The First Man-Machine
Poker Championship

Humans Still Masters of Computer Poker

Poker Players Sweep Last Two Matches Against Polaris

It looks like the computers have to wait to take over the poker world.

Phil Laak and Ali Eslami swept the final two matches of the Man Versus Machine Poker Championship that was held at the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) conference in Vancouver the last two days.

"We just played our (freaking) A game," Laak said. Click here to read about the match, the University of Alberta's computing team, what "solving" poker means to the computing world, and what Laak had to say about the rough first two matches in which the humans managed a draw and a loss.

Here's the gist of the competition: Four matches were held the last two days. A session was won if Polaris, the computer program, or the humans, came out of a 500-hand series with 25 or more small bets in a $10-$20 heads-up limit game. If neither the computer nor the humans could win 25 bets or more, then the session was considered a draw.

Also, Eslami and Laak played four matches against Polaris using a form of duplicate poker. That meant that the hands Laak was getting during a session, Polaris was getting against Eslami, and vice versa. The totals of the two games were added together to make a score and determine a winner.

After four matches, the humans won two matches and tied one. Polaris beat the humans outright in the second match.

Laak and Eslami came out ahead of yesterday's first match plus $820. They got to split $5,000. Update: The fourth match was won by the humans by $570.

In Monday's first match, the humans came out seven small bets ahead, which was a draw. Laak and Eslami split $2,500 for the draw. If they won all four matches, they would've split $50,000.

In Monday's second match, Polaris won by 95.5 small bets. In this match, Laak and the Polaris Eslami played got an extremely hot deck, and Eslami suffered. Laak came out ahead $1,560, but Eslami's Polaris won $2,515, giving the match to the machine.

The versions of Polaris that played were mixed during the matches varied and had names like "Mr. Pink" and "Agent Orange." The third match, the computer guys sent in three bots that randomly played throughout the 500 hands.

Laak said both he and Eslami had to work as hard as possible to win the last two matches. Laak said every betting decision took him at least a minute to make, and every move he made was deliberated and agonized over.

"I got to the point that every decision was planned out," Laak said.

The two humans talked about how they would face the machine before the second day, and they agreed they needed to find the middle ground between aggression and defense. Laak said he's a more defensive minded player while Eslami uses aggression more. When they found the middle, they found that they started winning.