Weekly Poker Update: August 3, 2020

August 3, 2020 Text on a Black Poker Chip With a Casino Background

Here are some of the top news stories that arrived last week in the world of poker.

Arrest Made in Zhao Case

More news arrived this past week in the tragic death of poker pro Susie Zhao. Zhao’s body was found by Michigan police in Michigan on July 13, just a day after police reported that she was missing. The body, which had been badly burned, was identified as Zhao last week and police announced that they were treating the case as a murder.

On Friday, the police in White Lake Township, Michigan, announced that they had taken someone into custody in conjunction with the case. All police said was that the man was a 60-year-old and that he resided in Pontiac, Michigan. There was no announcement on any charges being filed.

Zhao’s death at such a young age and in such a grisly fashion sent shock waves through the poker community. Many expressed disbelief that she could have been the target of anyone because of her reputation for being so well-liked. However, police officials have speculated whether her career and her wealth could have been in some way a part of her murder.

Even though Zhao banked over $200,000 in her career in official poker tournaments, she was more known for her presence in high-stakes cash games in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. She had only recently moved back to Michigan where there was speculation that she was dealing with personal matters.

Increased Capacity at Station Tables

One of the issues with players returning to poker tables has been availability. Due to social distancing restrictions, most tables that did open did so with a limited number of players allowed at each table. Players in some land based casinos end up waiting long periods of time before they could play a game.

The good news is that some of those restrictions are starting to let up ever so slightly. This past week, three Station Casinos in Las Vegas were ready for eight-handed play. This is the most that has been allowed since casinos opened up again, with five-handed or six-handed play being the norm till now.

Entrance of Boulder Station in Las Vegas

Boulder Station, Red Rock Resort, and Santa Fe Station are the casinos which will offer eight-handed play. They will start doing so on Monday. Part of the deal is that there must be plexiglass dividers separating the players to help stop any potential virus spread.

The hope is that more and more casinos can start to make similar moves. But with recent news about the rise of cases in certain parts of the country, there is no guarantee. Poker players should be happy to accept whatever they can get in terms of live play for as long as they can get it.

Counting on a Miracle

Who here misses Celebrity Poker Showdown? Back in the poker n television boom, Bravo Network hosted a weekly show where celebrities from the worlds of television, movies, and music competed in Texas Hold‘em tournaments for charity. These were good-natured affairs, notable for both the ribbing between competitors and the occasional head-scratching play that you wouldn’t see from the pros.

Well, if ever you thought it might be fun to take part, you can sort of do so this week thanks to the folks at Miracle Flights. The medical charity is hosting a real money online poker tournament on Wednesday. And to sweeten the deal, they’ve invited some bold-faced names to compete.

Celebrity Poker Showdown Group Photo

Among the celebrities who’ve been announced include Brad Garrett of Everybody Loves Raymond fame, Olympic gold medalist figure skater Oksana Baiul, and Richard Kind, veteran of countless TV shows and movies (his occasional guest spots as Larry’s cousin Andy on Curb Your Enthusiasm are always triumphs.)

Back in the Celebrity Poker Showdown days, you could only watch the luminaries. But the tournament sponsored by Miracle Flights is open to everybody. All it takes is a $100 buy-in and you’re ready to roll.

In case you’re wondering, Miracle Flights is a charity that offers free plane rides to those in need of medical help that isn’t anywhere near where they live. It’s a good cause, and it should be a fun event. Plus, you might have the chance to wipe out a celebrity with a big hand, which should be worth the price of admission.

Facebook Goes All in With Poker AI

We’ve all watched as technology has improved. Computers have been taught to do things like play against chess master champions and predict future results. In the world of poker though, it might have seemed like artificial intelligence would always be inadequate to some capacity. That’s because poker deals with imperfect knowledge. The fact that you can’t know what other players are holding or thinking as you make your decisions is a key component of its difficulty.

But Facebook researchers seem to have made a breakthrough in that department. The system they developed is known as ReBeL. That’s short for “Recursive Belief-based Learning.”

Recently, ReBeL was put to the test against poker pro Dong Kim in a heads-up situation. While the statistics that it reported are a bit confusing, the program did much better than any previous effort in this field. And it did so at an incredibly rapid pace, never taking longer than five seconds per decision.

The ramifications for this are kind of scary. If an AI could indeed be proven successful and be harnessed by individuals, even the most distinguished professional poker players could be brought down to size by a newcomer with the advanced technology.

We’re probably a long way off from that reality, of course. Besides, Facebook isn’t releasing the code for ReBeL just yet. But if you sidle up to a seat at a poker table and see someone next to you with a Facebook ID card, you might want to move on to the next available table.