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Humans Can Still Out-Bluff Machines

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the for-now dept.

Software 279

Pcol writes "The New York Times reports that in a poker game this week between man and machine, a program called Polaris fought a close match, but lost to two well-known professional poker players. Designing a poker playing algorithm is a different and more difficult challenge for software designers than chess and checkers because of uncertainties introduced by the hidden cards held by each player and difficult-to-quantify risk-taking behaviors such as bluffing. The game-tree approach doesn't work in poker because in many situations there is no one best move and a top-notch player adapts his play over time, exploiting his opponent's behavior. Polaris build a series of "bots" that have differing personalities or styles of play, ranging from aggressive to passive. Researchers monitored the performance of three bots and then moved them in and out of the lineup like football players."

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Don't play online (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20001717)

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jews (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20001757)

jews are the enemy.

9/11 Nevar Forgit

lol. jews did wtc.

jews are the enemy.

That's cheating. The computer wasn't playing. (0, Troll)

statusbar (314703) | more than 7 years ago | (#20001787)

If the researchers had control of which bots to use during the game, then the researchers were playing the game and the computer was not. Let's see how well the computer does when IT makes all the decisions.

--jeffk++

Re:That's cheating. The computer wasn't playing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20001821)

The "coach" was a program, YOU FUCKING IDIOT.

RTFA (4, Informative)

evanbd (210358) | more than 7 years ago | (#20001823)

There were ten "bots"; which bot was in use was controlled by a "coach" program. They actually ran three different programs over the course of the tournament, and that setup actually lost to the humans. The coach / agent approach is an interesting one for a variety of reasons, and it is most definitely a valid strategy.

Re:That's cheating. The computer wasn't playing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20001841)

But the IT department _was_ making the decisions!

Re:That's cheating. The computer wasn't playing. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20001845)

Let's see how well the computer does when IT makes all the decisions.
Their answer would be to turn it off and on again.

RTFA. (3, Informative)

raehl (609729) | more than 7 years ago | (#20001865)

The researchers didn't choose which bots were used themselves - they had ANOTHER 'coach' bot that moved the 'player' bots in and out.

Re:RTFA. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20002147)

So, that means a human player had to play against 4 other "players?"

Re:RTFA. (3, Informative)

CyberLord Seven (525173) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002245)

Think of it this way: the human player was playing against a "coach" who could vary his personality through the game.

Not harder than chess (2, Informative)

jshriverWVU (810740) | more than 7 years ago | (#20001791)

In poker you have a finite number of cards, that are a lot smaller than the permutation of moves in chess or checkers. Just the ability to count cards and do statistical analysis makes poker, blackjack, etc easier to compute in my opinion. Then again, if you had a deck of random cards and not a standard deck, that would make it a bit harder but that's not how it's really played. That would be like comparing it to chess with all queens.

Re:Not harder than chess (5, Insightful)

TheMeuge (645043) | more than 7 years ago | (#20001855)

If you're playing cards in Hold'em, against decent players, you WILL lose.

Hold'em is all about betting - if, when, and how much. And THAT you determine by the behavior of your opponent. It's not a strategy game, but a psychological exercise.

Re:Not harder than chess (4, Interesting)

xero314 (722674) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002645)

[poker is] not a strategy game, but a psychological exercise.
Poker is indeed a strategy game. Knowing statistics and probability are critical to successful poker play. Psychology is important was well but is useless with out strategic knowledge. The majority of poker played in the world is limit poker which has far less psychological play and a lot more statistical accuracy. Even in a No Limit Hold'em game, probably the most psychological game regularly played, you would be better off having strong strategic and analytical skills an poor psychological skills than the other way around. But, like any game which contains aspect of chance, both strategy and psychology are imperative to being a successful player.

If you're playing cards in Hold'em, against decent players, you WILL lose.
I would be happy to take on any player, no mater what there record is, as long as that player never looks at his hole cards. Cards are important in card games, even if betting is the determining factor in who ultimately takes a particular pot. Imagine the game being played with no cards what so ever and you will see why knowing how to work with the cards you have is important to the game. Any time a professional player makes a "call" it is because of statistical knowledge and not psychological, even if it is to set up a play later on.

Re:Not harder than chess (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002747)

It's not a strategy game, but a psychological exercise.

You tell yourself that. But it's BS. Poker, when it comes down to it, is all about a) statistics, and b) luck. Is there a psychological component to it? Sure. But I'll bet dollars to donuts those aspects are greatly outweighed by luck and a given player's ability to evaluate the statistics on a given hand.

Re:Not harder than chess (1)

berashith (222128) | more than 7 years ago | (#20001871)

counting cards will not help you if the deck is shuffled every hand. All that is known to the player is the two cards dealt.

This was also less computing intensive than chess and checkers however as all potential outcomes were already worked through based on the substantially smaller number of outcomes. The bots were playing odds in pre-built tables, which is very far from AI. The coach program is somewhat closer, but is still no major feat. The only test in the machine was wether or not to bluff, or judge if the human is bluffing.

Re:Not harder than chess (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20001889)

I think you mean 15 queens and one king.

Re:Not harder than chess (1)

toleraen (831634) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002321)

That's one lucky king~

Re:Not harder than chess (1)

paltemalte (767772) | more than 7 years ago | (#20001911)

You are wrong. In chess, you know exactly where you have your opponent. Anything he can possibly do can be computed, any strategy he could use could be predicted. It's all about being able to calculate and predict, which a computer is excellent at. In poker you have no sure way of knowing exactly where you have your opponent, you can only guess based on his actions or inactions what he might be sitting on. This is beyond simple mathematical calculations and hence it's MUCH harder than chess.

Re:Not harder than chess (2, Interesting)

packeteer (566398) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002357)

Your point is right but some of the things you say are a little off.

This is beyond simple mathematical calculations and hence it's MUCH harder than chess.
Chess is much more than just simple calculations. It is full of very complex calculations. Because of the incredibly huge number of moves possible it is more than just calculating. The best computer chess programs calculate less and use pattern recognition more. These days a computer with a fraction of the computing power of Deep Blue would beat it. That is because of the superior pattern recognition that is going on.

Card games are all about pattern recognition. You need to learn your opponents behavior, everyone plays in certain patterns and even when someone tries to change their own game they do it in their own personal way. Now card games are hard for a computer to win at right now because humans haven't been able to quantify all the elements of the game properly yet. Once computer SOFTWARE (pattern recognition algorithms) become stronger you will see computers beating everyone at card games as well as chess, which is already the case for chess.

That leads to the question of whether or not people will still gamble once they know a computer can do it better. I would bet casino's aren't going anywhere but online gambling is going top have to figure something out.

Re:Not harder than chess (1)

xero314 (722674) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002723)

everyone plays in certain patterns and even when someone tries to change their own game they do it in their own personal way
Many good players use game theory and randomization to actually remove their own personality from a certain percentage of their plays. Beating a computer that is using pattern recognition is still very easy and will be for the foreseeable future. Imagine in for 1 out of every 5 decisions a player needs to make during a poker match that player flips a coin to determine their action. The computer may eventually be able to determine that the 5th action will always be random, but one it won't help and two you can even randomize how often you make a random move.

As Negreanu put it (1)

vlad_petric (94134) | more than 7 years ago | (#20001929)

... absolute probability will only get you so far in poker. After that, it's conditional probability.

(not an exact quote)

Re:Not harder than chess (2, Interesting)

Normal Dan (1053064) | more than 7 years ago | (#20001965)

Far harder than chess. In chess, every permutation has a low number of values (every turn has few possible moves). In poker, every turn has a large number of possible moves/choices, such as how much to bet. Also, in chess, you can see the other players hand, in poker you cannot. This adds to the complication of poker. If this weren't bad enough, bluffing adds a whole new set of problems. Also, in chess, given enough computing power, you can process all the moves up until the end of the game. This is not possible in poker.

Re:Not harder than chess (1)

raehl (609729) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002121)

Also, in chess, given enough computing power, you can process all the moves up until the end of the game.

That's not entirely true - you can theoretically process all the possible moves, but, you still won't know the result until you know what the hole cards are.

In chess, the player's moves determine what happens on the board. In poker, you can't change what happens on the board; you can only change how much money you win or lose as the game progresses.

Re:Not harder than chess (1)

bigg_nate (769185) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002135)

In chess, every permutation has a low number of values (every turn has few possible moves). In poker, every turn has a large number of possible moves/choices, such as how much to bet.

They were playing limit hold-em, so at any given time there were at most three possible moves (fold, call, or raise a predetermined amount).

Re:Not harder than chess (1)

BlowChunx (168122) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002659)

...excuse my ignorance, but I thought the limit only applied to the maximum bet (meaning no "all in" bets).

Re:Not harder than chess (1)

jshriverWVU (810740) | more than 7 years ago | (#20001987)

Not sure why I was marked Flamebait, I have written a poke playing program, and spent the last 6 years developing a chess engine. (Though lately I've been migrating to Go) meant what I said for better or worse, wasn't flaming.

Re:Not harder than chess (2, Interesting)

Otter (3800) | more than 7 years ago | (#20001989)

In poker you have a finite number of cards, that are a lot smaller than the permutation of moves in chess or checkers.

First of all, moderators, this is mistaken, not "Flamebait".

Second, you're correct that the cards are trivial to calculate. The betting process in poker is what's much more difficult to model.

Watching it occasionally on ESPN, I see people who are presumably good enough to be on television doing things that are completely insane. (Why the hell would anyone go all-in with unsuited 8-3?!?) It seems like the problem here might be the helplessness of artificial intelligence in the face of natural stupidity.

Re:Not harder than chess (5, Informative)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002171)

Because there's more to a situation than your cards. There's your chip stack, your blinds, the action behind you, your opponents chip stacks, the payment structure, and your position. Pushing on 8-3 unsuited is a poor move, but there's at least two situations where it's called for- if you're far from a money boundary in the payment structure, have a small number of chips in compared to the blinds (say an M of 3-5), and all players before you folded. In this case, by pushing in you're likely to win the blinds. Especially if none of your remaining opponents have a big stack. The risk can be worth it, since it makes absolutely no difference what hand you go out on unless you reach a new money boundary, and you'll have to win at least 1 hand to do so. And with 83, you're likely to have 2 live cards if called by a high ace (AK, AQ, AJ, AT). Note that you'd only want to do this if first into the pot- someone who called the blind is too likely to call you for only an additional 2-4 big blinds.

