Paul Seaton has worked in poker since 2011 and has traveled the world reporting on the greatest game on Earth. He has covered tournaments such as the EPT, WPT and World Series of Poker. He is from England and is inspired by three key supports in his work; the unique nature of every poker players story, the devotion from his family and, most importantly, a good cup of tea. This week on ‘What if’, Seaton lets his mind run wild and provides a comedic take on the idea of a robot playing and winning the WSOP Main Event. 

In 2015, a robot called Cepheus was invented and promised to be able to ‘beat’ Limit Hold’em.  Over the course of a billion, billion hands (that’s 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 – more rings than our last donut order) the scientists behind Cepheus could claim to have spent a decade wisely. They had designed the perfect poker player – in theory. But what if the experiment hadn’t stopped there? Many players derided the possibility, but could Cepheus have spawned a No Limit Hold’em-solving offspring? We got our best soothsayers onto it.

Day 1: Andromeda Makes Its Debut

After several years in the making, Andromeda, daughter of Cepheus in Greek mythology, is born. It is boasted that this new robot has not just solved Limit Hold’em but can conquer the World Series of Poker’s legendary Main Event – a No Limit Hold’em tournament which now takes places over seven tournament days. Day 1a sees the much-heralded arrival of the shimmering figure who glides into the Rio in an ornate golden Sedan Chair accompanied by a dozen butlers – no, wait, that’s Phil Hellmuth.

There is much speculation about Andromeda playing early, but in fact, their arrival is delayed until the last second. Unveiled in new area Burnt Ocre at Table 153 Seat 1, Andromeda is revealed as humanoid in shape but equipped with a TV screen. Their first words are: “Table 153 – a perfect number. One squared plus five squared plus three squared – quite an omen.”

The dealer reminds Andromeda to ante-up.

Andromeda reveals that they are playing for several charitable organizations and that any money won will be donated to good causes. After a quiet couple of hours, Andromeda’s first all-in move is made when putting to the test by Justin Bonomo, who went into the Main Event with 57 consecutive tournament victories. Staring down his monolithic opponent, Bonomo is distracted when Andromeda changes their TV screen to the image of Bonomo, complete with purple hair. Andromeda gets the move through and shows the two of clubs.

Day 1 ends with Andromeda comfortably among the higher stacks in the chip-counts. Never needing a break, Andromeda uses information gathered at their table to calculate new strategies and force folds in the latter stages. Sharing the table with former WSOP Main Event winner Johnny Chan, Andromeda instigates a shove from the Orient Express when they alter their visage to that of long-time rival Erik Seidel. Chan, reminiscent of his 1988 victory, moves all-in on the river with the second nut flush, only to be topped by Andromeda’s nut flush.

As Chan gets up, Andromeda remarks “There goes Johnny!”

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Day 2: A Fearless Ascend 

Arriving early for Day 2, there is plenty of speculation about exactly who is behind Andromeda and how they financed the investment required to calibrate the incredible observations the robot can make. Sweat-sensors, tremble antennas and raise radars to make Andromeda an unknown quantity and players begin to fear the calculations which are being made about them. Andromeda has struck at the heart of any poker player’s key traits – mental stability. “As JFK once said, ‘The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.’” comments Norm Chad in the TV commentary booth.   Andromeda chips up and is in the top ten chip counts at the end of the day. Even their post-game interview is flawless, referencing several previous year’s broadcasts and discussing the latest WSOP trending topics on Twitter, Instagram, and new social media craze Clone.

Day 3: Bubble Pressure

With the money bubble set to burst, Andromeda is able to put maximum pressure on every opponent at its table. Just a dozen players from the bubble, the most popular player to invest in via poker staking websites is Andromeda, with some websites pricing the automaton at 5.6 per share. Charlie Carrel is eliminated by Andromeda but is relatively unphased.

“I backed Andromeda at 1.2 back in 2018,” the ebullient Englishman declares. “It’s the future of poker and I’ll be leaving my Clone here to track Andromeda all the way.”

Rumors Carrel is the financer of Andromeda are quashed by the Brit, however. Andromeda is a mystery to a growing number of supporters and when the hypnotic robotic bursts the bubble, it wins legions of new fans. Will Kassouf, all-in and at risk with 8-high, is spectacularly called by Andromeda with 9-high. As the media throng gaggles for footage of the defeated table-talker, Andromeda monotones: “Looked I have you kicked.” To rapturous applause.

