Brains vs. AI: Computer faces poker pros in no-limit Texas Hold'em

By Marilyn Malara

PITTSBURGH, April 25 (UPI) -- Four of the world's best poker players face a common opponent, a computer program named Claudico, in a two-week "Brains Vs. Artificial Intelligence" competition at Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh.

In a competition that started Friday, Claudico will play 20,000 hands of heads-up no-limit Texas Hold'em with each human competitor over the course of 14 days. That's 1,500 hands per day until May 8, with one day off so the living individuals can rest.


Claudico, developed at Carnegie Mellon University under the direction of computer science professor Tuomas Sandholm, is the first computer program to play the game against top human players.

The competition seeks to further challenge and test the program and its algorithms, which may have "future applications in business, military, cybersecurity and medical arenas," Sandholm said in a press release.

"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," says Sandholm. "And to win, the machine has to out-smart its human opponents."


An earlier version of the software, Tartanian 7, won the heads-up, no-limit Texas Hold'em category against other computers in July, but Sandholm says that doesn't necessarily mean it can beat a human in the complex game.

"I think it's a 50-50 proposition," he said of Claudico's chances of beating the men. "I think there's a good chance we'll lose this thing."

"My strategy will change more so than when playing against human players," says competitor Doug Polk, one of the world's best heads-up Hold'em 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."

Players Doug Polk, Dong Kim, Bjorn Li and Jason Les will play Claudico every day from April 24 to May 8. The games will stream live each day, simultaneously, from 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. EDT on Twitch.


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