if others are bluffing.

Re:erm.. WTF (2, Insightful)

wankledot (712148) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799026)

Wow, I wish you were being a troll, but sadly I think you're just stupid.

The challenge in poker is learning how your opponent plays and knowing when they're bluffing, along with not giving away too much yourself, and being able to bluff well. Chess might take more mathmatical and/or logic skills, but Poker takes a lot more skill when it comes to intangibles and the subtle differences in your opponents' skills. This makes for a much much tougher programming challenge.

If bot A simply bets what it should based on the chance of the cards it is holding, another smarter bot (bot B) will do the same thing [b]and[/b] figure out what bot Ais doing, which will give bot B a big advantage, and over time, a win.

Re:erm.. WTF (0)

superpulpsicle (533373) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799282)

The original poster is not a troll. There is a valid point that Chess is a better game than Poker in society. I am speaking neutral not leaning toward Poker or Chess cause I hate them both anyways.

The game of Poker will never be open to all audiences. It is a game aimed at RICH adults, limiting the potential audience. I am not saying you and your college buddies can't get together and play free poker. But schools would never encourage the game like Chess. There is a real scientific aspect to Chess that Poker does not have.

People bring up things like "poker face" that are obviously additional marketing to the game. Poker is strictly about winning money. Chess is a game of strategy that many never end. Poker ends when your wallet is clean. Chess is worthy enough for IBM and other bigname companies to build super high performance chess simulators for.

Re:erm.. WTF (2, Insightful)

SplendidIsolatn (468434) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799369)

>>There is a valid point that Chess is a better game than Poker in society. I am speaking neutral not leaning toward Poker or Chess cause I hate them both anyways.
>>The game of Poker will never be open to all audiences. It is a game aimed at RICH adults, limiting the potential audience. I am not saying you and your college buddies can't get together and play free poker. But schools would never encourage the game like Chess. There is a real scientific aspect to Chess that Poker does not have.

Yeah, that explains why there are SO many chess tournaments held as fund raisers for churches, non-profits and school activities compared to poker tournaments (rolls eyes). Chess is aimed at the richest of the rich -- the people who can afford the tutors to make it to an elite level. I can go buy Super System vols 1 and 2 for $60 and be ahead of the game in poker.

Let me rephrase this -- i'm a good poker player and an average chess player -- I don't study chess at all but I know the strategy enough to beat the tar out of someone who doesn't really play. If you sat me down heads up against, lets say Chris Ferguson, in 100 matches of texas hold 'em, I win 20. Even though he's one of the top players in the world. I sit down across from Kasparov + co. in 100 chess matches I don't have a prayer of even drawing one game.

So which game do you think is more likely to draw an audience? Sorry, I'd write more but I can't wait to catch ESPN's presentation of the world series of chess.....

Re:erm.. WTF (1)

colinrichardday (768814) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799399)

Actually, poker might be better for business/military, where you have to be aware of your opponent's psychology.

Could this have been predicted? (4, Insightful)

The Clockwork Troll (655321) | more than 9 years ago | (#12798923)

At the end of an age marked by wealth-making products and services with style and no substance, is it that surprising that one of the most popular recreations has become seeing who can bullshit most deftly?

Perhaps the winning program could be reconfigured to create business plans?

Lots of problems tho (4, Funny)

nokilli (759129) | more than 9 years ago | (#12798933)

Whenever my poker bot goes "all in", my mudd bot somehow gets the idea that it's time to start slaying all of the other players.

I think what is required here is clear and concise rules on what kind of weaponry the bots get to wield.

Also, I don't think bots should get to wear sunglasses.

Are we to assume... (1)

Realistic_Dragon (655151) | more than 9 years ago | (#12798934)

...that in this tournament counting cards will be permitted?

Re:Are we to assume... (2, Insightful)

skreuzer (613775) | more than 9 years ago | (#12798987)

In poker, the cards are shuffled after every round.

Re:Are we to assume... (1)

Andy Gardner (850877) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799003)

You cant count cards in poker because the deck is shuffled after every hand.

Re:Are we to assume... (1)

Andy Gardner (850877) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799037)

Additionaly even if the cards weren't shuffled card counting would be of no value in poker.

