This post originally appeared on the geekchicago.com blog and is being re-printed here with permission.
Technology is infiltrating life in ways we may not even expect. One of those areas is the poker arena.
Technology may have just found a way to "solve" poker. What does that mean? Consider a simple game like tic-tac-toe. If player A does one move, then with the goal of winning in mind, player B has an optimal move, guaranteed to put him on a path to victory (or in this game, at least a "draw".) It is a "solved" game.
Poker is way more complicated than that, though... right?
Yes, and no. It seems that this new "pokerbot" artificial intelligence that provides the "brains" over 200 Texas Hold 'Em Heads Up machines across the US basically always comes out on top. The pokerbot uses knowledge that it has from billions of staged rounds of poker, fed through neural networks (essentially a complex decision making formula), resulting in an unpredictable but virtually unbeatable poker player.
In fact, it took the developers 2 years to dumb down the system enough so that players wouldn't walk away. Even so, its estimated that only 100 around the world will be able to beat it on a regular basis.
...you and I are probably not one of those 100. But it's worth a try, right?
We reached out to Dave Thornton, the CEO of Skill in Games, a company dedicated to separating out the luck component from the game of poker to measure a player's relative skill quotient to understand whether or not the game has truly been solved. When asked, "is the game of poker solved", he had this to say:
Yes in the sense that [Artificial Intelligence engines] exist which can profitably play heads-up limit hold'em against tough opponents. No in the more formal sense - as far as I know, we haven't fully enumerated a game theory optimal strategy for heads-up limit hold'em.