Poker Robots?

Cite this Article
Joshua D. Wright, Poker Robots?, Truth on the Market (May 09, 2006),

Tim Harford’s article in the Financial Times (HT: Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution) contains the following quote from Darse Billings on the likelihood of a poker “robot” ever beating world class poker players:

I believe that bots will eventually play better than all human beings.”

Poker superstar (and UCLA PhD) Chris Ferguson apparently agrees:

If poker robots had a tenth of the resources that were spent on chess, they’d already have beaten us.”

The article goes on to suggest that the introduction of “bots” into online play will ultimately deliver the death blow to the lucrative online poker business.  I don’t know a great deal about recent developments in this technology, but my prior is to be quite skeptical (and indeed the article suggests that, as of now, most online bots are giving away money to online players).  Along those lines, I came across the following quote from the great Doyle Brunson on the subject back in 1978 in the original Super System:

The difference between playing good poker and playing good blackjack is as vast as the difference between squad tactics and grand strategy in warfare.  You can beat a blackjack game by knowing exactly what to do in every situation … and doing it.  That’s tactics.  But in poker you may face an identical situation twice against the same opponent, handle it two different ways, and be right both times.  That’s strategy.  And that’s why there’s never going t obe a computer that will play world class poker.  It’s a people game.  

A computer could be programmed to handle the extensive mathematics of a poker game.  But the psychological complexities are another matter . . ..  A computer could play fair-to-middling poker.  But no computer could ever stand face to face with a table full of people it had never met before, and make quality, high-profit decisions based on psyschology.”