Card counting can only be used when playing blackjack as a method of tracking the high-value and low-value cards.

Re:Are we to assume... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12799040)

Most games of poker use a single deck of cards for many hands. They are shuffled between every hand and may be "washed" (pretty damn close to randomization) depending on where you're playing. I think its safe to assume that any dealerbot (if you will) will just randomize all the cards for every deal.

This isn't like casino blackjack where theres (10?) decks shuffled into a long thingymajigger. Poker has in its very nature some form of randomization of cards between every single hand. Even if you knew the order of every single card for the first deal, by the second deal the shuffling would make it an educated guess. By the third deal you jump to n=52.

Re:Are we to assume... (1)

DMaster0 (26135) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799053)

this ain't blackjack.

You don't count cards in poker. (well, you do, but everyone can see the cards at all times that are countable, and the deck is shuffled after every hand, so it's more like simple odds calculation and not "counting cards" like you saw in a movie somewhere)

Um... pokerbot will always win (4, Interesting)

Capt'n Hector (650760) | more than 9 years ago | (#12798955)

Over the long run that is. A pokerbot:
  1. Has a perfect poker face,
  2. Can count cards,
  3. Can compute probability,
  4. Has no emotions, so it won't get stressed or tired,
  5. And will always make the right move probability-wise.

Re:Um... pokerbot will always win (5, Insightful)

kraada (300650) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799029)

Clearly you don't understand Texas Hold-'em. There is no card counting required, beyond to 6 (two in your hand, 4 on the table). Any player who is so bad that he can't read the board isn't going to be a challenge to anybody decent.

Since decks are made out of 52 cards, and you get two of them, it gets very easily to calculate probabilities for a human (mostly involves multiplying by 2).

Finally, making the probabalistic move every time will not do as well, because if you do that you would absolutely never bluff. A bot to be good in the long run must bluff, otherwise it is far too predictable and you can gain too much information from its bets and raises.

To give a quick example: If there's 100$ in the pot, and the bot bets 10$, I need to believe I'll win 1/11 times in order to justify my call. If I know that the bot never bluffs and only bets there when he's best, I can fold every time and save 10$. If the bot bluffs 1/11 times though, I suddenly have an actually complicated decision. And note if I fold those complicated decisions every time I lose more money, because he is betting more hands and I am folding each time he bets.

So no, straight up probabilities simply won't cut it.

(For more information, see Sklansky's Theory of Poker.)

Re:Um... pokerbot will always win (1)

cpeikert (9457) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799105)

You make a lot of good points, but more importantly (I think) it's very hard for a computer to get a good model of its opponent's playing style, to infer what cards the opponent is likely to have.

All the statistical calculations in the world won't help you decide whether to call or fold, if you don't have any idea what cards your opponent has.

Re:Um... pokerbot will always win (1)

Capt'n Hector (650760) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799110)

Even with bluffing, it's straight up probability. Given what you said, a poker bot will now have one parameter: it's "bluffing factor." This entire game is reduced to a calculus of variations problem.

Re:Um... pokerbot will always win (1)

MBCook (132727) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799154)

Let's not forget the card counting. As long as you are testing poker bots, you're on a computer. That means that instead of simulating real decks (say a 10 deck shoe or something), you can simulate an infinite deck shoe (randint(52)). Can't count cards when there is an infinite deck.

Re:Um... pokerbot will always win (1)

cpeikert (9457) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799217)

OK, you have no idea what you are talking about. Every game of poker, whether played in real life or on computer, is played with a standard 52-card deck. Further, there is no sense in which "card counting" helps in Texas Hold'em.

Re:Um... pokerbot will always win (1)

cybrpnk2 (579066) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799160)

Um...what version of Texas Hold Em are you playing that's got 2 in your hand and 4 on the table?

Re:Um... pokerbot will always win (2, Interesting)

anourkey (676478) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799311)

Maybe not so much as card counting but maybe reverse engineering the random number generator algorithm. It's been a few years since Daniel Corriveau (look him up on google) got hold of the algorithm used to generate keno numbers at a casino and managed to predict the upcoming numbers based on the sequence of numbers already shown. Of course RNG's have come quite a ways since the rand() function of a few years ago, but a bot paying attention to the order of cards might actually be able to predict what cards will come out and have the ultimate advantage.