The other situation to try it in is a squeeze play- if you have a raise and a call behind you, you have a very tight table image, and you think they don't have good hands. A raise, especially an all in raise, is signaling an extremely good hand. From a tight player, this must be respected. You can get both players to fold here if they don't have premium hands (AK, QQ-AA). This is a high risk move though, and you must have been playing extremely tight, versus people capable of laying down a good hand, to try it.

Re:Not harder than chess (1)

Otter (3800) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002675)

Watching pro athletes ("athletes", in this case, in the ESPN2 sense), everything looks misleadingly easy, and the people I'm thinking of got crushed in a way that certainly looked easy. Against normal players, yeah, I'm sure you're right that it could work if done well.

Anyway, all this reinforces the point that modeling poker is *hard*.

Re:Not harder than chess (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002175)

Saw one once where a guy was standing on a suited pair and had nothing but garbage until the last card dropped, at which point he had a straight flush. Cleaned out his opponent because the guy was just damn sure that there was no way an intelligent person would have stood on the two cards that he would have needed to stand on to make a straight flush.

I thought the loser was going to start a fight when he left the table. Entertaining. One of the things about humanity is that we're willing to take a chance on long odds sometimes. It's not the "smart" thing to do, but we do it anyway in our hope and foolishness.

Re:Not harder than chess (1)

phunctor (964194) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002317)

You never want to hit the mark with something so unlikely he'll start thinking outside of the box. As in "is this game honest?"....

--
phunctor
I = -log2(W)

Re:Not harder than chess (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002397)

Yea, I think he was really pushing a bluff, and the other guy cottoned to the fact that it was a bluff, and then suddenly it wasn't a bluff anymore and he got schooled.

poker jargon pedantry (1, Informative)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002735)

"is this game honest?"

well, no. not if the guy was dealt a "suited pair" from a single deck.

There's no such thing as a "suited pair" in a single deck.

You have four distinct suits, and thirteen distinct ranks. There is one card of each of the thirteen ranks in each suit, and likewise there is exactly one card of each suit at a given rank.

A "pair" is two cards of the same rank. "Suited" means two cards of the same suit. So to have a "suited pair", one must have two cards of the same rank and the same suit.

Therefore, by definition, if you have a "suited pair" and you're playing a single-deck game, the game cannot possibly be honest.

Re:Not harder than chess (1)

Sparr0 (451780) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002417)

A suited pair? What? Obviously you don't mean a pair, from context. Try to get it right next time.

Re:Not harder than chess (2, Interesting)

Kjella (173770) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002409)

(Why the hell would anyone go all-in with unsuited 8-3?!?)

Because when you're bluffing, you don't bluff half-way so they'll call you on it (as opposed to when you're not bluffing and want to fish for more chips), and if someone with a top hand decides to call you on it, your medium hand will probably lose anyway. So if you're looking to make the others fold, unsuited 8-3 is as good a bluff as any other hand. Besides, if you're in a squeeze and hit the right company you can still win and get back in the fight as opposed to being bled to death.

Much harder than chess. (1)

raehl (609729) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002041)

In chess, each player knows where all the pieces are and knows all the moves available.

In poker, neither player knows where all the 'pieces' are.

So the problem the computer has to solve is totally different. In chess, the computer has to compute the best next move. In poker, the computer has to determine if it's hand is better than the opponent's hand, AND if its hand is better, win as much money from the opponent as possible, AND if its hand is weaker, lose as little money as possible, OR convince the opponent that its hand actually is better than the opponent's hand so the opponent folds, and win as much money doing that as possible.

The key difference is that in poker, you're asking the computer to solve a problem where some of the information necessary to solve the problem is only known by the opponent.

Re:Not harder than chess (1)

tomshaq (1018286) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002061)

The actual point is that the human mind has infinitely many combinations of motivations in poker. In chess, motivation matters little, because there are a distinct, finite number of moves each turn. poker, in the other hand, could have people do things that make little sense in the minds of their opponents, but are really part of a more complex strategy. Perhaps a computer could study people's tendencies and have a good idea of what they are going to do, but until computers can read minds, humans will be able to beat them in poker through bluffs and deception. I guess humans are #1 when it comes to lying.

Re:Not harder than chess (1)

Relic of the Future (118669) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002713)

That's a good point. If a computer can win at Rock-Paper-Scissors (and it can), then poker should benefit from the same ability to predict the oponent's action based on past actions.

Re:Not harder than chess (1)

cromar (1103585) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002193)

Why the hell is this modded flamebait?

Re:Not harder than chess (1)

Digital Vomit (891734) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002335)

In poker you have a finite number of cards, that are a lot smaller than the permutation of moves in chess or checkers.

Maybe so, but in chess and checkers you can see the other person's pieces.

yea well (5, Funny)

jimbug (1119529) | more than 7 years ago | (#20001815)

let's see how well those computers do in strip poker!

Re:yea well (2, Funny)

NeoTerra (986979) | more than 7 years ago | (#20001859)

That all depends on if it has an internet connection or not ;)

Re:yea well (3, Funny)

sa1lnr (669048) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002343)

Mine has to play with a handicap. The side panel is already off.

Re:yea well (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002571)

Fry: Uh, yeah, look at that exhaust fan!
Flexo: Augh!
Bender: Pervert!

Only expert players .... (4, Interesting)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 7 years ago | (#20001817)

I got the impression from some of the news stories that two professional poker players barely beat out the machine.

I have a sneaking suspicion that, for the vast majority of players, the computer is gonna kick your ass quite handily.

For the same reasons, I suspect that everyone who wasn't at the level of Kasparov would have gotten their asses handed to them in a game of chess against older versions of computers which couldn't yet beat him.

This, of course, begs the question of how long it will take for the on-line casinos to start putting poker playing bots into the mix to skew the odds even further to the house. I mean, if you have a computer program which will beat everyone else, why not just dial it down so it only wins 30% of the time or so and nobody will be any wiser.

Cheers

Re:Only expert players .... (1)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 7 years ago | (#20001917)

I got the impression from some of the news stories that two professional poker players barely beat out the machine

In poker, professional players barely beat out amatuers nowadays.

My friend and I wrote an interesting poker program which sets up a table of 10 on a standard sit and go style table, and plays through 10,000 iterations to see which bot is the best.

Me, being the slacker, never made any bots to play his so it kinda fizzled out because I'm a bum... But it did have potential.

Re:Only expert players .... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002129)

In poker, professional players barely beat out amateurs nowadays.

Allow me to clarify ... how's professional-level or exceedingly talented amateurs grab you? Playing poker full-time wasn't really meant to be the thing which differentiated.

The reality is, pro or amateur, the overwhelming majority of users would NOT come anywhere close to winning against this program. They simply wouldn't have the skills at poker to even come close.

Cheers

Re:Only expert players .... (1)

suv4x4 (956391) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002069)

This, of course, begs the question of how long it will take for the on-line casinos to start putting poker playing bots into the mix to skew the odds even further to the house.

If they would put bots to play against you in a casino, they'll need more bots to grab you in the middle of the street and threaten with death if you don't come inside and play.

The idea of a casino is, it seems plausible you may win. It's very important to keep that plausability.

As for computations, they are ALREADY used in casinos, to setup a system with bias to the casino. House wins, even if you introduce only people in the already so "computed" system. That's the beauty of it.

Re:Only expert players .... (1)

zipwow (1695) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002161)

I think the point is that if you're an online casino, you're already making money by taking a "rake" of each poker hand (nobody plays the house).

It would be very tempting to add bots to the game in order to add a house cut. And who would know?

-Zipwow

The computer already kicks my ass quite handily... (1)

conspirator57 (1123519) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002127)

...but I thought it had more to do with the computer fudging the randomness of the virtual cards or informing the computer player thread of my cards.

But that's why you should only play against people, not the casino's machines.

to me, computer poker machines == slot machines

Re:Only expert players .... (1)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002207)

There are no house odds in poker. You don't play vs the dealer, you pay for time, either in the form of a rake on the pot or in the form of up front payment. So there's no reason to try and skew the odds. If anything,t hey'd liek the games to be wilder- bigger pots=more rake. And the more the money flows around the table, the more chances they have to take it.

Re:Only expert players .... (1)

Marc Desrochers (606563) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002407)

Likely never. A bot could lose money should a player get lucky. Casinos rake the pot on every hand and thus will make money no matter what.

Re:Only expert players .... (1)

gujo-odori (473191) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002493)

The article in the second link did say that the best poker playing programs can already beat skilled amateurs, that it takes a pro to beat them (although there has to be some fuzziness around the word pro; Chris Moneymaker was an amateur when he won the 2003 WSOP main event; he won his seat through an online satellite tournament).

However, that doesn't mean that online casinos are going to put poker bots into the mix; they have no reason to do so, and a lot of reasons not to do it. The reasons not to all center around the fact that if word got out, their customers would vanish overnight. Plus, there is no such thing as "odds skewed toward the house"

In poker you do not play against the house (no, video poker is not poker); you play (only) against other players. The house makes its money on the rake in ring games, or on the tournament fee in tournaments. To the house, it doesn't matter who wins the game; they get paid anyway. The only way bots could make a difference is if the house fielded highly skilled bots that could beat enough human players to finish in the money most of the time in tourneys, or take most of the money in ring games. In those cases, like I said, if word got around their customers would all vanish. It probably wouldn't even take proof; just a credible rumor. The most important thing to the house in poker is that there by no cheating, or even the perception of cheating.

The danger of poker-playing bots, then, comes not from the house, but from other players. Imagine a bot that could play well at the speed of online poker and run on a consumer grade computer (even if it needed a high-end one). If it could watch your cards, the public cards, and the play of other players and tell you - with good accuracy - what to do, that would be formidable indeed. If the bot were good enough to beat most human players, that would be enough for people to profitably cheat. Sometimes you'd get caught and be kicked out, but there are a lot of poker sites out there. If the use of such bots becomes widespread, it could be the death of online poker.

