Poker machine to take on pros

Researchers from the University of Alberta, Canada, have challenged poker professionals to take on their poker computer program, Polaris, to 2,000 hands of Texas Hold’Em.

Dr Jonathan Schaeffer, a professor at the university, has challenged poker champion Phil "The Unabomber" Laak and Ali Eslami to 500 hands in four sessions at the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence Conference in Vancouver on July 23 and 24. It is reported that $50,000 has been put up for the competition.

Laak and Eslami will both play against Polaris at the same time in separate rooms. After each 500 hands, Laak and Eslami will combine their chip total, as will Polaris, therefore deciding who wins that session. Furthermore, the cards dealt in one room to Polaris will be the same as the professional receives in the other room.

Over the years, computer programs have taken on human players in games such as chess and backgammon and have invariably won. However, poker is different. Players do not know the other persons hand and then there is the element of bluffing. Nevertheless, Schaeffer believes his program can compensate for that.

"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," he said.

It is not the first time that artificially intelligent machines have taken on human players. In 2005 during the World Series of Poker, Phil Laak beat the poker robot “Poker Probot” in a heads-up match.

Editor, - 2007-06-13 11:38:24

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