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Starting on Friday at the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, four high-stakes poker pros will square off against an AI bot. The competition lasts for two weeks and will see Doug "WCGRider" Polk (pictured), Dong Kim, Bjorn Li, and Jason Les each play 20,000 hands heads-up against a bot developed by Carnegie Mellon University. The game is No Limit Texas Hold'em. "Poker is now a benchmark for artificial intelligence research, just as chess once was," said Tuomas Sandholm, a Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon, in a press release. "It's a game of exceeding complexity that requires a machine to make decisions based on incomplete and often misleading information thanks to bluffing, slow play, and other decoys. And to win, the machine has to out-smart its human opponents. Computing the world's strongest strategies for this game was a major achievement, with the algorithms having future applications in business, military, cybersecurity, and medical arenas." Each of the four pros will compete for a purse of $100,000, hoping to wrestle the six-figure sum away from the computer program, which is called Claudico. Polk, whom we've written about several times here on PocketFives, commented, "I think there will be less hand reading, so to speak, and fewer mind games. In some ways, I think it will be nice, as I can focus on playing a purer game and not have to worry about if he thinks that I think, etc." Play will proceed in two 750-hand sessions per day for 13 days. According to the press release, AI bots have had success in Limit Hold'em, but it remains to be seen whether they can master No Limit Hold'em, a game that's considerably more complex. As the release put it, "Two-player No Limit Hold'em has 10161 (1 followed by 161 zeroes) situations, or information sets, that a player may face, vastly more than all of the atoms in the universe. By contrast, the easier game of Limit Hold'em, in which bets and raises are limited to a predetermined amount, has only 1013 (1 followed by 13 zeroes) information sets." Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook.
With the event headed into the homestretch, four poker pros have built up an edge over a specially-created poker playing bot in a first-of-its-kind demonstration. On April 24, four players – World Series of Poker bracelet winner and online guru Doug WCGRiderPolk (pictured), Dong Kim, Jason Les, and Bjorn Li – set out in the "Brains vs. Artificial Intelligence" competition being held live at the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh. Their opponent was the latest creation of the Carnegie Mellon University School of Computer Science, a poker playing program known as Claudico. The challenge for the two sides was to play 80,000 hands of No Limit Hold'em on laptops linked together and, in the end, whomever had won the most money would be determined the victor. The four humans are playing for a $100,000 bonus. The competition is unique in that this is the first time a computer program built for poker was taking a stab at No Limit Hold'em. Other programs and competitions from the past, including the University of Alberta's Polaris, were playing Limit Hold'em, a far more statistical game than the No Limit version. Even the program that supposedly has "solved" poker – Alberta's Cepheus– has only solved the Heads-Up Limit version of the game. Over the past 12 days, the four men have played 1,500 hands per day against Claudico, with two of them playing on the floor of the Rivers Casino and the other two in an "isolation room" taking part in their own heads-up matches. The players are all using the same cards against Claudico and, as the experiment draws to a close, the players are the ones cleaning up. Heading into the final few days of play, the humans have built up a sizeable edge over the Carnegie Mellon team. Overall, the "Brains" have built up a $673,941 lead over Claudico, which, according to Dr. Tuomas Sandholm (pictured) of Carnegie Mellon, would be a statistical defeat for his artificial intelligence program. Li has been the star of the "Brains" team, racking up $466,473 of the total win for the squad. Polk ($184,542) and Kim ($129,273) are running neck-and-neck to see who can take the second largest total, while Les (-$106,347) is the only one letting the human race down. What is the purpose of building Claudico, Polaris, or Cepheus, you ask? Artificial intelligence programs have usage far beyond simple games such as poker and chess. The program that defeated chess grandmaster Garry Kasparovin 1997, known as Deep Blue, eventually morphed into the Watson program that crushed former Jeopardy champions in 2011. By being able to compute a massive amount of information from differing sources, such artificial intelligence programs can improve the lives of humans through the fields of medicine, finance, cybersecurity, and other areas. In essence, the decision-making skills the poker-playing programs use are vital in many areas of daily life. With only a couple of days of play remaining, it seems that the human race will emerge as victorious in this particular battle. On May 8, a special closing ceremony will be held where the final results will be announced. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook.
After two weeks and 80,000 total hands, four of the world's top online heads-up cash game players emerged victorious against an artificial intelligence program specifically designed to beat humans at No Limit Hold'em. The idea of computer programs built to "beat" poker is nothing new – the University of Alberta's Polarishas been tested against people and its latest version, Cepheus, is said to have "solved" the game – but those programs played Fixed Limit. This was No Limit Hold'em, a much more complex, nuanced game. The four men - Doug "WCGRider" Polk (pictured above), Dong Kim, Jason Les, and Bjorn Li – played 1,500 hands per day against the Claudico program, developed by a team at Carnegie Mellon University led by Dr. Tuomas Sandholm. To minimize variance that can be produced by one player getting lucky and receiving better hands than the other, two players were dealt one set of hands against Claudico, while Claudico received those same hands against the other two human players. In the end, the human players came out $732,713 in play money chips ahead. The breakdown of the individual results is as follows: Bjorn Li: +$529,033 Doug Polk: +$213,671 Doug Kim: +$70,491 Jason Les: -$80,482 While the nearly three-quarters of a million dollars victory seems overwhelming, Sandholm said that by virtue of the $170 million bet over the course of the 80,000 hands, the result was actually a statistical tie. "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," he said in a press release. "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." Les was impressed by the artificial intelligence. He had seen an earlier version of Claudico called Tartanian7last July, but said this one is better: "The advances made in Claudico over Tartanian7 in just eight months were huge." Li was proud that the humans are still #1 despite Sandholm's claim of a tie, saying, "We know theoretically that artificial intelligence is going to overtake us one day, but at the end of the day, the most important thing is that the humans remain on top for now." Interestingly, Sandholm(pictured) said creating a computer program to beat humans in No Limit Hold'em is not really the goal of the project, but rather just a step in a larger overall process. "Beating humans isn't really our goal; it's just a milestone along the way," he said. "What we want to do is create an artificial intelligence that can help humans negotiate or make decisions in situations where they can't know all of the facts." As the Carnegie Mellon press release stated, "The same sort of algorithms could also be used to create strategies for applications involving cybersecurity, business transactions, and medicine. For instance, an AI similar to Claudico might help doctors develop sequential treatment plans for a patient, or design drugs that are less prone to resistance. Or, such an AI might help people negotiate their best deal when purchasing a house or a car." Polk, like Les, thought Claudico was a solid poker player, but still has a ways to go before it is a serious challenger to the human throne. One oddity he noted was that sometimes Claudico's bet-sizing was way out of whack. Severe underbets and overbets were not uncommon: "Betting $19,000 to win a $700 pot just isn't something that a person would do." Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook.