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Man vs. Machine: Doug Polk and Others Play for $100K Each Against Poker Bot "Claudico"

Doug Polk

The poker world is about to find out if men are stronger than machines when it comes to playing no-limit Texas hold'em, as four professional poker players are putting their games to the test in a two-week heads-up battle against "Claudico", a poker bot whose artificial intelligence (AI) was developed by a computer science team at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU).

Doug Polk, Dong Kim, Bjorn Li, and Jason Les will each play for a chance to win $100,000 if they can best "Claudico" over 20,000 hands from April 24 to May 7 at Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh. The competition is dubbed as "Brains vs. AI".

The creators of "Claudico", led by CMU Professor of Computer Science Tuomas Sandholm, are banking to the tune of $400,000 on the fact that the computer bot can hold its own over 80,000 total hands against some of poker's top players, especially heads-up players. Sandholm describes the challenge as the next benchmark in AI, comparing it to previous computer science-related challenges in solving the game of chess.

"Poker is now a benchmark for artificial intelligence research, just as chess once was," said Sandholm in a press release. "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. And to win, the machine has to outsmart its human opponents."

Sandholm also believes that the strategies employed creating the computer program could apply elsewhere. He stated, "Computing the world's strongest strategies for this game was a major achievement, with the algorithms having future applications in business, military, cyber security, and medical arenas."

As far as the players are concerned, their chances at winning are of no certainty here.

"I imagine that the humans have an edge here," said Polk regarding the chances the players have at beating the poker machine. "However, it is very difficult to determine an outcome with any sort of stability, as I do not know what I am going to be up against."

Polk, an online cash-game specialist and winner of $3.6 million in live tournaments, shared with the poker world and the AI community how he plans to approach the challenge: "My strategy will change more so than when playing against human players. I think there will be less hand reading, so to speak, and less mind games. In some ways, I think it will be nice as I can focus on playing a more pure game, and not have to worry about if he thinks that I think, etc. So I am looking forward to the match."

Sandholm believes the challenge between "Claudico" and the four players could go either way. He said, "I think it's a 50-50 proposition. I think there's a good chance we'll lose this thing."

Players Ahead $59,766 after Two Days

After two-days and 12,000-hands of play, the four poker players are besting "Claudico" by $59,766. So far, Polk has won the most money, ahead $69,041. Li is not too far behind, ahead $68,850. Kim is currently ahead $32,712, while Les has experienced some early troubles. He is down $110,837.

Play will resume today at 11 a.m. ET, and you can watch the action live on by heading to the links below.

Additionally, Poker Night in America will be broadcasting clips from the "Brains vs. AI" competition in future episodes shown weekly on the CBS Sports Network.

Stay tuned at PokerNews as we witness whether man is stronger than machine at no-limit Texas hold'em.

Image courtesy of CMU School of Computer Science.

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