Players take on a computer “brain” in this breakthrough game

“After playing a few hands against the “opponent” in the groundbreaking Texas Hold ’Em Heads Up Poker game, a player might very well start conjuring visions of “HAL 9000,” the computer brain in “2001 A Space Odyssey.”

It’s a stretch, but not all that far off the mark. After all, this game, developed by Las Vegas-based G2 Game Design, is the first in the gaming industry to use neural net technology, a mathematical model that simulates the operation of the human brain.

Players won’t be playing against the house or pay table; they will be playing against a computer program developed to be a dynamic decision-making engine. The game is played on a slot machine with no rake and no pay table, according to Gregg Giuffria, chief executive officer of G2 Game Design. The game “is the first in the history of gaming to use an artificial intelligence-trained neural net. Players will be stunned by the quantum leap in technology introduced by IGT and G2 Game Design.”

The program plays by the standard rules of the game but has the ability to interact with its opponent to apply those rules. Decisions are made based on the current game state, but unlike a live opponent, it does not “learn” a player’s strategy.

Less-experienced players can expect stronger results because the computer program will not home in on any weaknesses, and that helps make the game less intimidating than a live table game, Giuffria said.

High-quality graphics and sound create an engaging table game experience, replete with requisite card shuffling, chips clinking and even a smoldering cigar.

The game’s decisions come after a slight pause while a “THINKING” message flashes above the opponent hand.

Players also will be able to avail themselves of a side bonus bet on either a Multi-Hit Stud game or Bad Beat Jackpot. Played on the game’s top box, the side bets create the opportunity to win additional pays while churning the action.

The game attracted plenty of attention at the IGT booth at the Global Gaming Expo last fall, with a seat in front of a bank of the games hard to come by. “Since the doors opened, it’s been full,” said Giuffria, whose name may be familiar to heavy-metal rock fans as the keyboardist in the band Angel and, later, House of Lords and Giuffria. “We’ve got people who’ve never played before who are having a blast, and we’ve got pros who are just fixated about it.”

Giuffria pointed out a UK professional player trying out the game, and mentioned that another pro Mike “The Mouth” Mattisow had spent a good amount of time on the device.

A steady stream of casino executives came through the booth, and there was no shortage of interest in trying out the game, once it receives regulatory approval, said Giuffria, who noted it would go on field trial at the Hard Rock hotel-casino in Biloxi, Miss., a property he co-owns.

“All this is good,” he said of the positive reaction from casino executives. But that only takes you so far, he added. “You get it down on the floor, and that’s where we’ll see how people like it. You don’t know until it gets out.”