Man vs machine


RIP Brian
Feb 22, 2001

Big bets on man vs. machine as poker pros challenge multi-faceted poker program

It's been done in chess and backgammon, and now two top poker pros are to face off against a poker computer program. University of Alberta academics are so confident in their latest poker bot Polaris that they have put up $50 000 that Phil 'Unabomber' Laak and fellow poker pro Ali Eslami will not be able to defeat it over 2 000 hands of Texas Hold 'Em.

The conventional wisdom is that poker is too complex a game for programs to fully exploit all its techniques and quirks successfully, but the academics feel that artificial intelligence (AI) technology has reached a stage where this may no longer be the case. They are supported by recent developments at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa and the University of Edinburgh (see previous InfoPowa reports) where it has been claimed that a poker program has been taught the art of bluffing.

Laak and Eslami will take on the poker-playing computer during the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence Conference in Vancouver on July 23 and 24. Each match will be comprised of 500 hands played in four sessions. At the end of each session, the combined bankroll of the two men will be compared with that of the computer to determine the winner.

Polaris is a mix of cross-communicating computer programs with different abilities. One element is very aggressive, but doesn't take into account the playing style of its opponents, whilst another fills this gap by 'learning' from the strengths and weaknesses of competing players and adjusts its style accordingly.

However, all of the component programs master the most characteristic aspect of poker: bluffing. "There is a mathematically optimal rate at which you should bluff. Computers can calculate that. If humans bluff too much, you can exploit them and win money," Alberta University's Professor Jonathan Schaeffer told the Edmonton Sun newspaper.

But could the academics be bluffing? And do they know that in 2005 Laak defeated the best poker robot in the world in a heads up match during the 2005 WSOP!


Dormant account
Mar 22, 2007
That is going to be amazing, can't wait to see that! I bet the computer will win. Its unlikely they would put it forward unless it stood a 100% chance of winning


May 17, 2006

This will be a fascinating contest....though not sure if 2000 hands will be enough to nullify the luck factor enough.
Not so sure it is a good thing though, if the computer was to win this could pose a future problem for online play with the rate technology advances.


The Ronin

Dormant account
Jun 12, 2007
Back East
A computer win here will certinaly put a damper on prop players.

I am also a bit disapointed in the choice of players. Although both are strong, and Laak has a win against a machine, under his belt, I think there are much better players that could handle a challange like this.

IMO Laak and Eslami, are overly loose in their play. Perhaps they will change gears against the computer program. Either way, I am rooting for the humans to win!!!


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