Poker Pros Defeat Computer in ‘Brains Vs. AI’ Challenge

Dustin Gouker : May 8th, 2015


A group of heads-up poker pros defeated the computer “Claudico” in the “Brains vs. AI” Challenge, ending the competition up more than $700,000.

The competition, called “Brains vs. Artificial Intelligence,” was devised by Dr. Tuomas Sandholm, Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The competition pitted the poker computer “Claudico,” which plays heads-up no-limit Texas hold’em, against a team of four pros: Doug Polk, Dong Kim, Jason Les and Bjorn Li.

The pros led the competition — which was held at Three Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh and consisted of 80,000 hands of poker over two weeks — pretty much throughout. By the end, the pros held an advantage of $732,713 chips. (The money wagered was not real.)

Here is how each player fared:
Bjorn Li: +$529,033
Doug Polk: +$213,671
Dong Kim: +$70,491
Jason Les: -$80,482.

The pros were generally complimentary of the program afterwards. Les said Claudico was a big improvement over another poker-playing program, called “Tartanian7.” Polk questioned some of Claudico’s tactics, according to CMU:

“There are spots where it plays well and others where I just don’t understand it,” he added. Some of its bets, for instance, were highly unusual, in Polk’s estimation. Where a human might place a bet worth half or three-quarters of the pot, Claudico would sometimes bet a miserly 10 percent or an over-the-top 1,000 percent. “Betting $19,000 to win a $700 pot just isn’t something that a person would do,” he observed.

Despite the fact that the pros finished ahead, the team at Carnegie Mellon is calling the competition a draw, for all intents and purposes. From a press release from CMU:

Though three of the four pros had higher winnings than Claudico, their $732,713 collective lead over the A.I. program was not quite large enough to attain statistical significance — in other words, the results can’t be accepted as scientifically reliable. In all, $170 million was “bet” during the two-week “Brains Vs. Artificial Intelligence” exhibition. So despite the apparent lead by the humans, the competition ended in a statistical tie.

According to CMU, the pros “will receive appearance fees based on their performance from a prize purse of $100,000 donated by Rivers Casino and Microsoft Research.”

There was no trash talking of the computer by the pros, after the victory:

On Twitter: @Dustin Gouker

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