Saturday, October 11, 2003

Poker Bots < Humans

If there was a perfect way to play poker, then I think we'd see more computers playing and winning as we do in chess. There is too much about this game that is situation dependant.

Why can't computer opponents beat humans in poker?

Playing a rigid style, using a chart or system to play Hold Em would be futile. Transitive math: the example of hands heads up against each other. AKo is a favorite over JTs heads up, and JTs is a favorite over 22 heads up....but lo and behold, 22 is a favorite over AKo. This game has so many permutations and combinations that make it a pleasure to play and think about. I see something new each time I play.

JT > 22
22 > AK

The concept of “correct play” I find most interesting. Is it the play that mathematically (over the long run) will yield the most EV? Table texture, player types, tells, etc. would have no impact. That can’t be right since the game would just boil down to a set of algorithms. So is it situational with probability underpinnings? Or is it what the majority of good players would have done faced with the same set of circumstances? Wouldn’t that be the essence of “correct” since making the best situational decisions are what makes a player good in the first place?

I mean, ABC Poker, while not really bad, fails to achieve maximum profit. Playing a hand one way against a tight player isn't neccessarily the way you should play it versus a loose one. An advanced player adjusts to the individual player and situation he faces, thinking about ways to extract more money from the hand.

John Feeny talks about the "strategic moment" in hold em in his fine book, "Inside the Poker Mind." He's referring to the moment when a strategic decision is made during the hand - the brief time before and during the moment finds a player assessing the relative merits of his playing options and choosing the one he deems best.

One of the major elements he says separates an average player from an advanced one is a well developed tendency to think about what opponents are thinking.

I struggle with this. Playing on Party Poker more often than not causes me to think, What the HELL was that guy thinking?"

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