A crack team of poker professionals emerged victorious last week at the close of a tournament held in Pittsburgh’s Rivers Casino. However, it wasn’t other human players they were up against, but a computer program developed by Carnegie Mellon University researchers.
The tournament began on April 24, and over the next two weeks, the AI bot called “Claudico” played Heads-up, No-limit Texas Hold ‘em with poker pros Doug Polk, Jason Les, Bjorn Li, and Dong Kim. All four men are ranked among the world’s top ten professionals, giving them definite clout against the AI system.
In all, over 80,000 hands of poker were played, and $170 million worth of virtual money was up for grabs. The humans won by a margin of $732,713, with Li emerging as the top winner with $529,033 worth of chips. Polk had $213,671 remaining, Kim had $70,491, and Les had $80,482. They did, however, win $100,000 in real money, courtesy of Rivers Casino and Microsoft.
Despite the humans’ success against Claudico, CMU’s researchers believe that the human pros’ win was actually very close, and if you come to think about it, the tournament should have been a tie. “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,” said CMU computer science professor Tuomas 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.”
As it appears, Claudico is not perfect, despite Sandholm’s assertion that it’s the best poker AI out there. Polk did have some interesting observations about Claudico, including some head-scratching moves that included betting way too much for the prize money up for grabs. “Betting $19,000 to win a $700 pot just isn’t something that a person would do,” he said.