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Poker Pros Win Contest Against World's Top Bot

Humans Win By 732,700, But CMU Says It's A 'Statistical Tie'


Doug Polk

On Friday, a team of some of the world’s top heads-up no-limit players finished off a two-week long match against Carnegie Mellon University’s poker bot named “Claudico.”

Bjorn Li, Doug Polk, Dong Kim and Jason Les each played 20,000 hands against the machine and were up a combined 732,700 chips, which was more than 7,300 big blinds.

Despite the win, researchers at Carnegie Mellon don’t believe it proves Claudico is inferior to the humans, given the variance in poker, the relatively small sample size and the margin of victory.

“We knew Claudico was the strongest computer poker program in the world, but we had no idea before this competition how it would fare against four top 10 poker players,” Tuomas Sandholm, the Carnegie Mellon professor of computer science who directed development of Claudico, said in a statement. “It would have been no shame for Claudico to lose to a set of such talented pros, so even pulling off a statistical tie with them is a tremendous achievement.”

However, Polk doesn’t believe the bot is all that good compared to human players, according to the press release. “There are spots where it plays well and others where I just don’t understand it,” Polk said, adding that the machine’s massive over-bets just didn’t make much sense.

Fortunately for Claudico, or the new versions of it, artificial intelligence researchers are going to use the 80,000 hands it played against the top poker pros as a way to improve it.

Heads-up no-limit hold’em, Sandholm said, has 10^161 situations, or information sets, that a player may face—vastly more than all of the atoms in the universe. By contrast, the game of limit hold’em, has only 10^13 information sets. Claudico used two terabytes of data.

In the final chip tally, Li had an individual chip total of 529,000, Polk had 213,700 and Kim was up 70,500. Les was down to Claudico by 80,500.

“We know theoretically that artificial intelligence is going to overtake us one day,” Li said. “But at the end of the day, the most important thing is that the humans remain on top for now.”

The match was held at Rivers Casino Pittsburgh and was sponsored by Microsoft. Each player received $100,000 for beating the machine. Real money wasn’t used during the match.

Image via the BBC.

Tags: Doug Polk,   Poker Bot