Re:Um... pokerbot will always win (2, Insightful)

kpspe (891618) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799205)

Counting cards is a completely useless skill in poker. In real life, the deck is thoroughly shuffled between each hand. Online casinos generate a deck before each hand which is completely randomized.

Out of your list, the only true advantage a bot would have over a pro is the ability to play at the same level for an infinite amount of time. Humans become tired or can go on "tilt" after a streak of unlucky cards and begin to play badly.

Chinook (1)

SpaceAdmiral (869318) | more than 9 years ago | (#12798986)

Since Professor Jonathan Schaeffer was quoted in this article and I'm a UofA alumni, I feel obligated to link to Schaeffer's Chinook checkers playing program [ualberta.ca] . You can actually play a (somewhat limited) version online [ualberta.ca] .

[/shameless promotion]

Re:Chinook (2, Interesting)

NathanBullock (804938) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799335)

I am also an ulumni of the U of A. More specifically I did my research in the games department, although not specifically on poker. I was sort of suprised the article never mentioned Darse Billings who is one of the main people behind poker agents at the U of A.

Here is a relevant link: http://www.cs.ualberta.ca/~games/poker/ [ualberta.ca]

This statement is false (1)

Schwing84 (782710) | more than 9 years ago | (#12798991)

Who needs the whole Eliza program just throw "this statement is false" as a default response. Just ensure that your robot has a built in catch for this statement otherwise it will be cuaght up in this conundrum.

It's only a matter of time... (1)

Hex4def6 (538820) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799000)

It's only a matter of time until this starts to become widespread in its use on these online poker places. For now, I think these places are ignoring it, since they get the fees for each game anyway.

I think however, that there is going to be a big backlash soon against sites that tacitly allow these sorts of players... I wonder how they are going to stop them?

Perhaps a webcam-based poker site would be the best strategy. This also allows more strategy, since the whole bluffing angle is in play.

What would a program want $100000 for? (5, Funny)

MooseGuy529 (578473) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799018)

a 100,000 dollar cash prize for the winning program

What would a computer program do with $100,000? Build a cluster to run itself on?

Re:What would a program want $100000 for? (4, Funny)

Daffy Duck (17350) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799056)

I am now telling the computer exactly what it can do with a lifetime supply of chocolate.

Re:What would a program want $100000 for? (1)

Hosiah (849792) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799145)

It would get itself an R2-D2 case mod, hire an engineer from dice.com to rebuild itself, and, once mobile and armed with a laser, it would come after you seeking revenge for ever making it run Windows just so you could play Freecell for six hours straight...

Re:What would a program want $100000 for? (1)

MooseGuy529 (578473) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799296)

I don't run Windows, you insensitive clod! I run Gentoo [gentoo.org] !

And I don't play Freecell, I play BZFlag [bzflag.org] !

This is incredibly difficult (4, Insightful)

cpeikert (9457) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799038)

Don't let the posters who say "just enumerate all possibilities" fool you.

The hardest part of playing poker is "reading" your opponents' hands -- learning how they tend to play, and inferring what cards they are likely to hold, whether they are bluffing or slow-playing, etc.

It may be easy to read a poker bot's style of play, but reading good human players is extremely difficult. So even if a certain bot crushes the competition in this tournament, it may not do so well against humans.

Re:This is incredibly difficult (1)

backslashdot (95548) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799090)

what happens when multiple computers play against one human opponent. Bad enough when it's a group of human friends who know each other trying to get a newbie's money.

Re:This is incredibly difficult (1)

MeepMeep (111932) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799164)

Well, you could mod me down for this, but I think it would depend if it was a 'Turing test' of poker play vs tryng to build a system that can recognize tells/expressions.

If the game is completely online, then in terms of 'reading' players, the only available information is remembering what cards that people had - assuming that they were forced to display them.

A bot could have a perfect memory of a player's betting patterns in previous rounds and what their cards were, and could use this info in subsequent rounds - just like real players, except the bot would have a perfect analysis vs fuzzy human memory.

As well, managing hand-strength as the number of players decreases is something a computer may do better than a human.

I believe Limit Holdem is much more probability-based than No-Limit - I would assume that strong Limit Holdem bots would be designed first...

