He hadn’t been lying at dinner: it was true, his own personal results, however losing, had not been bad, and qualified as what mathematicians called a “statistical tie.” But that didn’t fool him. He had been there, sitting in a room where technicians who could have easily been classmates of his at Stanford looked on as he made small mistake after small mistake, one trivial human imperfection after the other accruing hand after hand to an unbridgeable gap. He couldn’t beat the bot. Not if he studied every minute of his life until the air left his lungs, he just couldn’t. He was human. He miscalculated. He misclicked. He got tired, and grew frustrated, and needed sleep.
That was his problem. It was stupid, really: the scientists at Carnegie Mellon couldn’t care less about using their software to win money in online poker. As a matter of fact, they couldn’t care less about poker in general. Poker to them was just a blank set of rules, a case study in the field of game theory, exactly like the prisoner’s dilemma or tic-tac-toe. Nothing was going to change in the world of online poker, at least for a while. And yet, getting back from Pittsburgh, Ray had found himself haunted by an inability to make the simplest decisions. A hesitation he couldn’t seem to recover from. That’s how it had begun.