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Poker Pros Face Nearly Insurmountable Deficit Against Bot

Humans Losing By 8,000 Big Blinds At Half-Way Point

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The 2017 rendition of Carnegie Mellon University’s poker pro vs. poker bot contest was half-way over as of Monday morning, and the human team was stuck in its deepest hole yet.

About 64,000 hands of the 120,000 scheduled had been played, and the poker pro team of Jason Les, Dong Kim, Jimmy Chou and Daniel McAulay was down nearly 800,000 chips. That’s 8,000 big blinds. Another way to look at: They have lost 40 stacks (buy-ins) to the machine called Libratus.

None of the heads-up poker pros were in the black in their respective matches against the bot as of Monday. The contest is scheduled to end Jan. 30.

Early last week, the humans were showing signs of life and had nearly gotten back to even, but the machine was having none of the comeback and quickly began to pull away.

“The bot gets better and better every day,” Chou told CMU. “It’s like a tougher version of us. The first couple of days, we had high hopes. But every time we find a weakness, it learns from us and the weakness disappears the next day.”

Libratus was developed by Tuomas Sandholm, professor of computer science at CMU, and his Ph.D. student, Noam Brown. Libratus is just the latest in a series of poker bots from Sandholm.

According to comments from the human team, this version of the bot is far tougher on the river than previous machines. Libratus will often over-bet shove on the river for value and as bluffs, and generally has had the poker pros befuddled. While human players would show some bias in such a river strategy, the machine has remained balanced and thus pretty unpredictable.

Each night after a session, the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center’s Bridges computer performs computations to sharpen Libratus’ strategy, especially with regards to the river.

Action resumes at around 11 a.m. local time on Monday with a live stream.