Online Poker at The Poker FatherOnline Poker - - "Keep your friends close, but your Poker Friends Closer" Online Poker - - "Keep your friends close, but your Poker Friends Closer" The Poker Father Online Poker Site


Online Poker News Archives - September 20, 2004

(Click Here for the Latest Online Poker News Stories)

Copyright 2004 The Daily Princetonian via U-Wire
University Wire

September 20, 2004 Monday

HEADLINE: Princeton student develops, markets poker odds calculator

BYLINE: By Josh Brodie, The Daily Princetonian; SOURCE: Princeton U.

   Sitting at a virtual table in an online poker room just before midnight, a player -- who asked not to be identified, so we'll call him "John" -- found himself facing off against nine opponents in a $2 limit game of Texas Hold 'Em.

   After the flop, he had paired his king in the hole, giving him top pair. But there was a straight draw possible and a table full of callers, so John had an important decision to make: Continue and hope that the cowboys would hold up, or fold a currently powerful hand.

   For most players, the decision to stick around would be intuitive -- a gut reaction to seeing a strong hand. But, that night, John wasn't letting himself follow his instincts. Instead, he was listening to the advice of a computer program called the Mooraculator, a Hold 'Em odds calculator and strategy guide written by Princeton University junior Robert Moore. The program told John to fold, and after complaining that his number-crunching guide was being too conservative, he folded.

   When the final two cards were dealt, it seemed the program's counsel might not have been so good. John would have paired his second hole card, a 10, giving him top two pair on the board. But when the cards were flipped, an opponent showed a straight, a hand that would have dominated John's two pair.

   For Moore, who was watching the hand along with this reporter, this was a prime example of the kind of situation in which players have trouble figuring their odds of winning. A situation in which knowing the actual odds of victory can keep a novice or a pro out of trouble.

   "Playing at a shorthanded table [one without many players], people get in the mood of thinking a certain hand is a winning hand," Moore said, noting how John 's instincts made him want to play the high pair. But, he continued, "at a big table, people will make high straights and big flushes."


   Moore was not always the poker enthusiast he is today. In fact, he didn't become interested in the game until last year, when ESPN began televising the World Series of Poker, a no-limit Texas Hold 'Em tournament with a first prize that was then $2.5 million. After that, he began to play in regular games, and when he found himself without any pressing obligations over this past summer, he decided to try to write a program that would help him and others understand their odds as they played.

   After a month of programming, and a naming suggestion from a friend, the Mooraculator was complete. In mid-August, Moore began to sell the program on his website:

   As it stands now, the program has two parts. The first calculates raw odds -- the probability that your cards will beat any single opponent's cards should you both stick around to the end of the game. This information is the result of pure mathematical computation. After each card is revealed, the computer performs hundreds of thousands of calculations to figure these odds.

   The second part of the program incorporates information about your position at the table, past betting patterns and the number of callers at any given point to make a subjective recommendation based on algorithms Moore developed.


   Department Chair Erhan Cinlar was intrigued by the program.

   "It would be really great to have this program, to have these probabilities [when playing,]" he said.

   Like Moore, Cinlar noted that as more players sit down at the table, the odds become much harder to figure and the program much more valuable.

   "The number of cases that you have to evaluate grows like crazy ... that's the problem with combinatorial thinking," he said. "Your brain gets overloaded."

   Indeed, in several hands, the Mooraculator overruled John's instinct to play a decent hand, instead suggesting that he fold all but the most dominant starting cards because there were still lots of people at the table.

   As Moore points out, his program is most useful in games where the odds, rather than betting skill or face-reading, play the dominant role.

   For that reason, he designed the program to offer advice only for games with a betting limit on each move.

   In no-limit games, there is much more strategy involved with betting, as a weak hand can more easily force out a strong hand with a large bet.

   But in limit games with many players, for which the Mooraculator was designed, Moore claims his program is brutally efficient. During testing, he said, the program earned approximately 10 times the big blind in profit every hour.

   In general, the program's logic creates its profit by making sure players get out cheaply on hands they are unlikely to win, and get as much as possible in situations they are likely to dominate.

