Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Computer vs Man Poker Style: Humans 2 1/2, computer 1 1/2

The first major conflict between humans and computers in poker recently took place with the humans eeking out 2 wins and a draw against only one loss. From the story the story:

"Two professional poker players narrowly beat a computer late Tuesday after four tense rounds that scientists called the world's first man-versus-machine poker championship.

Phil Laak and Ali Eslami, two poker players from Los Angeles ranked as the world's best, prevailed against a program named Polaris by just 570 points in the fourth and final game in the match.

'I really am happy it's over,' said Eslami, 30, adding that playing against the computer was more exhausting than any previous game in his career. Eslami, a former computer consultant, praised the machine and the computer scientists. 'I'm surprised we won.... it's already so good it will be tough to beat in future' as scientists make further improvements on Polaris' programming."

That's for sure. Chess has fallen to the machines, as has checkers. Pente has probably been been topped, although I'd love to see verification of that. Go is the holy grail of games, and will probably be the last to fall. Poker is a more interesting case than those however, because of the large psychological component. I was surprised the machine did as well as it did. But then the algorithms used in these beasties keep getting better and better at creative novel strategies, much to the chagrin of those who try to claim there is something magical about our brains, or that simple mindless processes cannot produce stunning complexity. That debate is over. The evidence is in the machines, and the games they can win.

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