Scientists 'Solve' HU Limit Hold'em

Scientists 'Solve' HU Limit Hold'em

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Scientists in Canada claim to have created a computer programme that has effectively 'solved' heads-up limit hold'em.

Developed by researchers in the Computer Poker Research Group at the University of Alberta, the Cepheus programme plays optimal strategy, never makes a bad decision and should never be beaten over the long term.

“We define a game to be essentially solved if a lifetime of play is unable to statistically differentiate it from being solved at 95% confidence,” said professor Michael Bowling, lead author on the project. “Imagine someone playing 200 hands of poker an hour for 12 hours a day without missing a day for 70 years. Furthermore, imagine them employing the worst-case, maximally exploitive opponent strategy—and never making a mistake. They still cannot be certain they are actually winning.”

Cepheus received no strategy input from humans. Instead, it was programmed solely with the rules of heads up limit hold'em.

“It was trained against itself, playing the equivalent of more than a billion billion hands of poker,” says Bowling. “With each hand it improved its play, refining itself closer and closer to the perfect solution. The program was trained for two months using more than 4,000 CPUs each considering over six billion hands every second. This is more poker than has been played by the entire human race."

Researchers hope that the project will lead to more than just headaches for limit hold'em grinders.

“With real-life decision-making settings almost always involving uncertainty and missing information, algorithmic advances—such as those needed to solve poker—are needed to drive future applications,” said Bowling.

Possible applications for similar game theory inspired programmes could include airport checkpoints and coast guard patrols.

Tags: Technology