On April 24, 2015, a battle of epic proportions began at the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Four of today’s most esteemed professional poker players took on the challenge of an AI poker bot known as “Claudico”. The 2-week competition is now at its hallway point, and the pros seem to be well are their way to defeating the most high-tech AI poker bot to date.
The competition, titled ‘Brains vs. Artificial Intelligence’, is slated to run for two weeks (Apr 24 – May 8), with a total of 80,000 hands to be played; 20,000 per poker pro. At the end of Day 7 (Apr 30), the human team was up $458,902, and as action resumed this morning at the Rivers Casino, Claudico has fallen even further behind with the pros leading $568,662 at the time of writing.
Meet Claudico’s Human Opponents
Who are these so-far superior poker pros who are outwitting the poker bot? They are heads-up holdem specialists Dong Kim, Jason Les, Bjorn Li and Doug Polk. Collectively, they are considered by many to be the best Heads-Up No Limit Texas Hold’em players in the world.
Doug “WGCRider” Polk and Bjorn Li are currently doing most of the work. Polk, who snagged his first WSOP bracelet last year, is up $356k over Claudico. Bjorn Li, who spends the majority of his time at cash games, is right behind him with a $345k lead on the poker bot.
Dong Kim is also out ahead of his AI competitor, holding an $84k lead, but Jason Les hasn’t been fairing so well. On Day 1, Les fell behind by $83k, and has continued to fall further behind with almost every 750-hand session (twice daily). According to daily updates, Claudico was up $228k over Li after Day 7, although its human opponent has slightly closed the gap to $218k so far today.
Development of the Poker Bot
The poker bot was developed by a team of college students led by Tuomas Sandholm, Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Prior to the start of the Brains vs Artificial Intelligence competition, Sandholm said, “Poker is now a benchmark for artificial intelligence research, just as chess once was.
“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,” said Sandholm. “And to win, the machine has to out-smart its human opponents.”
At this rate, it doesn’t look like that’s going to occur, but there are still 37,900 hands to be dealt, and anything can happen in that period of time.
In the summer of 2008, a similar Man vs Machine Poker Competition was held in Las Vegas between a poker bot known as Polaris and two teams of human poker pros. Over four rounds of play, Polaris was determined the winner. The first round played to a draw with the poker pros prevailing in the second match, but the poker bot came back to win the final two rounds, proving that AI can outsmart humans at the poker tables.
However, despite the technological advancements over the last 7 years and enhanced algorithms programmed into Claudico, even Sandholm was skeptical about the university’s chances of beating the pros. He said he felt the “humans have an edge here”, calling it a “50/50 proposition” and admitting “there’s a good chance we’ll lose this thing.”
You can view Live Feed of the Pros vs Poker Bot competition here. When all is said and done, the winner of the competition—the team who built the poker bot, Claudico, or the team of poker pros—will share in a prize purse of $100,000, generously donated by Microsoft Research and Rivers Casino.