Poker software called Polaris will play a rematch against human players during the 2008 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas.Developed by an artificial intelligence group at the University of Alberta in Canada, Polaris will be pitted against several professionals at the Rio Hotel between July 3rd and 6th [note: date has been corrected]. Its human opponents will include Stoxpoker.com coaches Nick Grundzien and Ijay Palansky along with Matt Hawrilenko, all of whom have well over $1 million in lifetime winnings from playing poker.
In the Canadian poker playing software's first tournement showdown in July 2007, Phil "The Unabomber" Laak and Ali Eslami edged it out, winning two matches, drawing one match and losing one match.
This year's contest format will be the same as last year's, seven-card limit Texas Hold'em, with each match to consist of 500 hands. The hands will be dealt out in duplicate, such that Polaris gets the same cards dealt in one room as the professional gets in another room. The duplicate format is intended to balance out the luck of the cards and test the poker-playing skills of each contestant. Limit poker requires more consistency of play than no-limit poker.
Theoretically, a computer should be able to beat human players, according to the leader of the university's computer poker research programme. "It's possible, given enough computing power, for computers to play 'perfectly,' where over a long enough match, the program cannot lose money," said associate professor Michael Bowling. "Humans will always make some mistakes, meaning the program will have an advantage."
We're not so sure about that, though. Poker is a very complicated game incorporating not only mathematical betting and statistical odds but also the important skills of expectation, observation and learning, psychology and deception, intimidation and subterfuge.
We give Polaris no better than an even chance to beat its human opponents this time out.