Day 4: From Chip Lead to Short Stack 

Comfortably in the money and leading the pack, Andromeda maintains that lead across almost all of the day. However, a multitude of interviews leave several circuit boards overheated, and a final level miss-click sees Andromeda’s stack drop below the average when they utter fold instead of call when presented with an all-in from Phil Ivey. The multiple WSOP bracelet winner smiles, and for the first time in the Main Event, Andromeda’s viewscreen changes to black. Gone are the witty phrases and in-jokes that have hustled many players into submission or goaded other into gifting away their chips. Andromeda survives the Day 4 but is shorter than most.

Day 5: Don’t Call it a Comeback

Andromeda is back with a vengeance. As blinds increase, the first time Andromeda is all-in and at risk occurs when Daniel Negreanu calls their A-K shove with pocket queens in an attempt to bust the bot. But Andromeda’s coinflip double-up with an ace on the turn sees the Canadian legend plummet to short change and exit soon after, just a few hands short of the final table.

“Don’t faint, Daniel.” Says Andromeda.

“Hey buddy, keep it classy.” Shoots Daniel from the rail. But Andromeda is having none of it.

“It’s OK, Daniel. At least there’ll be one vegan at the final table.”

Andromeda makes the final nine and viewers are split on hopes for the so-called ‘perfect poker player’. Is Andromeda too good to be popular?

Day 6: Final Table Madness

It’s tense and tight, but nine becomes three on the penultimate day of the WSOP Main Event. With Andromeda in the mix, every hand is a blend of quick wit, calculated moves, and almost instant action. Andromeda calculates their move very quickly, often setting the pace too fast for the other players. Andromeda receives its first tournament warning from Jack Effel, who says that all decisions need to be taken “…after at least two seconds of thought. If it’s good enough for me, it’s good enough for you.”

Andromeda provokes a hand penalty when they quip back instantly: “Wise words, Jack. Is that why France named the tower after you?”

Andromeda busts Scott Seiver in fourth place, with the philanthropist and Chinese Poker pro graceful as ever in defeat.

“I hope you go on and win, Andy.” Says Seiver as he departs, his famous ‘pineapple’ brand replicated by Andromeda’s viewscreen.

Day 7: Never Ending Energy at a Grueling Final Table

With three players remaining, it is estimated that at least 3% of America’s 2020 GDP is riding on whether Andromeda can see it out. It’s not an easy start to the final, either, with several interviews and photoshoots causing heating problems once again for everyone’s favorite android.

The final sees Andromeda go from chip leader to short stack, but they are gifted a chance at their preferred method of poker, heads-up play when fellow player Daniel Colman is eliminated in third place. Colman is in a hand with Fedor Holz when he is distracted by episodes of Breaking Bad being replaced via Andromeda’s viewscreen. He makes an agonizing call only to be shown the nuts by Holz, who is enjoying his fourth retirement from the game in fine style. Colman, desolate, gives a 27-minute interview to ESPN’s Joe Stapleton, including several impersonations and ending on a song, an acapella rendition of Aint No Mountain High Enough.

The heads-up showdown lasts an incredible 17 hours, and by the tail-end of the event, Andromeda’s rail includes sixteen cleaners and the man who renews the batteries on the air conditioning system. Everyone is behind Andromeda, praying for their money to come in. Fedor Holz, so long the chip leader, loses when he is unable to stay awake. Raising all-in when falling unconscious and pushing his chips over the line, Andromeda snap-calls with the nuts.

“The benefit of a primed mind, Fedor.’ Quips Andromeda, who is praised for both the victory and single-handedly keeping the U.S. economy afloat. Many poker staking sites disappear after paying out winners and Andromeda’s backer is finally revealed as Jamie Gold, who declares his investment’s final hand of Ace-King which made Broadway as ‘tip-top’.

In the aftermath, the following year’s WSOP Main Event is rumored to have over 1,000 robot entries.

Phil Ivey, Scott Seiver, Phil Hellmuth, Fedor Holz, Joe Stapleton, Dan Colman, Poker AI