Just my two cents

MeepMeep

No limit? (2, Interesting)

vikstar (615372) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799046)

I heard that no-limit is much harder for a computer than limit poker. A player must calculate percentages with limit poker, and bluffing is obviously limited, thereby reducing the "human intuition" aspect and increasing the simple number crunching aspect. If the AI poker tournament is no-limit it will make things very interesting.

poker vs chess (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12799070)

Give me a break, compare poker vs chess is the most stupid thing I've ever heard.

Poker is all about probability, and peharps and little of everything else.

Chess, is all about thinking, and calculating in advance, chess is much more sophiticated game IMO.

In no way those 2 can be compared with each other.

The keys are the algorithms... (4, Insightful)

Londovir (705740) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799103)

As someone else pointed out, the main key to how successful bots will become in poker is the algorithms that conclude if a hand is "bet worthy". Obviously probability is easy for a bot to calculate; my high school students calculate card hand odds in my statistics class for homework. You can go even further by calculating rudimentary risk-reward odds to determine if the potential cash payoff for this current pot, combined with the probability you have for making your hand, combined with the probability the flop gives your opponents better hands than your own, etc.

The key, clearly, is the way your program "behaves" in response to opponent betting. You could code a program that only plays based on the probability of achieving a winning hand in a statistical sense. (IE, if my pocket has a 75% chance of becoming a hand that will beat 65% of all possible hands, then play it regardless) That wouldn't obviously play that well, since the bot won't consider opponent betting. However, if your bot regards opponent betting, it will easily become susceptible to power bluffing if the algorithm doesn't guard against it. (Hence, you have routines like poorly written cell phone games where you just have to come out of the blocks betting like mad and you'll 90% of the time bluff the bot out of the hand)

I wouldn't be surprised if some of the more ingenious bots would be a medley of pure probability, observed opponent behavior (for trend matching with a fixed opponent), and a database of "real life" situations. If I were to design a bot for poker, and had the resources, I'd be sorely tempted to first host an online poker website and take a ton of samples from actual, online play. You have the advantage (right now, at least) of being able to record everyone's exact hands (at every stage of the hand) as well as everyone's betting. You could distill that into a form of database where you could try and match a bot's hand to a pre-existing condition case, and determine, along with your other ranking criteria, what a human player once did with that same hand, and whether that player won or not.

Londovir I could see bots taking over after awhile, but it's going to take some time...and even then, it should be entertaining to watch programmers trying to tweak their bot to beat another bot, sometimes without even knowing they are going up against another bot.

Re:The keys are the algorithms... (1)

Carthag (643047) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799314)

You deserve some insightful points right there. Alas, I don't have any.

Re:The keys are the algorithms... (1)

The_Wilschon (782534) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799316)

I'd think that a neural net would most likely be a very good solution. It could learn and then predict how a particular opponent would bet based on past history. Then, the samples from actual online play would be excessively useful... I suspect that the state of the neural net after learning a particular opponent would most likely fall into one of several categories of players, and so an algorithm to even more quickly place an opponent into one of those buckets would be possible.

If I had the time and inclination, I'd set up my own mini-tournament as a genetic algorithms type setup, and pit my own bots against each other automatically, then modify the winners until I had a really kick eyes bot. Wow, a genetic setup evolving neural nets... There's a melange of computer learning for you...

No no, the poker bot is versing other poker bots.. (1)

Ninwa (583633) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799118)

"pit their automatic poker-playing programs against each other" Wouldn't this be BORING though? You wouldn't get to watch the game, merely see the results of it afterwards. Part of poker is the emotions and the experience. This would just be algorithms and would execute uninterstingly fast.

Re:No no, the poker bot is versing other poker bot (1)

harvardslacker (881339) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799414)

Just force them to play really slow, and then have all those celebrities playing poker on TV act as faces for the bots. The programs would get to be associated with famous faces, and the famous faces would get to actually be good at poker.

