Well, that depends on who’s playing. When one of us plays, it could be a combination of all three (or in my case a lack thereof), but the same can also be said for the computers we’re playing with and against.
Artificial intelligence has been used in games to simulate human-like intelligence and behaviors for years. In online poker, the computer programs designed to play against human opponents are known as bots, or more specifically, pokerbots. The competitive bots are usually only utilized when real money isn’t on the line in games that are designed just for fun. But they can also be created to give players advice during hands, deal cards, or simply as additional reactive animations throughout the game.
As competitors, however, some experts suggest that bots will never be as successful as real people when playing the game. The reason is that it’s difficult to create programs that can successfully mimics a person’s ability to do things such as bluff or recognize an opponent’s style.
As New York Times writer Gabriel Dance explains, “a poker bot does most of its work before the match, running millions of simulations before the first card is dealt. But even with the large amounts of memory available with today’s computers, storing—or even computing—information for every possible scenario would be implausible.”
Some of the downfalls are issues that scientists at the University of Alberta are trying to solve with one of their latest creations, Cepheus, which is a supposedly “unbeatable” poker-playing computer program. However, according to Guardian writer Christopher Hall, who’s admittedly not a professional poker player, even he was able to beat the system and came out ahead of the computer after playing over 400 hands.
Even with their faults, the technology is still making great strides. Some of the most successful programs are indeed the ones that aren’t used to challenge the player. Instead, the most progressive programs are the ones that enhance a player’s experience, such as the aforementioned animations. But there are also bots designed to give players a leg up on their competition by providing them with the tools necessary to make their play as lucrative as possible. Such bots are used on Betfair’s poker site, a platform that also allows for a number of human-against-human competitions. In addition to playing against bots in different poker formats and casino-style games, the site allows customers to make use of bots that automatically place bets within certain parameters.
Only time will tell where the technology can go in the future. But if they can keep inventing ways for computers to become better at poker, maybe that means there’s even hope for the really incompetent card players out there—like me.