Polaris

Polaris is a 2007 Texas hold ’em poker playing program developed by the computer poker research group at the University of Alberta. The program requires little computational power at match time, so it is run on an Apple MacBook Pro during competitions. It currently plays only heads-up (two player) Limit Texas hold’em. The University of Alberta has been developing ‘pokerbots’ since 1997.

Polaris is a composite program consisting of a number of bots, including Hyperborean08, the winner of the limit equilibrium series in the 2008 Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) Computer Poker Competition. Polaris also contains a number of other fixed strategies, and chooses between these strategies during a match.

In 2007, Polaris played against poker professionals Phil Laak and Ali Eslami at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Vancouver. After roughly 16 hours of play over two days, Polaris tied the first round, won the second and lost the last two. One of the lost matches was against a learning variant which tried to switch between a few styles of play, while all of the remainder were against large, static, randomized sets of rules which approximate a pair of Nash equilibrium strategies. Laak and Eslami split $10,000 for the two wins, and $2,500 for the draw.

In 2008, Polaris competed against six human professional poker players in the Second Man-Machine Poker Championship, held in Las Vegas. Polaris defeated the human players with 3 wins, 2 losses and 1 tie. The version of Polaris used in the 2008 match was much stronger than the 2007 version, both in the quality of the component strategies and in its ability to learn which component strategy to use.

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