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Online Poker Bots vs. Chess Bots

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You may be surprised to learn that it's actually more difficult for a computer software bot to play poker online, than chess, the pastime of deep thinkers. In recent years, online poker has become undoubtedly the world's most popular card game on the internet.

Unlike the game of chess, poker deals with tricky matters such as uncertainty, probability, guesswork and deception, human wiles that a chess-playing robot, such as the one that beat world champion Garry Kasparov in 1997, doesn't need to consider.

As a result, computer experts say, poker is more like real life, with all its subtleties and complications, than chess is, with its fixed rules and vast but finite possibilities.

"Chess might be a better test of raw computer power," said Christian Lebiere, a psychology professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. But computer poker programs "are indeed more like human problem-solving."

In real life, "we spend a whole lot more time managing uncertainty than doing deep sequential problem-solving" as in chess, said Michael Littman, a computer scientist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J.

Five programs, including Poki and Poker Probot, will test their problem-solving skills next week in a computer poker competition sponsored by the American Association for Artificial Intelligence in Boston.

"Much as computer chess was an early test of artificial intelligence, computer poker has emerged as an even greater AI challenge," Lebiere said.

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