University of Alberta program wins computer poker championship

The University of Alberta was the winner of the world poker championship for computers at the American Association of Artificial Intelligence that took place recently in Boston, Mass.

"Poker is a game that involves skill, chance, and many forms of uncertainty," said Professor Jonathan Schaeffer of the Alberta team. "It is a great problem for Artificial Intelligence, and we stand to learn a lot from competitions like this."

The computer poker competition included a two-tournament format of one-on-one Texas Hold'em. There was a bankroll competition to determine which program can take the most money from the average player, as well as a traditional competition that will determine which program gets an edge on the best players.

The University of Alberta computer program won every match it played and amassed the most virtual money of any other competitor to win the competition.

"We've been writing good poker programs for many years," said Darse Billings, the lead designer for the Alberta team, "But we weren't overly confident, because there is still a lot of room for improvement."

Poker is of particular interest to artificial intelligence programmers because it involves many qualities not found in other games.

"Poker is a nice well-defined problem for studying some truly fundamental issues, like how to handle deliberate misinformation and how to make intelligent guesses based on partial knowledge," Billings said. "Good solutions in this domain could have an impact in many other computer applications."

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