Re:No no, the poker bot is versing other poker bot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12799429)

You seem to be under the mistaken impression that watching humans play poker is somehow not boring.

more information? (2, Informative)

Deanalator (806515) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799132)

Does anyone know how to enter this contest? Is registration closed yet? Do they have a website? It all sounds very interesting, but the article itself provides no helpful links :-/

Hidden markov models (4, Interesting)

G4from128k (686170) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799155)

One approach to this is to assume that the other players are markov processes with unknown internal states [mit.edu] (sorry for the PDF) . Gathering enough data (and probing the opponents with various betting strategies) helps estimate the internal patterns of the opponents. Humans are terrible at creating random patterns needed for perfect playing strategies. This approach can be used, for example, to create a hard-to-beat paper-rock-scissors game that quickly found the non-random patterns in human players.

Poker is Hard (5, Informative)

w1z7ard (227376) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799169)

I did a little bit of work recently at UofA with the poker group.

Poker is a hard problem. The game tree is huge for even heads up limit (~ 10^18 leaf nodes). Ring games (3-10 players) are intractable via any game theoretic methods. The only feasible possibilities are searching parts of the game tree through intelligent sampling methods, and perhaps abstracting the game down a bit.

Work has focused on both solving abstracted versions of the game and exploiting opponent weaknesses. A publication concerning most recent methods involving bayesian best response will be available soon at the following link:

http://www.cs.ualberta.ca/~finnegan/publications/p ublications.html [ualberta.ca]

Just in case any one was wondering, calculating your raw chances of winning, dubbed "7 card roll out strength" is no problem at all once you harness the versatility of the gnu poker-eval library located on sourceforge.

Poker bots ARE a real science (5, Informative)

wmajik (688431) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799189)

There's been a lot of postings about this tournament being bunk due to a lot of misconceptions about the game of poker. As a successful poker player of quite a few years and also a geek, I do believe I have an informed opinion here when I say that A) poker is profitable B) poker bots can and have been created C) the effort to code a high level poker bot is incredibly, incredibly difficult.

A team at the University of Alberta has been working on with a poker research group [ualberta.ca] that has been researching and coding poker bots for years. One look at their page should tell you that there is definitely some high level thinking and analysis required to develop a poker bot. More importantly, is that fact that they *have* delivered a bot called Poki Poker [poki-poker.com] that has an impressive record at beating human opponents in 1 vs 1 heads-up matches. Brian Alspach, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics and Statistics at Simon Fraser University has also contributed numerous publications [math.sfu.ca] to the field, giving credence to the fact that there is a genuine science behind creating an AI that can play good poker.

So, before anyone else spouts off about poker being a game of chance or poker bots being mindless hundred line pieces of code, please do your research. A lot of people have worked very hard on this subject to simply have it dismissed as beneath them. Just ask yourself this: If you could create a poker bot so easily, one that could generate at the very least, a poker bot that made $2/hr playing the low limit games, what would stop you from launching thousands of these bots upon the online world? Because unlike a human, you can replicate a bot innumerable times, which in this case would be the equivalent of finding the goose that lays golden eggs. If you understand this, you may begin to understand why there is so much interest in the creation of poker bots..

Intentional obfuscation... (3, Insightful)

aendeuryu (844048) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799209)

I wonder if this will encourage programmers to actually intentionally obfuscate their code.

Case in point, one thing that some people think is worth doing in the first few rounds of poker is to intentionally lose or call as many hands as you can, just to determine your opponents' betting methods and/or tells. Could something similar be done with programs? For instance, measuring the number of clock ticks that an opponent takes to analyze a given hand. If identical flops show up in subsequent rounds, and identical intervals lead to identical bets, is it possible that you've figured out how your opponent likes to bet? Furthermore, would it be worthwhile to throw in an empty do() while loop of random length in order to throw off such attempts? But how about betting patterns themselves?

This is one thing I've always thought was missing in creating AI. It's not so much about coming up with "perfect" AI because so long as it follows a set pattern, it'll never be perfect. If it's consistent, either you'll figure out how to beat it, or you'll give up in frustration because you know you can never beat it. But create multiple different AIs that follow basic tactics, and then mix them up, there's the challenge.

Schedule of events... (4, Funny)

MagicDude (727944) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799243)

The Tournament will begin at 9:00 AM, and the grand prize will be presented at 9:03 AM.

Huey and Dewey (1)

hudsucker (676767) | more than 9 years ago | (#12799278)

Bots can be surprisingly good [imdb.com] at poker.
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