New Computer Program Creates Perfect Strategy for Poker

March 14, 2015

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. poker /ˈpoʊ kər/ (n.) – a card game in which the player with cards of a higher value or rank wins
Example: My friend taught me how to play poker.

2. bet /bɛt/ (n.) – money or something valuable placed on a game’s outcome with a chance of losing it or winning extra
Example: He placed a bet amounting to $100.

3. work its magic /wɜrk ɪts ˈmædʒ ɪk/ (idiom) –  to help achieve a positive or desired result
Example: The team hopes that playing in their home court will work its magic during their game.

4. supercomputer /ˈsu pər kəmˌpyu tər/ (n.) – a large, fast, and powerful computer used to process large amounts of data
Example: The researchers set up 100 supercomputers to test the program.

5. margin /ˈmɑr dʒɪn/ (n.) – amount or degree of difference when something is achieved
Example: Our team won by a big margin.


Read the text below.
Researchers have developed a computer program that is unbeatable in a poker game.

Created by the Computer Poker Research Group in the University of Alberta, “Cepheus” [SEE-fee-uh s, -fyoos] is an application that specializes in a simple version of poker called “heads-up limit Texas Hold ‘em.” The term “heads-up” means two players are playing, while “limit” refers to the limited amount and number of bets allowable for each round. The game has more than 13 trillion possible scenarios. Cepheus works its magic by coming up with the best strategy for each scenario.

For more than two months, the researchers put Cepheus to test by running it on 200 supercomputers. The program took 1,579 tries of adjusting its strategies before coming up with its best and final approach. In every game, Cepheus would use a strategy and compare it with its other possible approaches. The program would then adapt its decisions to the results in the game and do the best possible action.

Researchers claim that the heads-up limit Texas Hold ‘em is the first “imperfect information” game to be solved. With that, the study claims a person will not beat Cepheus even after playing 60 million hands of poker for 70 years and 12 hours a day. A game with imperfect information means players have limited knowledge within the game, such as in hidden card games.

Between 2007 and 2008, the researchers developed a similar program called “Polaris.” The program lost to two top poker players in 2007. Developers improved Polaris after a year and the program won against human players with a slim margin.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Would you like to play against Cepheus? Why or why not?
·         If you were to create a similar program, in what game would it be good at? Kindly discuss.

Discussion B

·         Why do you think humans keep developing artificial intelligence?
·         Which do you prefer, playing a game against a computer or a human? Kindly explain.

March 14, 2015