Poker? I don't even know 'er!

Anyway, no existing artificial intelligence could understand that joke. Likewise, I think Scott Chaffin at The Fat Guy is right in thinking that no existing AI could beat a human poker master. However, I think he's hasty in dismissing speculation that people are writing bots to play online poker and are raking in the dough from unsuspecting internet players.

Are poker ‘bots’ raking online pots?: after "these online sites are RIGGED!" and "I'm calling tech support about collusion!", bots are probably the biggest source of idle chit-chat and/or creeping Nixon-like paranoia on the interweb. As this article explains, it's highly unlikely that you're sliding pixelated chips to software programs. There's talk of one up in that Canada, called Vex something-or-other, that is rated a "master" at 2-handed games. Well, a) big whoop: only a dumbass plays two-handed unless they're squaring off against someone they know (we're talking regular ring games here, not tournies), and b) "master"? What the heck is that? By my reckoning, the only masters of this game are walking around Vegas with rolls of $1000 bills that would choke a horse and getting on the teevee on a semi-regular basis (cf., Doyle Brunson, TJ Cloutier, Daniel Negreanu, etc., etc., etc.) All that is to say I don't spend a lot of time worrying about robots. If someone wants to give their judgement over to a piece of software when they're playing for real money...well, let's just say I've written software, and poker ain't completely logical.
I've written software too -- and am getting a Ph.D. in artificial intelligence -- and I'm positive that it wouldn't be hard to write an AI that could beat average to good poker players in an online format. "Vex something-or-other" probably refers to Vexbot, a component of Poki's Artificial Intelligence, a project led by Darse Billings from the University of Alberta.

According to the Poki FAQ:

Q: How good is Poki?

A: The older version of Poki that plays in full 10-player games is better than a typical low-limit casino player, and wins consistently against average opponents; but it is not as good as most expert players. The newer programs being developed for the 2-player game are quite a bit better, and we believe they will eventually surpass all human players, perhaps within a few years, or less.

Sounds reasonable to me. If Poki ever can beat human poker masters then that means that bluffing and "tells" are unnecessary to winning the game. Poki probably does "bluff", but only based on statistics, not intuition, and that seems like a very different thing to me. Imagine how effective an AI could be that could read human facial expressions in addition to crunching numbers?



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