Humans beat Polaris poker machine…just

Phil ‘The Unabomber’ Laak and Ali Eslami, two top poker pros from Los Angeles, have narrowly beaten the Polaris poker robot in Vancouver as part of an experiment to see whether computer scientists could develop a computer program that could beat human players.

The battle stretched on to 11pm last night in a hotel conference room as part of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence in Vancouver, with the room erupting into cheers when the humans finally emerged victorious. However, the match left the human players exhausted.

"I really am happy it's over," said Eslami, 30, adding that playing against the computer was more exhausting than any previous game in his career.

"I'm surprised we won.... it's already so good it will be tough to beat in future.”

The outcome was still in the balance right to the end as the previous three games resulted in one draw and a win each for the humans and Polaris. The match involved over 2,000 hands with the human players winning by $570 in the last match.

Laak and Eslami played Polaris simultaneously with each both teams playing opposite hands. In other words, if Eslami was dealt a royal flush in one room, Polaris would have a royal flush in its game against Laak.

Polaris is a poker robot developed by researchers at the University Of Alberta in Canada designed to see if a computer program could beat human players as already achieved by chess computers.

However, Laak believes it won’t be long before a poker bot does beat a human player.

"The subtlety to the whole thing is, we won, not by a significant amount, and the bots are closing in," Laak told a journalist.

"That's the true summary."

Darse Billings, one of the lead scientists behind Polaris and a one-time poker professional himself, echoes that view.

"I wouldn't be surprised if we can beat them tomorrow," Billings said, adding that Polaris played ‘brilliantly’.

Although the winning pot of £50,000 pales into significance compared to the size of winnings the pros usually play for, Laak was just as pleased with himself after the victory.

"I literally felt the same feeling that you would have if you beat 500 people in a tournament and won a million dollars," Laak said.

Editor, - 2007-07-26 12:07:10

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