MSNBC reports

The results are in from the great “Man vs. Machine” computer poker showdown in Vancouver, with the humans coming out on top by a narrow margin.

…The Polaris team as well as Laak and Eslami are all looking forward to a rematch in the next few months. By that time, Polaris may well become unbeatable – at least when it comes to Heads Up Limit Hold ‘Em. “If it’s not done, it’s so close to done it’s not even funny,” Laak said.

Won’t this kill online poker? I mean, how can an ordinary human play if there might be somebody else at the table using a top-caliber computer program?

UPDATE: Tim Harford emails:

Saw your interesting post on pokerbots.
I wrote a long article last spring about game theory and poker:

The final section has a discussion of the pokerbots. What didn’t make
it into the piece was an observation from Ed Castronova, an economist
who specialises in the economics of synthetic worlds. If I recall his
argument correctly, he reckoned that there was a race between the
ability of pokerbots to beat humans and the ability of humans to
credibly represent themselves as trustworthy on the net using various
reputational tools. He thought that the pokerbots might well lose that
race, which could save online poker because you knew you could trust
the person you were playing with. Even so, that would look very
different to today’s online poker games.

But even if I can tell that it’s Tim Harford and a not a pokerbot, I have no way of knowing whether or not Tim Harford is using a program to make his decisions.

I imagine that this makes online tournaments in chess somewhat difficult. It’s got to be awfully tempting in the middle of a game to input the position into a computer program and ask, “what would you do?” There has to be a sort of honor system that keeps people from doing that.