Can a Poker Bot Beat a Pro Player?

Before January 2017, poker bots were something of a joke among professional players. The reason is simply because few players were ever beaten by a bot.

However, if the results of the Brains vs. AI poker tournament held at Pittsburgh USA’s Rivers Casino are anything to go by, Team Humanity has some work to do.

Four pro players, namely Jason Les, Jimmy Chou, Daniel McAulay, and Dong Kim, took on Carnegie Mellon University’s Libratus poker bot. 120 000 hands later, the bot was dubbed the greatest one to have been developed.

Libratus the Poker Bot

Libratus was designed by Tuomas Sandholm, one of the university’s computer scientists, and a Ph.D student named Noam Brown. The bot is actually a new version of an earlier bot that was named Claudico.

The previous bot was tested in 2015, but it lost to a group of pro players. Sandholm was undeterred, and continued to work on the poker bot, hoping to test a later version against a different group of pro players.

The scientist said that the results of bots versus real players have been a way of determining progress since the dawn of research into Artificial Intelligence.

He added that poker’s ploys and the need for the bot to make complex decisions using minimal information posed a challenge for the design team.

The Brains vs. AI tournament ran for 20 days. After each session, the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Centre tweaked Libratus’ strategy to counter any weaknesses that were picked up during the session.

What the Pro Players Said

It is a good thing the Brains vs. AI chips had no monetary value, because the four pro players were 1 776 250 chips down at the end of the competition. Kim, the best performing player, lost only 85 649 in chips, while McAulay lost 277 657 in chips, and Chou was down 522 857 in chips.

Les, on the other hand, lost a whopping 880 097 in chips to the Libratus poker bot.

However, it wasn’t a complete loss for the pro players, as they each received a share of US$200 000.

McAulay good-naturedly described the experience as a beat-down. Les said that he expected that the pro player team would be beaten by Libratus, but he also expected the loss to be much narrower.

What this all means for the future of online casino games remains to be seen.