The Unrepentant Individual

...just hanging around until Dec 21, 2012


July 21, 2007


The Unabomber Against The Computer

This is an angle that I haven’t quite seen exploited on this story:
phil_laak.jpg

Poker champion Phil Laak has a good chance of winning when he sits down this week to play 2,000 hands of Texas Hold’em — against a computer.

It may be the last chance he gets. Computers have gotten a lot better at poker in recent years; they’re good enough now to challenge top professionals like Laak, who won the World Poker Tour invitational in 2004.

But it’s only a matter of time before the machines take a commanding lead in the war for poker supremacy. Just as they already have in backgammon, checkers and chess, computers are expected to surpass even the best human poker players within a decade. They can already beat virtually any amateur player.

This is a really interesting test of AI. Games like chess are fundamentally different than poker, because a computer knows precisely where all of a competitor’s pieces are located at all given times. In poker, you only have imperfect information. Knowing how to calculate odds is important, but reading your opponent is often more important. You can only guess from your opponents betting trends and behavior as to what cards he holds, and a good pro knows how to vary those trends enough to fool just about anyone.

The question of computers and poker are not new, as I mentioned here. Typical poker programs are set up with a varying level of aggressiveness, willingness to bluff, risk tolerance, etc. Setting up a computer to play a moderately “correct” strategy will usually be enough to beat mediocre players, but against a pro, won’t work at all.

So this will really be a good test of how far AI has come. The better they teach the computer to read Laak and vary its own behavior, the closer we’ll get to a computer that can really “think”. So for geeks, this one is pretty interesting.

There’s a bit of a different component, though… Phil Laak has a nickname, due to his fashion sense (hooded sweatshirts). He’s known as “The Unabomber”. The Unabomber, of course, was the guy who was attacking technology companies. Does anyone else find it a bit coincidental that he’s the guy picked to go against the highest level of artificial intelligence and technology?

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 9:39 pm || Permalink || Comments Off || Trackback URL || Categories: News, Poker/Gambling, Science, Technology

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