I’ve been taking a cursory look at other people’s blogs again. By and large, with some noticeable exceptions, I don’t really enjoy them. This is mostly because they are about life, the universe and everything 80% of the time, and poker maybe 20% of the time. This does not mean that they aren’t well written and interesting; it’s just that I don’t have a huge desire to read about the personal lives of poker playing strangers. Sorry.
But one topic that piqued my interest on a newbie’s blog was that of poker bots destroying online poker. Now the concept of a poker bot has been around now for some time, with whispers and rumors around the edges of the poker community like old scary fairy tales to frighten children. For example, Neverlose on the 100-200 game on Stars is alleged to be a bot. These scaremongers cite the cases of Chess and Backgammon and how computers have “solved” those games, and predict poker Armageddon when the rise of the robots marches into poker. Bullshit.
The reason Chess has proven so amenable to computing is that it is a game that can be beaten if you can process through all the future permutations successfully. Kasporov wasn’t outthought; he was “ground out” by a processing engine with huge capabilities and had been programmed to understand his style. Similarly, backgammon just happened to be a game that fitted a neural net approach, whereas neural nets have not been anywhere near as successful in other games.
To my mind, one of the issues will that will prevent computers tackling high level poker play is that so many situations are very flexible – for example the compensations and differences between playing a hand against many or just one player. Another major factor is the necessary combination of lots of money, technical ability and poker excellence. As Darse Billings put it, as the inventor of the leading HU poker bot, the problem with poker versus the other types of game is that the computer has to think. This is something computers have a long history of not being very good at.
Beating low limit games on a rule-based basis, maybe. Becoming excellent at headsup play, probably. Being able to beat all-comers in a ring environment, I think not.