   As John continued to play, the Mooraculator behaved much as advertised -- it suffered dozens of small or cost-free losses and took in a handful of much larger wins. After an hour of play, John was up $3.

   "It's a Mooracle," John joked, only half sarcastically.

   Moore compared his program to Knish, the consistent and reliable poker pro from the movie "Rounders."

   "Knish makes a living," Moore said. "He's not in the World Series of Poker, he's not the big guns ... but he's a success in my opinion ... he could take bigger risks, but at the same time his life doesn't have the ups and downs."

   Instead, like Knish, the program just keeps "grindin' out that rent," he said.


   The downside of this consistently low return is no small dose of boredom.

   For John, who had only been using the program for an hour, and for Moore, who had been testing it for weeks, there was much less excitement to the game when the machine was making their decisions for them.

   And while some people believe the future of online poker will devolve into a detached competition between increasingly sophisticated algorithms, others disagree.

   "[T]he great thing about poker is that statistically sound advice doesn't always win, otherwise, computers would have already taken over," wrote Marc Van Houwelingen, author of "Texas Calculatem," a competitor of the Mooraculator.

   "In fact," he continued, "if a player is known to be always following the odds, that player will surely be stripped of all of his or her chips by the others at the table rather quickly. The point is that knowing the odds on your situation, while necessary, is only part of the equation."

   That said, the Mooraculator has been a commercial success, selling 40 copies in less than a month. At $29.95 per copy, that's more than $1,000 in profit from what began as a way to pass the time over the summer.

   There are several competing programs out there, and some offer even more complicated features and algorithms, but most for a much higher price.


   That programs like this one can routinely make money playing online raises an interesting question: If poker is a zero-sum game, who is losing all the money the computer-aided players are winning?

   "There's a sucker born every minute," Moore said, echoing the sentiments of P.T. Barnum.

   He suggested that lots of the players in these online limit games are new to poker and don't yet have a feel for the odds.

   Gaining experience can be costly, Moore pointed out. Literally. That, he says, is one of the best reasons for people to invest in a program like his.

   But, as Van Houwelingen said, there is more to poker than pure odds, and on occasion, the Mooraculator was muscled out of a hand that it would have won.

   While Moore doesn't have plans to make any updates soon, he does have some features he would like to add, possibly in the context of using the program as a Junior Paper topic.

   He said he would like to improve the logic system behind the program to be able to bluff, and respond to bluffs, more effectively, with the goal of eventually being able to compete successfully in no-limit rooms.

   Currently, Moore has stopped playing poker online and turned back to the face-to-face games that first sparked his interest in the game.

   Brian Cho, a friend of Moore's who has followed the program's development from its nascent stages, still prefers live games to their online counterparts, despite the reliable way the program seems to grind out profits.

   "The reason I play the game is because I like making my own decisions and seeing where that takes me," Cho said. "If you're playing straight from the program it eliminates all the entertainment of the game ... of course winning a hand is very good but playing a very exciting hand is more of the rush than actually winning it."

   But some of Moore's client's seem content to keep on playing the odds, without letting their emotions get in the way.

   "I'm never leaving my computer again," one satisfied customer wrote in a testimonial.

   (C) 2003 The Daily Princetonian via U-WIRE

(Click Here for the Latest Online Poker News Stories)


Online Poker Offers you CANNOT REFUSE

Last Updated:


Online Poker Offers YOU CANNOT REFUSE -

Help The Pokerfather and WIN $100

The - Online Poker Site The - Online Poker Site The - Online Poker Site
The - Online Poker Site

Online Poker | Poker Bonus | U.S. Poker | Poker News | Poker Games | Casino Games |Poker Rules | Poker Tips
Poker Strategy | Poker Books | Poker Movies | Poker Banners | Partners | Poker Supplys | FreeRoll Poker
Poker Lessons | Poker Glossary | Security | Who We Are | Link Directory | Contact Us | Site Map

Didn't find what you are looking for - try Google, Open Directory Project or Yahoo! Directory is an independent online poker information website not affiliated with any poker room.
Copyright © 2005-2011 The Poker Father Online Poker Site - All Rights Reserved.

The - Online Poker Site