Humans Cruise to $732,713 Win Over Poker AI

Four top poker pros beat the Claudico poker computer by a collective $732,713. So why are some considering the challenge a tie?

Photo Caption: Dong Kim (left) and Bjorn Li take on Claudico during the "Brains Vs. Artificial Intelligence" Heads-Up No-limit Texas Hold’em challenge.

Man is still superior to machine, at least when it comes to poker.

After 80,000 hands of Heads-Up No-limit Texas Hold’em against Doug Polk, Dong Kim, Bjorn Li and Jason Les - four of the top players in the world - the humans won a collective $732,713 worth of virtual money off Claudico, the AI-infused poker bot created by Carnegie Mellon University.

Claudico played 20,000 hands against each of the pros during the “Brains Vs. Artificial Intelligence” exhibition. Li finished in first place up $529,033, while Polk finished up $213,671 and Kim finished up $70,491. Les was the only player who lost to Claudico, dropping $80,482 worth of fake chips.

The blinds for the competition were $50/$100, and the $732,713 margin of victory represents 7,327 big blinds.

But if you ask Tuomas Sandholm, the CMU professor of computer science who directed development of Claudico, the tournament result is a statistical tie. He says the $732,713 collective lead for the human players was less than one-half of 1 percent of the total $170 million worth of virtual money that was bet during the tournament.

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“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,” says Sandholm. “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.”

Polk disagrees. While the humans’ win rate (9.15 bb/100) indicates a fairly close match, “I wouldn’t say that’s a tie,” he tweets. “I’d say the humans have the edge.”

The pros (left to right): Bjorn Li, Doug Polk, Dong Kim and Jason Les.

Michael Bowling, a computer science professor at the University of Alberta, Canada who has developed a leading poker program, says he wouldn’t bet on humans too much longer. “I would say now, after this [tournament] it will take one to three years” for a computer to beat top players, he said. “Up to this point, we just didn’t know how close we were.”

Polk posted a $400,368 lead against Claudico in the first week of the competition. The computer switched up it’s strategy, however, and cut Polk’s “winnings” nearly in half by the time the tournament ended. But Polk still doesn’t consider Claudico a world-class player.

“There are spots where it plays well and others where I just don’t understand it,” Polk says. “Some of its bets, for instance, were highly unusual. Where a human might place a bet worth half or three-quarters of the pot, Claudico would sometimes bet a miserly 10 percent or an over-the-top 1,000 percent. Betting $19,000 to win a $700 pot just isn’t something that a person would do.”

About the Author

Steve Crowe · Steve Crowe is managing editor of Robotics Trends. Steve has been writing about technology since 2008. He lives in Belchertown, MA with his wife and daughter.
Contact Steve Crowe:  ·  View More by Steve Crowe.


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