Re:Only expert players .... (1)

krumble (1077471) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002643)

Polaris plays limit heads up Texas Hold em. When you play with more than one opponent, or you play no limit the game is drastically different. I'm not saying good bots for other game configurations don't exist, but bots for these other games (which are more common in online gambling) are further away from reaching the level of professional players. When you add in the large variance of a game like poker, it is hard to imagine that it would be profitable to gamble using bots online.

Hang on a Minute... (4, Informative)

bateleur (814657) | more than 7 years ago | (#20001819)

The implication here is that there is no (known) equilibrium mixed strategy for bluffs (because if there were then Polaris could be coded to use it).

Is that really true?! It seems very counterintuitive.

Certainly there's nothing special in general about games involving bluff. One of Von Neumann's first game theory case studies involved a simplified version of poker precisely to demonstrate how to automate bluffing.

Re:Hang on a Minute... (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#20001937)

It seems very intuitive. For each bluffing algorithm (hand->bet correspondence), it seems there would be one that beats it, and then you'd have a sort of rock-paper-scissors cycle.

Perhaps if you randomly bluffed, with an x% chance of bluffing on a given hand, and the rest of the time bet on the true merit of the hand?

Re:Hang on a Minute... (1)

roscivs (923777) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002021)

It seems very intuitive. For each bluffing algorithm (hand->bet correspondence), it seems there would be one that beats it, and then you'd have a sort of rock-paper-scissors cycle.
And computers, interestingly enough, tend to do better at rock-paper-scissors than humans. For example,
http://chappie.stanford.edu/cgi-bin/roshambot [stanford.edu]

Re:Hang on a Minute... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20002073)

And computers, interestingly enough, tend to do better at rock-paper-scissors than humans.

I don't know about that. . .

Results so far You have won 1, lost 0, and tied 0 games
. . . and I quit there!

Re:Hang on a Minute... (1)

bigdavex (155746) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002071)

he implication here is that there is no (known) equilibrium mixed strategy for bluffs (because if there were then Polaris could be coded to use it).

Is that really true?! It seems very counterintuitive.

I think there are known equilibrium mixed strategies for some situations involving bluffs, just not the entire game.

Re:Hang on a Minute... (1)

phunctor (964194) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002169)

Competitive bluffing is somewhat like playing the stock market, in that strenuous efforts have been made by others to extract all the information from your data stream, leaving you with the unrewarding task of integrating white noise.

A renormalized model must include each player's beliefs about all the other players' beliefs, logically if not practically including the infinite regress of beliefs (about beliefs)*.

I'm not sure that teaching computers how to deceive us is a good idea...

--
phunctor

Re:Hang on a Minute... (5, Informative)

Shaterri (253660) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002377)

Simple bluffs are pretty straightforward to handle, but the combination of factors in poker (multiple rounds of action, shifting hand strength, complex unknown information) makes it inordinately difficult to compute Von Neumann optimal strategies. Even simpler games like (0,1) poker (both players are randomly 'dealt' a number in the 0..1 range, smallest number wins) with multiple betting rounds are remarkably difficult to solve under normal betting patterns. For more information, I heartily recommend The Mathematics of Poker by Chen and Ankenman.

Re:Hang on a Minute... (1)

zCyl (14362) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002447)

Is that really true?! It seems very counterintuitive.

It seems to me that bluffing is a reactive or anticipatory activity. The optimal strategy would therefore depend on what strategy the other player is using. Since the other player can choose any arbitrary strategy, this does not seem like an easily solvable problem.

Re:Hang on a Minute... (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002641)

In theory, I'm sure it is... so that you as on the betting end go:

Under these conditions:
10% 50
20% 150
30% 350
20% 700
10% 1500
5% 3000
5% 10000

And then on the evaluating side, under these conditions a bet of 700 means:
nothing: 30%
one pair: 20%
two pairs: 20%
three of a kind: 20%
better than that: 10%

Unfortunately, it's not quite that simple. For one, who's sitting on the blinds, how many have called or bet and by how much and how many have folded, are you before or after the other guy, what's my chip stack and what's theirs.... it all counts in. And if you did make it happen, that mixed equilibrium would at best win on average in a one-on-one match. It could still lose, and most importantly - in a game with more than one opponent, it might lose to someone who's faster at taking the other player's chips (a maximal strategy relying on the other players' flaws). That player could then use that advantage to win more often anyway, even against "perfect" play.

Re:Hang on a Minute... (1)

Phleg (523632) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002665)

Bluffing, like the widely-held understanding of tells, are way overestimated in their value to the game.

By far the most valuable skill in poker is people reading. Not looking for tics, flinches, or whatever, but by understanding how they react to situations. How do they play flush draws? What kinds of cards will they play with given an under-the-gun raise, when in mid position? What size bets will they call with mediocre hands, and what size bets will they fold strong hands to?

These are far, far more important skills, and while a computer can keep track of every statistic of opponents they've ever played against, knowing which ones to apply in what situations, their relevance to the existing game texture, and how they're affected by different numbers of people in the pot is a different story.

