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 stoxpoker.com. 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.