Computer takes on poker aces

A showdown pitting human brains against artificial intelligence goes ahead this evening when two professional poker players take on a computer in the world's first such man-machine challenge. Phil Laak and Ali Eslami will play Polaris, the most sophisticated poker-playing program yet written, the product of years of research and refinement by a team of artificial intelligence experts at the University of Alberta in Canada.

The challenge will play out over two days and 500 hands of Texas hold 'em at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Vancouver, with the players gambling for a total prize pot of $50,000 (£23,000). Jonathan Schaeffer, the lead scientist behind Polaris, said that, even though his program had the perfect poker face, it was not the favourite to win. Nevertheless, he promised to make his opponents work for their prize money. "I'm not nervous," he said. "Everyone expects the humans to win."

Last week, Dr Schaeffer published details of an artificial intelligence draughts-playing game that cannot be beaten.

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News source: Guardian Unlimited

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In case they don't post a follow up article to this ...

"Two professional poker players narrowly beat a computer late Tuesday after four tense rounds that scientists called the world's first man-versus-machine poker championship."

The humans will almost certainly win, since there is so much more to poker than calculating the odds of winning a hand – which I would guess is most of what a poker program has to go on. This works well with chess, where the computer can act based on its ability to calculate every possible move that a single opponent could possible make at any point in the game: an ability that gives the computer a massive advantage against most chess players.

Poker, on the other hand, involves interacting in a complex multi-player environment where (human) players are making decisions based on hunches, reading tells, sensing statistical anomalies, and other non-logical processes. A skilled player also has a pretty good knowledge of the probabilities involved – even if he can't calculate the actual numbers like a computer can.

In other words, a human player uses a complex variety of processes to sucessfully determine when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em: the basic skill required to win – and a talent beyond the capabilities of any computer now or in the foreseeable future.

Chess, checkers, poker... come on, it's getting old already.
How about a computer vs human wrestling combat? Now that would be something worth watching :nuts: