#### Optimistic posterior sampling for reinforcement learning: worst-case regret bounds

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 30 (NIPS 2017)

#### Authors

*Shipra Agrawal, Randy Jia*

#### Abstract

We present an algorithm based on posterior sampling (aka Thompson sampling) that achieves near-optimal worst-case regret bounds when the underlying Markov Decision Process (MDP) is communicating with a finite, though unknown, diameter. Our main result is a high probability regret upper bound of $\tilde{O}(D\sqrt{SAT})$ for any communicating MDP with $S$ states, $A$ actions and diameter $D$, when $T\ge S^5A$. Here, regret compares the total reward achieved by the algorithm to the total expected reward of an optimal infinite-horizon undiscounted average reward policy, in time horizon $T$. This result improves over the best previously known upper bound of $\tilde{O}(DS\sqrt{AT})$ achieved by any algorithm in this setting, and matches the dependence on $S$ in the established lower bound of $\Omega(\sqrt{DSAT})$ for this problem. Our techniques involve proving some novel results about the anti-concentration of Dirichlet distribution, which may be of independent interest.