Pokertron: Rise of the Machines

Here is the sequal to a post from several months back. Check it out here. It seems that Micheal Bowling (pictured below) and his team of computer scientists from the University of Alberta are the new team to beat in Vegas.

They have vastly improved their program Polaris. It now has the ability to consistently defeat 1 million plus winning poker players.  Now before anyone  starts thinking that humans are out of bussiness at the tables, realize that it is only programed to play one game, texas holdem, against a single opponenet. On top of that, it only claims the top spot in limit games. So far the variables needed to account for anything more complex than heads up play of a single game and limited betting are too daunting for Polaris.

But, it would seem that if it can be done in this limited case, it is only a matter of time before a program powerful enough can be developed to handle more complex situatons. There isn’t anything essentially different about upping the challenge except for sheer complexity level. Once the essential problems are solved, it is simply a matter or processing power and efficient programming to handle anything else.

Unlike other games that computers excel at, poker is about lack of information. Chess, checkers, and the like are relatively easy because everything is right there. All the moves are open for anyone to see on the board. In poker, not only does the opponent not know the other player’s cards, but he has to account for deceptive play. In order to keep others from guessing their hands, players vary the ways in which they telegraph information.

People get scared about technology any time a computer is able to do something better than a human. That’s all nonsense as far as I’m concerned. When people are made to realize that humans really aren’t as special as they like to think, they get a little shaken up. Chess hasn’t been surrendered to microchips and neither will poker.

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