Texas

Winning against a computer isn’t in the cards for poker pros

human player versus poker bot
Computers can now defeat professional poker players at heads-up no-limit Texas Hold’em. Pro Jason Les (right) plays poker bot Libratus as computer scientist Tuomas Sandholm, one of the bot’s creators, looks on.

NO BLUFF

In the battle of wits between humans and machines, computers have just upped the ante.

Two new poker-playing programs can best professionals at heads-up no-limit Texas Hold’em, a two-player version of poker without restrictions on the size of bets. It’s another in a growing list of complex games, including chess, checkers (SN: 7/21/07, p. 36) and Go (SN: 12/24/16, p. 28), in which computers reign supreme.

Computer scientists from the University of Alberta in Canada report that their program, known as DeepStack, roundly defeated professional poker players, playing 3,000 hands against each. The program didn’t win every hand — sometimes the luck of the draw was against it. But after the results were tallied, DeepStack beat 10 out of 11 card sharks, the scientists report online March 2 in Science. (DeepStack also beat the 11th competitor, but that victory was not statistically significant.)

“This work is very impressive,” says computer scientist Murray Campbell, one of the creators of Deep Blue, the computer that bested chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov in 1997. DeepStack “had a huge margin of victory,” says Campbell, of IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y.

Likewise, computer scientists led by Tuomas Sandholm of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh recently trounced four elite heads-up no-limit Texas Hold’em players with a program called Libratus. Each contestant played 30,000 hands against the program during a tournament held in January in Pittsburgh. Libratus was “much tougher than any human I’ve ever played,” says poker pro Jason Les.

You Can Win Two Free Nights in Austin’s Human-Sized Birdhouse

Finding a place to stay in Austin during the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival is easier said than done. Nightly rental rates spike by hundreds of dollars, and empty rooms get booked fast. HomeAway is looking to make planning a little easier for two groups of SXSW visitors this year. As inhabitat reports, the vacation rental site is offering four free nights in their giant birdhouse to a handful of contest winners.

The so-called “World’s Largest Human Birdhouse” is located at the company’s headquarters in downtown Austin, Texas. On the outside, guests will find a round…

The Candy Man: Dean Corll and the Houston Murders

With the aid of two young accomplices, serial killer Dean Corll carried out a brutal series of murders in the early 1970s that continues to haunt Houston, Texas to this day. The man nicknamed “The Candy Man” was responsible for at least 28 killings over a 3-year span, before he met his own demise at the hands of one of his young proteges.

Dean Corll was born in 1939 into a contentious family; his parents divorced, remarried and divorced again while he was still a child. His mother remarried – to a new man, Jake West – when Dean was 16, and the whole family moved to Vidor, Texas, where Mrs. Corll and her second husband started “Pecan Prince,” a small candy company. Dean Corll and his brother Stanley both worked for the business (operating out of the family garage) while attending school. Most of the family’s business was in Houston, so Corll’s mother and stepfather relocated there and opened up a candy store. After he graduated from high school, Dean Corll relocated to Houston as well, where he continued to work for the family business.

In 1963, Corll’s mother and stepfather divorced, and his mother opened up her own candy shop called “Corll Candy Company.” Soon after opening the new business, a teenage male employee complained that Dean Corll made inappropriate sexual advances toward him. Corll’s mother fired the young man. Dean Corll spent almost a year in the U.S. Army in 1964-65, and he realized during this time that he was a homosexual. After his military service, Corll returned to Houston and resumed working at the family candy company. Corll earned the nickname “The Candy Man” because he frequently handed out free candy to young kids in the area. Corll also befriended many young boys in the area, some of whom would hang out around the candy shop.

Corll befriended a 12-year-old boy named David Brooks in 1967. The boy was from a broken home, and he initially looked up to Corll as a father figure. After a while, the friendship between the two developed into a sexual relationship, in that Corll would pay young Brooks for sexual favors. In 1968, Corll’s mother closed the family candy company and moved to Colorado, so Corll switched occupations, finding work as an electrician. In 1970, Corll and his young friend David also embarked on a new venture: murder.

With the help of Brooks, Dean Corll would lure young boys and men, mostly from the low-income neighborhood of Houston Heights, into his car with the promise of a party at his house. Once at Corll’s house, there was no escape. The young boys were supplied with drugs and alcohol, then strapped to a “torture board” that was two-and-a-half feet wide and eight-feet long. The victims…

The Origin of 50 Texas Cities Names

Austin’s namesake is Stephen F. Austin, the “founder of Anglo-American Texas.” The city was established as the capital in 1839, when the Republic of Texas was just three years old.

General William Jenkins Worth was a military hero in the Mexican War who was serving as the Commander of the Department of Texas when he died of cholera in May 1849, about a month before Major Ripley Arnold established the fort.

6. EL PASO

Paso comes from “El Paso del Norte,” or “Pass of the North.” Spanish explorer Juan de Oñate gave the location that name in 1598 because it sits in the pass between two mountain ranges, the Sierra de Juárez and the Franklin Mountains.

Founded in 1876, Arlington was renamed in 1877 after Robert E. Lee’s Arlington House in Arlington, Virginia.

8. CORPUS CHRISTI

Spanish explorer Alonso Álvarez de Pineda is responsible for naming this southern Texas city. The name, which means “body of Christ,” comes from the Catholic feast day on which he explored and claimed the area in 1519.

A Spanish military officer named José de Escandón was commissioned to settle the area and named it Laredo, after a town in the Santander province of Spain.

Thomas Saltus Lubbock was a soldier in the Texas Revolution and served as a Texas Ranger in support of the Confederacy during the Civil War. He was also the brother of the ninth governor of Texas, Francis R. Lubbock, who served from 1857 to 1859.

Former Arkansas governor and U.S. senator Augustus H. Garland was the sitting attorney general when the city was established in 1887. He served under President Grover Cleveland.

The city of Irving is most likely named for a Yankee—Washington Irving. Irving was the favorite author of Onetta Barcus Brown, the wife of the town’s co-founder, Otis Brown.

The Spanish word for “yellow” suits this city well thanks to the yellow wildflowers and yellow soil along the banks of the creek of the same name. Charles F. Rudolph, editor of the Tascosa Pioneer, shamed the Forth Worth and Denver Railway employees for their incorrect pronunciation for the Spanish word. In 1888, he correctly predicted the future when he said, “Never again will it be Ah-mah-ree-yoh.”

This name reflects the land on which the city was built—glorious, expansive grasslands. It was originally called Dechman after its founder, but the town’s name was later changed to match that of the local railroad station.

Major Jacob Brown was a soldier in the Mexican-American War. He served as commander of Fort Texas, where died during a Mexican attack, and posthumously gave this city its name.

It’s no coincidence that Pasadena, Texas shares a name with a town in California. Founder John H. Burnett wanted to depict his area as lush with vegetation and fertile for agriculture, just like the SoCal region.

Collin McKinney was among the signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence. He also served as a land surveyor, legislator, and religious leader.

A nearby creek of the same name was dubbed before the city was founded in 1873, presumably after the mesquite trees native to the area.

Settled in 1872, Killeen was established by the Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe Railway, which named the settlement for Frank P. Killeen, assistant general manager of the railroad. Before taking on Killeen’s name, the area was called Palo Alto.

Rainchill, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0

Originally named Emerson, the city was renamed in 1904 for the St. Louis, San Francisco & Texas Railway, referred to as the “Frisco system,” which ran through the area.

John McAllen was an early settler in the area who joined with his son, James McAllen, to donate land for the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railway to cross in order to establish a town along the rail line.

Waco is named for the Waco tribe, whose village once rested on the land that now bears its name.

The name most likely comes from Carrollton, Illinois, the previous hometown of many of the city’s early residents. It is also possible that the name comes from Daniel Joseph Carroll, a…