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DOES NOT COMPUTE

I PLAYED against a Poker Bot last week. Not online but live, for this particular poker bot was disguised as a human being.

This guy turned up at a £1k buy in, having never played before – not online, not live, not even with his mates in the pub – but quietly confident of his chances due to his in-depth study of the mathematical side of the game. Yes, I did say £1000 buy in. The clues were there from the beginning when he tried to sign himself in to the casino with his library card…

Of course you can imagine how well he was received by the other players at his table once he admitted this was his first game. As the game progressed his new found popularity quickly began to wane as he slowly and methodically relieved everyone at that table of their chips.

As each player took their turn to stand up and leave, making way for the next lamb to the slaughter, this guy was the number one topic of conversation with general opinion being he was a lucky fish – that being the only phrase muttered actually suitable for publication.

I took some time out to watch him play and was interested to see he wasn’t actually putting a foot wrong. He wasn’t the typical calling station that many beginners are, he was raising, check raising, betting and obviously working out pot odds so much so that he had the clock called on him a number of times. He also had no interest in interaction with anyone at the table; he simply kept his head down and played his game.

During the break I decided to have a chat with him and found his forte was spread betting. The man wasn’t big headed or bragging about his prowess, but he’d quite obviously made a fair amount of profit from his chosen career and had decided to turn his hand to poker. This was not the sort of guy who goes out for a pint, or indeed does anything socially – this was the guy you all picked on in school: the one who took his exams four years before anyone else but always ate his lunch alone. He freely admitted to me that he was aware he was a figure of ridicule – he seemed to have accepted that long ago – but he genuinely didn’t seem to care. The man was simply a living, breathing computer whose only interest was in the mathematical side of poker and how the probabilities and percentages could be applied to every hand to gain the most favourable outcome for him.

And it was working. Until he ran into the one thing that computers don’t recognise or relate to: human unpredictability. He’d made the right choice of a bigger game, correctly assuming players at that level could lay down hands and work out pot odds themselves. What he hadn’t bargained for was the tilt factor.

One by one people who had previously been annihilated by him shook themselves out of their stupor and suddenly started pushing with pure rubbish and their last vestiges of self-respect. Each push saw him furiously working out what was in the pot, counting how many behind and adding up his outs. If “computer said yes” his chips went in, but suddenly the maths stopped working and the bad beat reality of probability kicked in. If he hit an ace the other guy hit two pairs with his 95 off. If he hit 2 pair another guy flopped a straight with 46. His full house was rivered to give his opponent a bigger house .. and so it continued until hero became zero and he took the long walk.

Whilst no-one actually cheered the atmosphere visibly lifted – normal service was resumed.

Long after the game had finished and the cash game was on last three hands I went to cash my chips in and saw the same guy sat by himself at a closed blackjack table staring off into space. When I said goodnight to him he looked at me blankly before recognition kicked in and he said the same back. You could see he was visibly shocked that the one thing he believed in – the logic and predictability of maths – had failed him; in a world of where he must be constantly let down, his one surety had finally failed him. His solution? He decided he had chosen the wrong game and his next one would be a bigger buy in to remove the risk element of human unpredictability…good luck mate.

B Raggers


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