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Humans Win First Man-Machine Poker Championship
Wed, Jul 25th, 2007 @ 12:00am
The Human team of Phil Laak and Ali Eslami win the fourth and final poker session against the Polaris machine team to take a 2-1 overall victory. Poker professionals Laak and Eslami returned on day two of the Man-Machine Poker Championship trailing the Polaris software of the machine team 0-1.
If the machine had emotions it may have arrived for Day 2 with a big grin on it's face having drawn the first session and then beating the humans by $955 in the second session. Polaris playing for the machine team is a computer poker playing program developed by the researchers at The University of Alberta Computer Poker Research Group.
The Man-Machine Poker Championship is a $10/$20 Limit Texas Hold'em head's up duplicate match made up of four sessions of 500 hands. It can take many thousands of hands of poker to establish who is the most skillfull poker player due to the luck element involved in short term results. Duplicate poker is one way of reducing the luck element of poker and focusing on the skill element. In a duplicate poker match the same series of cards will be dealt to the players in the same seat on different tables. So on Table 1 Phil Laak will sit in Seat 1 and Polaris_1 will sit in Seat 2, and on Table 2 Polaris_2 will sit in Seat 1 and Ali Eslami will be in Seat 2. Therefore Phil Laak and Polaris_2 will be playing the same hands against their respective opponent. Each session will consist of 500 hands after which the combined bankrolls of the humans will be compared to the combined bankrolls of the machines to determine the winner.
The players returned for session 3 on 24th July at Noon. It was Laak v Polaris_1 on the public table, and Polaris_2 v Eslami on the private table. After 500 hands Phil Laak had beaten the machine by $1455. In some notable hands, Phil is dealt pocket 6's, the board show Kc Ac Ah 2s 7s, Polaris shows Queen high and Phil's 6's hold up, he comments "Take that Polaris punk." Earlier Phil had a pair of queens in the hole and Polaris hits him with a check raise on the river. Polaris shows King high and Phil thinks Polaris is "sick and cracked out!" On the private table it is Polaris_2 (playing the same hands that Phil receives) v Eslami (playing the same hands as Polaris_1). The machine beats the human but only by $635, meaning the human team win session 3 by $820 to set up a deciding final session.
The fourth and final session starts at 6pm, with Ali Eslami v Polaris on the public table, and Polaris V Phil Laak on the private table. Ali takes the lead at the midway point and Polaris can not break him down and reverse the situation. Ali Eslami wins his table by $460. In every session so far the winning seat has been the same, the match being decided on which player in that seat wins by the most and which player in the opposite seat loses the least. However in this session Phil Laak in seat 2 also wins his match by $110, therefore the humans win the final session by $570.
In a thrilling two days the Humans beat the Machine. However, Polaris put up very good opposition against two top professional poker players. The University of Alberta team will have gained plenty of data to study and to improve Polaris. Any future Man-Machine Poker Championships will be a must watch event!
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