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A computer scientist goes all in for poker
October 11, 2012 1:36 AM   Subscribe

Computing Texas Hold'em - Dr. Avi Rubin, a Johns Hopkins professor, computer security and electronic voting security expert, writes about learning and playing poker.

Dr. Rubin also writes about playing poker in Tel Aviv during his year in Israel.
posted by the man of twists and turns (16 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Great article, thanks. I learned how to play as a child (taught by my dad) and have loved it ever since. It's fascinating to hear of how his family interacts with the poker as well.
posted by miss tea at 2:57 AM on October 11, 2012


I like what Barry Greenstein says about math and poker. To the point, if you go to college major in psychology and minor in the number stuff.
posted by bardic at 3:17 AM on October 11, 2012


I learned to play draw poker as a kid, and was baffled by the popularity of Texas Hold'Em until I played Poker Night at the Inventory. I bought it for the jokes (Max, Strong Bad, the Heavy, and Tycho conversing and bickering? Oh yes, please!) but found myself developing an appreciation for the strategy- while the draw poker I'd learned as a kid was just about trying to get the best hand, Hold'Em's all about the betting, the bluffing, the bludgeoning people out of a hand, and so on. It's not the best poker game ever (the AI for Max (wild) and Strong Bad (very bad at poker) in particular is very uneven compared to the Heavy's aggressiveness and Tycho's conservative, cautious play), but it's pretty fun.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:35 AM on October 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


I actually got into online poker a little bit a few years ago, when you could still do it in the U.S. I bought some software called "poker academy" that you could drill against.

I was never any good online, but I noticed that the software came with java .class files for Poki which came out of the university of alberta.

Anyway, I could probably have used those .class files to make my own online poker bot, if I'd wanted too. Of course I would have needed a way to quickly input data from the game into the bot, so either screen reading or having me enter what was happening with a keyboard.

Either way, it became kind of moot when they banned companies from transferring money for American players, I totally stopped playing and never got back into it.
I just lost the game.
And we care because? Seriously, these comments are annoying. I basically had "the game" "won" until random... people... decided they wanted to let everyone else know they'd lost it.
posted by delmoi at 3:41 AM on October 11, 2012


"“The math in poker is basic arithmetic, it’s not that hard. But you still have people, like a lot of the doctors that I play with, who’d rather not bother with all the math. They feel that they have enough intuition for the game.” Rubin is pleased to point out that they’re frequently wrong. “The fundamental math is much more important. If you’re a solid mathematical player, in the long run you’re going to kill the intuitive player."

SHHHHHH. You're getting the floor wet.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:02 AM on October 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


This jhu magazine article is plagued by "intro to poker" writing though: "He has two jacks which are the ones with the hats on". And in the description of the last hand either the author doesn't understand what happened or this professor isn't as good as he's made out to be. A4ss is an easy shove there.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:10 AM on October 11, 2012


The first link in [more inside] and this story are about his experiences playing in backroom / underground poker games in Tel Aviv.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:10 AM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


This article could more or less have been about me. Obsessive computer scientist with lawyer wife goes from playing pool to poker. My other interest is flying small aircraft instead of sailboats, but it was still kinda creepy to read. He should be careful what he wishes for, I did eventually convince my wife to play too. Now she delights in telling me how I played hands wrong after the fact, which is almost exactly as entertaining as it sounds.
posted by Lame_username at 8:33 AM on October 11, 2012


bardic: I like what Barry Greenstein says about math and poker. To the point, if you go to college major in psychology and minor in the number stuff.

I'm a big fan of Barry Greenstein and I loved his book but I think that advice is outdated. Over the last decade, poker theory has come along so far that psychology is helpful but not required. The better internet players , even those with few or no social skills, would be significant favorites playing against Greenstein (online or live) as long as they aren't playing with scared money or giving off obvious tells. However, Greenstein might be better against amateurs than they would be.

When a player like Greenstein talks about math, he's talking about things like odds and outs, which are extremely easy, and back when that was the only math involved, it really was more about reading and manipulating your opponents. Now the math players use game theory and combinatorics and spend hours combing through hundreds of thousands of hands using databases to find ways to exploit either specific players or certain types of players. As a result, they play very differently (looser and more aggressively) than old-school players.
posted by callmejay at 10:05 AM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


(I too am a computer scientist -- at least I have a BS in CS -- who got kind of obsessed with poker.)
posted by callmejay at 10:07 AM on October 11, 2012


Also, Potomac Avenue is right about the last hand. If the article recounts the hand accurately, then Dr. Rubin is frankly not good at poker.
posted by callmejay at 10:13 AM on October 11, 2012


I love poker, particularly Texas Hold 'Em, and I'm really good at pretty much every variant I've encountered. I have no idea why I'm good - I just am. My dad played for a couple of decades in a 'poker club' that met monthy. When it was my dad's turn to host I got to eat yummy snack foods and sneak beers and move the VCR into my room to watch R rated movies I'd rented at Sound Warehouse.

I hate online poker. No yummy snacks or R rated movies from Sound Warehouse.
posted by item at 10:20 AM on October 11, 2012


The better internet players , even those with few or no social skills, would be significant favorites playing against Greenstein (online or live) as long as they aren't playing with scared money or giving off obvious tells. However, Greenstein might be better against amateurs than they would be.

I am very willing to believe this but have seen no evidence in my admittedly intermittent and last attention to the larger world of the game. Is this sort of player really ripping up a lot of live games?
posted by lackutrol at 11:32 AM on October 11, 2012


Grar. "Latent" or "lazy" attention + autofill.
posted by lackutrol at 11:34 AM on October 11, 2012


Is this sort of player really ripping up a lot of live games?

lackutrol: No. Most internet players who think they understand the game simply don't, and have just been running good for short periods of time. Or they understand it but are frustrated by the pace of the game and forget that incomplete information part means not wearing your hand on your sleeve.

Also, understanding the math behind a correct play after it happens, and doing the exact right thing in the moment are two verrrrrrrrrrry different things. And the difference isn't more math, it's psychology.

By the same token however, all the best, scariest, most successful players under 50 have gotten that way by playing tens of thousands of hands online. So it's not like it hurts, it just doesn't necessarily give you an advantage over a strictly live player.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:45 PM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, the idea that BarryG doesn't know as much or more about the cutting edge of poker hand reading and EV calculations as any average online player around is absurd. He doesn't write books about his understanding of those though, because that would be a bad idea.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:47 PM on October 11, 2012


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