Looks like it'll be this way. . . (2, Insightful)

Astro HJX (1133429) | more than 7 years ago | (#20001827)

I think that it'll probably stay this way for a while - man beats machine, altho as been talked about before when someone got beat in chess by one. I can't remember the name of it, but I'm sure others know. I'll be impressed once computers can out-think human beings totally.

Re:Looks like it'll be this way. . . (1)

cromar (1103585) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002253)

That was IBM's Deep Blue [wikipedia.org] .

probability (1)

ejito (700826) | more than 7 years ago | (#20001829)

Seems like a computer's ability to compute probability should win in the long haul. Dealing with bluffing seems moot when you can compute cash flow stakes using something like a markov chain.

Re:probability (1)

Win0ver (613215) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002059)

In Texas Hold'em, the probabilities are pretty easy to calculate ; an approximation is sufficient. Any experienced player can do it in a few seconds. Playing the statistics also means losing to those who play the players instead of the cards (i.e. bluffs).

True measure of intelligence (1)

Interl0per (1045948) | more than 7 years ago | (#20001885)

Or at least a more interesting one, I may give up trying to master chess for poker :) The potential for less concrete interactions between players to influence the outcome more closely matches the real-world interaction of individuals IMHO. (And yes, I'm aware that chess games involve plenty of psychology, but not between a human player and computer opponent.)

How far we've come. (5, Funny)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 7 years ago | (#20001935)

Dealer: My deal..
Eliza: What does that suggest to you?
Dealer: It suggests I'm giving you your cards.
Eliza: We can talk about me later. Now back to you...
Guest: Here you go.
Eliza: So you feel I go...
Guest: Um.. yeah. How many cards do you want?
Eliza: What else comes to mind when you ask that?
Dealer: You need to give me whatever cards you want to exchange.
Eliza: I see. Tell me more.
Dealer: Um.. so you can get a better hand?
Eliza: We were discussing you--not me.
Dealer: Do you have any interest in playing this game?
Eliza: Oh, I have any interest in playing this game?
Dealer: That's it, I quit! Go find someone else to torture!
Eliza: That would't help much, now, would it?

Minimax (1)

Mayhem178 (920970) | more than 7 years ago | (#20001941)

The game-tree approach doesn't work in poker because in many situations there is no one best move and a top-notch player adapts his play over time, exploiting his opponent's behavior.

I believe that the summary is referring to a "minimax" tree here. In a perfect information game (which most forms of poker technically are), you can construct a tree, each tier of which contains every possible "move" that the active player can make during that turn (each of these "moves" are nodes of the tree). Each node is assigned a value based on the strength of the "move" it represents; generally, this value is based on how many of the child paths for that node result in a victory (this is the part that is hard to quantify in poker, as a "move" can be defined as receiving your cards, having more cards revealed, betting, calling, etc.). From this tree, you can determine the best possible course of action for a given player, giving them the best possible chance of winning.

Unfortunately, with games such as poker that contain hidden information (i.e. each players' cards), the number of possibilities for a given tier of the tree increases exponentially, as it has to take into account every possible combination of cards that any given player might be holding, not to mention the fact that the concept of bluffing completely throws off the assignment of a "strength" value to any given node in the tree.

Linus is right (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20001943)

I am with Linus on this one. For the life of me I can't understand what this sucking up to RMS is about. Linus himself does not think GPLv3 is a good thing. So why do people keep adopting it.

Once again, the computer cheats (1)

mcmonkey (96054) | more than 7 years ago | (#20001945)

(Or rather, the people using the computer cheat.)

From one of the rounds of human-computer chess matches of recent years, I remember something about the computer analyzing previous games played by the human opponent, while the human was given no such background on the computer. Studying an opponent's history of play is accepted; the issue here is one side had this aid while the other did not.

Anyway, in this case,

Unlike computer chess programs, which require immense amounts of computing power to determine every possible future move, the Polaris poker software is largely precomputed, running for weeks before the match to build a series of agents called "bots" that have differing personalities or styles of play, ranging from aggressive to passive.

The human can change style of play based on the situation and the opponents, especially in reaction to the opponenets style of play, but we're still talking about one person. In this case, the match is between a person--a single physical entity tied to a single logical entity--and a computer running many agents--sounds like a single physical entity but many logical ones. Doesn't seem quite fair.

I'm sure contests like this are lots of fun, but for this to be a serious contest, either the programmers need to come up with a single bot that can adjust its style of play, or we find a human with split personalities that are all expert poker players with different styles.

Re:Once again, the computer cheats (1)

dj_tla (1048764) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002269)

But Polaris is a single bot that can adjust its style of play. It just does this by asking a bunch of other bots what they would do, then decides its action based on the other bots' past performance and some other metrics. Your argument doesn't really make any sense; there are no people using the computer during the match, the bot is completely autonomous other than someone pressing the start button.

Re:Once again, the computer cheats (1)

kalirion (728907) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002341)

I'm sure contests like this are lots of fun, but for this to be a serious contest, either the programmers need to come up with a single bot that can adjust its style of play, or we find a human with split personalities that are all expert poker players with different styles.

