Monthly Archives: July 2008

Poker Machine hands Humans a Big Defeat

One story that I’ve been following recently involves the competition between the poker “machine” known as Polaris II (the upgraded version of the one that played Phil Laak and Ali Eslami last year) and some online poker pros from the website  A programmer for the machine by the name of Michael Johanson even stopped by a few times to lend some insight into Polaris and on the heads-up poker competition too.

Well the contest held at the Rio is over now and guess who came out on top…..if your answer is the upgraded Polaris poker-bot then you are absolutely correct.  it didn’t look good for Polaris early on as the machine had two draws and a loss.  But in the final three matches, Polaris managed to win two rounds and a draw to take the win over the humans.

So what was the big difference from last year to this year?  It was a big change in the way that Polaris played the game according to University of Alberta professor Michael Bowling.  Bowling explained, “There are two really big changes in Polaris over last year.  First of all, our poker model is much expanded over last year.  It’s much harder for humans to exploit weaknesses.  And secondly, we have added an element of learning, where Polaris identifies which common poker strategy a human is using and switches its own strategy to counter.  This complicated the human players’ ability to compare notes, since Polaris chose a different strategy to use against each of the humans it played.”

But despite the changes there are many people and players who don’t think that Polaris is up to the task of taking down every skilled poker pro.  That’s why Bowling expects to have the machine’s mettle tested several more times in the future as he stated, “Over the next year or so there are going to have to be several rematches before everyone is convinced that humans have been surpassed by machines in poker.”

One has to remember though that the online pros Polaris took down included some very polished players.  It will be interesting to see if any other poker pros rise up to play this new and improved version of Polaris.

Chris Moneymaker Effect Part II?

Many poker players and fans are well aware of the Chris Moneymaker effect.  It was a time of wealth and prosperity for the game of poker that occurred mainly because of a little known man from Atlanta, Georgia who defied all odds.  The little known man was Chris Moneymaker and he was playing in his first live tournament after winning a $10,000 buy-in to the WSOP Main Event through a $39 PokerStars satellite.  Amazingly, Moneymaker would go on to defeat Sammy Farha in heads-up play to win the first place prize of $2.5 million.

Now he could potentially have a successor in the wings.  It’s definitely too early to start calling out potential winners for the 2008 Main Event as only 6 days have passed but Brian Schlaedlich would have to be the early favorite as he’s way out in the lead right now.  Schlaedlich has amassed over 800,000 chips which puts him 400,000 chips ahead of the closest competitor.

This has already shocked many in the poker world since the 22 year-old teacher from Cleveland hasn’t been anywhere on the radar in the past making him just as unknown as Chris Moneymaker.   And what’s more is that Schlaedlich won his way through a $135 satellite from a racetrack in West Virginia. 

Now he could certainly crumble and blow through his huge chip advantage as the WSOP still has a ways to go but I would hope not.  People like Schlaedlich are what give the Main Event its mystique because it shows that anyone can win it all no matter what the odds are stacked against them.

With the separation from July to November in final table coverage, it would be huge if Schlaedlich could just make it to the last table because this would mean tons of coverage for the young man and lots more people flocking to sign up for online poker.  I know I’ll be rooting for him. 

WSOP Main Event back on the Rise

Back when Jamie Gold was busy lucking into the $12 million prize pool in the 2006 World Series of Poker Main Event, the game of poker was rising into heights it had never experienced before.  Then came the dreaded UIGEA in October and poker players worst fears had come true.  The game they loved had become regulated and the money going towards it was being depleted. 

Last year’s top WSOP prize, which was won by Jerry Yang, fell down to $8.25 million and this was mostly the effect of less and less online players being able to get into the WSOP through satellites.  And clearly, just by judging from the top prize, things had fallen off a little bit in terms of overall buy-ins for the Main Event. 

However, this year the results are already in and the Main Event prize pool will be an enormous $64.3 million dollars with 666 players earning a share of it.  Even better news, the top prize this year is moving back up again to the tune of $9.1 million.  The 6,844 players who paid, or won, the $10,000 buy-in made this all possible.

But WSOP commissioner Jeffrey Pollack warns that, “The fact that we broke all of the records we set last year is terrific, but there may be years where we’re up, years where we’re down.”  But he did finish his statement by mentioning, “Bottom line is that we’re here for the long term and we’re not going anywhere, and I don’t know many poker properties that can say that.” 

Hopefully in the future the buy-ins will continue to be more towards the up side rather than the down so that the Main Event top prize, as well as other prizes, can climb back to the height they were at in 2006. 

Who knew Barack Obama could Play Poker

A couple of months ago I saw something I never thought I’d see in my life.  A presidential candidate hooping it up with a major college basketball team in the North Carolina Tar Heels.  And it wasn’t just some lame thing where Barack Obama was running at half the speed everyone else was while the players let him run through the lane and score buckets.  He was playing like he belonged on the court (at least during the minute and a half clip that I saw).

Apparently basketball isn’t the only thing Obama can hang in though as he’s said to be a pretty decent Texas Hold’em and Seven Card Stud player.  Barack picked the game up while he was a senator in Illinois and is known for rarely bluffing and playing very smart.

Professional poker players have taken a liking to Obama as many have voiced their support over him being president.  And their support doesn’t just stem from the fact that Obama is a knowledgeable poker player but also his stance on online gambling.

Barack isn’t against online gambling like his opponent John McCain and his stance on the issue really pleases poker legend Doyle Brunson who said, “Poker players have to support Obama.  God help the Internet gambling business if McCain does happen to win.”  Andy Block also chimed in by saying that most of the players at the World Series of Poker were fans of Obama.  “In poker you have to put yourself in the shoes of your opponents, get inside their heads and figure out what they’re thinking, what their actions mean, what they would think your actions mean, and read bluffs,” Bloch said.

It would definitely be nice to see a fellow poker player in office come November and Obama could be instrumental in helping to lift the stringent UIGEA act.  I know where my vote will be going when election time rolls around.

Is Phil Hellmuth the Same Player this Year?

There are many people who can lay claim to being the best poker player in the world.  After all, it’s hard to really determine anything as the best measuring stick when comparing players.  Some people prefer to point towards the ones that play in Bobby’s Room at the Bellagio as some of the best players in the world since they consistently play for the biggest stakes.  And if you’re going to use this as the measuring stick then most would say Phil Ivey is the best.

However, others like to point towards live tournaments as the favored way to tell how talented a player is.  And if this is the case, then Phil Hellmuth and his 11 WSOP bracelets by be considered the way to go.  After all, a gold WSOP bracelet is pretty much the top prize one could hope to win in any tournament (besides the money of course). 

But this year, it almost seems like Phil Hellmuth has played a little off from previous campaigns.  And that’s a hard thing to say since Hellmuth just recently took third in the $1,500 H.O.R.S.E. tournament.  But as much as people have come to expect from him, it doesn’t seem like he’s been as dominant a tournament player in 2008. 

In his previous years of playing poker, Hellmuth was a constant threat to cash in every event he entered.  And he often did at least cash, if not make the final table and/or win the tournament he was playing in.  But this year I’ve seen him sent to the rail plenty of times during the early going of a tournament.  Many times he hasn’t even made it past the 1st day. 

Now he may make me eat my words and go out and win bracelet #13 in these last few events but I don’t see it happening this year.  I’m sure we’ll see a revival of the Poker Brat since he’s got plenty of years ahead of him but don’t expect it to take place anytime soon.