Solving Implementation Problems of Mental Poker via Lightning Channels

Looking over the relevant history of the mental poker problem we can see a solution involving in relation to technology that eventually seems like it will converge with practicality in the same with bitcoin did in regards to a p2p e-cash system.  In fact there have been great advances in this direction including two proposals that are themselves in the development and code stage, albeit still with SOME possible problems that may or may not hinder the projects.

The hidden element to the problem of implementation is that because of the simple nature of poker and gambling as a complex (probabilistic) transaction, poker over the internet does in fact suffer from the fault tolerance problem that Satoshi solved with bitcoin.pdf  In other words any mental poker implementation does seemingly need a block chain of some form.

This problem can be quite complex, depending on the perspective we look at it from and also depending on the direction we wish to solve it. Here the author wishes to address one simple problem in regards to moving chips into pots without the ability to renege.

By using lighting channels (or even possibly Duplex Micropayment Channels) players can set up a contract that only fulfills if legal poker moves are made from both sides of the transaction history.  A lightning channel simply facilitates the ability for a player to commit to putting their chips in the pot based on any given action they make. A simple escrow based on the fulfillment and input of a poker hand history in to a contract can facilitate what equity each player gets paid once players decided to cash out (ie write the poker results to the blockchain (or not!)).

The advantages to using a lighting channel are:

  1. Full Refunds can be given based on certain criteria
  2. Decisions can be written in an unredactable way instantaneously
  3. Transferred Value can be deferred until different favorable periods of gameplay
  4. No Jury Pool is needed to validate game flow.

This simple observation of the practicability of lighting channels in regards to the facilitation of the decentralization of chips seemingly solves the complexity of the already proposed solution by either Lerner, Pangea, or Pokererum.

What’s Left?

It’s unclear to the authors ability if in fact all these solutions DO in fact make a cohesive argument for the possibility of the implementation of mental poker. There still seems to be the problem of fairly identifying those that stall or destroy the integrity of the game by not cooperating with the protocol at key or profitable moments (profitable in regards to cheating).  This is what is left for the author to explore, and it might actually be this is what is left to the external or third party companies to solve, or in other words it might require its own decentralized solution itself.

The author will attempt to describe a solution here, which is basically akin to punishing habitual malicious participants by dropping them down a level which costs, the average that they gain from cheating, to climb.

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