A Canadian Online Poker Bot Claims Perfection

A new poker bot named Cepheus has been unveiled by the scientists at the University of Alberta in Canada. Its developers claim, “It may not win every hand it is dealt, but over time, no one can beat Cepheus.” You can play online against Cepheus at the university web site.

Based on an artificial intelligence auto learning process, Cepheus played more than a billion billion hands of Texas Hold’em Poker over two months, which is more poker games than have been played in the entire human history. The technical numbers are equally mind boggling. The process involved the power of four thousand computer processors, each handling six billion hands every second. At the end of the session, the Cepheus database contained 11 terabytes of information on calls, raises and folds for every hand a player could have.

Neil Burch, a computer scientist from the Alberta Computer Poker Research Group explained how Cepheus functions. For every possible situation that could occur on a poker table there is a description for how to play in the Cepheus database. The program reviews every decision made in the situation and checks out which moves paid off and which cost it the hand. The variant of Hold’em is heads-up limit, which involves only two players who bet fixed amounts with a limit on the number of raises allowed. Michael Johanson, a researcher at the lab, pointed out that a human or another poker bot could get lucky and beat Cepheus in a short match, nobody could do it consistently over a long match. Therefore he cautioned online poker player not to get excited if they beat Cepheus over 20 odd games.

Poker player Cristopher Hall played 400 hands against Cepheus and described his experience. He said, “I must admit that I am yet to be fully convinced by the scientists’ claims of its infallibility.” He pointed out that the Cepheus poker bot did not adapt against his change of style, and that is a sign of weakness. The most important thing in any heads-up poker game is finding out your opponent’s flaws and relentlessly exploiting them until they change their style. When Hall changed his style to counter Cepheus’s game, the poker bot did not adapt and it made what Hall considered several questionable plays. In the end Hall admitted that the 400 hands sample is still too small to come to any real conclusion about Cepheus’s claim. Poker bots are illegal on real money websites and there are no plans of unleashing Cepheus in the public domain.

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