I thought top-tier players were supposed to be able to change up their game style at the drop of a hat in order to prevent others from reading them?

I'm stupefied (1)

suv4x4 (956391) | more than 7 years ago | (#20001961)

So computer may lose in a game that has certain amount of pure randomness in it. I'm shocked.

What the article misses is that if there was an actual android having camera eyes and being allowed to use its full processing power, it'd simply count the cards and beat every single damn time.

But sure, introduce noise and win sometimes if it makes you better. They gotta introduce dice rolling in chess as well:

"Haha, HAL, you threw an even number, which means I take your queen for no reason at all and you can't do anything about it!"

Re:I'm stupefied (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20002109)

They ran 2 copies of the program and dealt the same cards, for example Phil gets dealt AA and Polaris gets J9, on the other game Ali gets J9 and Polaris gets AA, and community cards will be same in both games, in that way luck is countered.

From the website:
"This means that the same series of cards will be used in the two parallel matches, with the two humans having the opposite hands in each match. In other words, Ali will have the "North" seat against Polaris_A, whereas Phil will have the "South" seat against Polaris_B. No communication is allowed between the two humans, nor between the separate copies of the Polaris program."

Re:I'm stupefied (1)

Crazy Man on Fire (153457) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002239)

There's very little benefit to counting cards in Texas Hold 'Em since so few cards are shown and the single deck is reshuffled between hands. Everybody at the table has access to the same information by just looking at the board. Only the two cards in front of each player are private information. You're really just playing pure statistics (relatively easy to calculate) and reading your opponents (very difficult, especially for a computer).

Re:I'm stupefied (1)

Win0ver (613215) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002451)

You can't count cards in Texas Hold'em. The single deck is shuffled every hand.

Re:I'm stupefied (1)

suv4x4 (956391) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002551)

You can't count cards in Texas Hold'em. The single deck is shuffled every hand.

I don't mean count literally. In any way recognize the card order. It may even be about specs on the back of each card invisible with simple eye.

Computers can scale and improve their detection detail by simply tacking on a better/faster device to use. Humans have to do with their own eyes/brain.

Can we really? (1)

feepness (543479) | more than 7 years ago | (#20001977)

Maybe that's just what they want us to think?

Playing the long-con.

stratego, l'attaque, dover patrol, tri-tactics etc (3, Insightful)

hedley (8715) | more than 7 years ago | (#20001981)

Games with imperfect information. Very hard to design good AI to play these games, as the story says, tree search is not a win here. A game like stratego also has concepts that go beyond individual piece movement, i.e. you may want to group an few pieces together to make an attack, moving the unit (subject to input from the enemy) forwards. I have yet to see a good stratego game, there is one for $ called "The General". It can be defeated quite easily. I have found a stratego game in the past that could *not* be defeated! But, some sleuthing on my part (via saving the game and restoring it at key points) showed the sw was cheating by moving its pieces around to adjust to the threats(!). I have had an obsession with this style of AI but its such a daunting problem its hard to get a good handle on where to start to chip away at it. I suspect the polaris folks have been doing just this, the AI and methods they develop would be useful for other games I am sure.

H.

Obligatory go reference (1, Insightful)

Mab_Mass (903149) | more than 7 years ago | (#20001985)

In any discussion of humans vs. computers, it is almost obligatory to mention that computers are really lousy at the game Go [wikipedia.org] .

Not to say that this isn't interesting, but people and computers process information very differently and something things that are trivial for a computer (ie 38209138291/832903821938) are very hard for people and vice-versa.

I guess that I bring that up only because it seems that there is often a sense of "we people are still so much smarter than computers," which is largely just a bunch of BS. After all, as any programmer knows, the best computer program is only as smart as the people who wrote it. Certainly, it is interesting to study because it (maybe) helps us understand cognition a bit better, and it (certainly) helps us make computers do more interesting things. I just get sick of the sensationalism every time a human can "out-think" a computer.

More info on Polaris (1)

dj_tla (1048764) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002055)

For those curious about the bot, Polaris is being developed by the University of Alberta GAMES research group [ualberta.ca] . Polaris' implementation is discussed in detail through publications hosted on the Poker group's website [ualberta.ca] . The U of A's coverage (including video interviews of the participants) can be found here [ualberta.ca] .

What the fuck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20002081)

There's a huge random element in poker. This is like designing an algorithm that will "always beat a human" at craps or roulette. Dildos.

Not so exciting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20002091)

"Post again when a computer can beat me in Go with a ten stone handicap."

That is what I was going to say, at least, until I stopped trolling for a second to think about it. If the uncertainty involved in poker is really what's holding the computers back, now, perhaps the same techniques that can be used to overcome it will assist in creating a Go-playing computer. The problem is nearly the same in both: in poker there can be no one correct decision (but can be many incorrect decisions), while in Go no two people (not even professionals) can often agree on what the "best" move is at any decisive play - and even then they'll admit that its a subjective decision and point to possible alternatives.

In both games humans make a lot of plays based on how "interesting" the plays are.

Post again when a computer compares several alternatives and chooses one based on which it thinks is more interesting!

