Arts & Ideas: Pokerbot update: man, 1; machine, 0
Newly anointed World Series of Poker champion Phil "the Unabomber" Laak beat the world's best poker robot on July 15. The robot, known as Poker Probot, won the $100,000 prize in the World Poker Robot Championship earlier last week.
Laak, who is known as "the Unabomber" for wearing a hooded sweatshirt and dark glasses at the table, played the pokerbot (a computer program designed to compete at online poker) for over three hours. The human and robot contestants were head to head for the first half, until Laak decided that Poker Probot was playing a "too aggressive" game. By changing his style of play, Laak seized the advantage. After more than 300 hands, he won with a pair of aces, beating Probot's pair of kings.
In a world where top poker players can make millions, Laak played for only a $100 private wager with Poker Probot's human creator, Hilton "Pocket Rocket" Givens. A 37-year-old software developer and used car salesman from Indiana, Givens used his robot to beat out five other robot contestants. Afterwards, his Probot also beat the University of Alberta's best poker robot, Poki-X, a product of the university's 14 years of poker robot research. (Poki-X had previously been rumored to be the world's best pokerbot.)
At the human and pokerbot facedown, the audience chanted, "Humans! Humans!" Laak's girlfriend, actress Jennifer Tilly, watched from the sidelines. (Tilly herself has become well known as one of the top female poker players.)
Although computer programs have already mastered chess and backgammon, the results of Sunday's match show that poker robots have a long way to go before defeating top humans. But real players, take note: Deceptive robots are already playing as humans in online poker rooms.