but when you love the greenback dollar
sorrows always bound to follow
reno dreams fade into neon amber
It's late one Wednesday afternoon, and CptPokr is logged on to PartyPoker.com and ready to play. Onscreen, the captain exudes a certain brash charisma - broad shoulders, immaculate brown hair, restless animatronic eyes. He looks like he should be playing synth in Kraftwerk. Instead, he is seated at a virtual table with nine other avatars, wagering on limit Texas hold 'em. [. . .]
CptPokr is a robot. Unlike the other icons at the table, there is no human placing his bets and playing his cards. He is controlled by WinHoldEm, the first commercially available autoplaying poker software. Seat him at the table and he will apply strategy gleaned from decades of research. While carbon-based players munch Ding Dongs, yawn, guzzle beer, reply to email, take phone calls, and chat on IM, CptPokr (a pseudonym) is running the numbers so it will know, statistically, when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em.
As Momma always warned me, never play poker against a man named Doc, or a bot named Doc 3.0168 (build 5.7).
There's a similar problem in online chess, where people often use bots or chess software against opponents. The difference being that there's (at least on any of the servers I've used) no money on the table, just bragging rights.
This is a troubling (if predictable) development for the commercial poker sites, which employ hundreds of people to try and detect the bots. It's quite the technological arms race.
The article mentions one of the world's leading researchers on computer poker, the University of Alberta's Jonathan Schaeffer:
Other bots are appearing on the scene - including some that were never intended for online play. For the past 14 years, computer scientists at the University of Alberta Games Group have been building the poker version of Deep Blue: a program that can beat a top player, just as IBM's bot trumped Garry Kasparov in chess. "I'd love to be there when the computer raises the stakes by $100,000," says UA's Jonathan Schaeffer. "I want to see the bead of perspiration going down the human opponent's forehead. That's my dream."
Prof. Schaeffer's research project, Poki (you can download a free demo for Windows, MacOSX or Linux) is here.
While Poki is kicking your butt, you might as well look like a pro:
With enough practice you should be able to absentmindedly shuffle and cut a deck of cards with one hand while sorting your chips with the other. It's also a useful flourish for those interested in card tricks, and just generally for those interested in manual dexterity games.