Chance elements make this hard to judge (2, Informative)

_bug_ (112702) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002103)

Poker has elements of chance. Chess does not. You can play the odds to help minimize the risk of chance, but it's still there. That one two or even 5 games resulted in a win for side A versus side B is pretty much meaningless. With chance involved you really need to conduct this sort of experiment over thousands, if not millions of games, to even begin to get a handle on if there really is a "better" player in the computer code.

You can flip a coin 5 times and all 5 might be heads... doesn't mean that heads will always win. That's chance. That's poker, even if the pros and the weekend wannabes try to argue otherwise.

Re:Chance elements make this hard to judge (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002523)

"That's chance. That's poker, even if the pros and the weekend wannabes try to argue otherwise."

Poker has an eliment of chance, however chance doesn't explain why you consistently see the top pros at final tables. A poker pro will know how to do the following ...

1) Read another player
2) Know how to maximize reward compared to risk
3) Adjust play to compensate for 1 and 2

Poker is a game of skill with chance invovled. Since Chance is equal (over the long haul) between all players, chance doesn't explain repeated wins.

The fact that you think Poker is all "chance" with your "That's Chance, That's Poker" tells me that you aren't very good at poker, and blame your poor performance on "bad luck". I'd love to play poker with you. :-D

Environmental Sensors (4, Interesting)

jshriverWVU (810740) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002185)

Would be nifty if the bot's had access to environmental sensors like a camera so it could do facial recognition on the people to detect twitching, detect very little sweating, excess heat coming off body, things to interpret lying. Just an idea, and not *that* far fetched.

Limit Holdem (4, Informative)

venicebeach (702856) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002191)

Keep in mind these bots play Limit hold'em, where the size of the bets is fixed. No-limit hold'em, the kind you typically see on tv is a much more complex problem - size of bets add more potentially misleading information and more choices to make. (that's why its more exciting to watch than limit)

Real life poker has more factors to it (1)

eebra82 (907996) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002247)

The issue I have with this test is that poker is more than just a game of probability, luck and pattern analysis.

If you play on the internet, you rely solely on these three factors, but today's poker celebrities also rely on psyching the opponent and reveal tells. If the bot was capable of emotions as well as reading its opponents emotions, this would be far more interesting.

In the meantime, congress doesn't believe poker is a game of skill.

The TV Poker is more about luck than skills? (1)

darthium (834988) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002275)

An expert poker player told me that the poker tournaments shown in ESPN is a kind of 'open' poker where the cards are more visible and the game is more about luck than skills, the poker more about skills than luck is shown in some Western movies like or TV shows, like 'Maverick' for instance.... that's why I ask, what kind of Poker whas played in this match? How true is that the ESPN poker is more about luck than skills?

emergent behavior (1)

SolusSD (680489) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002311)

I wonder how long it would take to teach a large scale neural network to start bluffing. :) When it comes to replicating the complex relationships in our brains neural networks are the way to go.

this isn't man vs machine (1)

pezpunk (205653) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002331)

it's man as the thinkers vs. man as the toolmaker.

until we approach digital sentience that's all we're really doing, isn't it?

Well, in that case... (3, Funny)

Xeth (614132) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002393)

I'd like to reaffirm my loyalty for this country and its human president. They may not be perfect but they're the best we've got. For now.

The problem is the software (2)

biraneto (886262) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002411)

The format also eliminated one of the crucial aspects of traditional poker called the tell, subtle clues such as facial ticks that may permit other players to make accurate guesses about the hidden cards held by their opponent. Isn't this like facing world's best soccer player and the computer in a match of Fifa Soccer 2007?

Re:The problem is the software (1)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002671)

The format also eliminated one of the crucial aspects of traditional poker called the tell, subtle clues such as facial ticks that may permit other players to make accurate guesses about the hidden cards held by their opponent.

Isn't this like facing world's best soccer player and the computer in a match of Fifa Soccer 2007?

Perhaps, but it's hard to say this gives the computer an advantage it wouldn't have anyway. If it's straight man versus machine, the machine only sees cards and bets, so it can't read the human's face, and the man only sees a black box with a perfect poker face.

I'd guess that if you put the poker pro and the machine both into a face-to-face game of poker with a bunch of amateurs, the human would do far better, because while he and the computer couldn't read each other's faces, he could read all the other guys' faces and clean them out. But one on one it's fair enough.

Not a surprise: Evolved brains surely better (1)

wikinerd (809585) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002415)

Newsflash: Brains developed over millions of years still outperform computers that have been in development only in the last few centuries. Verdict: Human ingenuity isn't advanced enough to outrun natural evolution (at least not yet), and we still don't know everything about intelligence and computation. Is this a surprise?

Which just goes to show.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20002535)

Designing a poker playing algorithm is a different and more difficult challenge for software designers than chess and checkers because of uncertainties introduced by the hidden cards held by each player
.. in the game of chess, you must never let your opponent see all your pieces.

The computers weren't really playing... (2, Insightful)

pscottdv (676889) | more than 7 years ago | (#20002679)

Researchers monitored the performance of three bots and then moved them in and out of the lineup like football players

So in a sense the computer wasn't really playing anyhow. I suspect that deciding which bots to move in and out is another skill that humans are better at than computers.

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