AI program beats humans in poker game

Libratus, an artificial intelligence program developed at Carnegie Mellon University, was trained to play a variant of the game known as no-limit heads-up Texas hold 'em.

In a similar tournament in 2015, the humans won.

The victory has been hailed as a significant milestone for AI, by the team responsible for building it.

The AI won more than $1.5m (?1.2m) worth of chips from the humans.

The matches - held at Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh - were live-streamed over gaming site Twitch.

Tuomas Sandholm, professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon, said the event was historic.

Heads-up no limit Texas hold 'em is in a

way the last frontier of all the games, he said.

Othello, Chess, Go, Jeopardy have all been conquered, but this remained elusive: this is a landmark in AI game-play.

Prof Sandholm said that the algorithm could be transferred to a range of other uses.

This is not just about poker, he said.

The algorithms can take information and output a strategy in a range of scenarios, including negotiations, finance, medical treatment and cybersecurity.

Now we have proven the ability of AI to do strategy and reasoning, there are many potential applications in future.


One of the professional poker players, Jimmy Chou, admitted at the halfway point that the AI was proving a tough opponent.

The bot gets better and better every day. It's like a tougher version of us, he said.

The first couple of days, we had high hopes, Mr Chou said.

But every time we find a weakness, it learns from us and the weakness disappears the next day.

He added that the professionals had been sharing notes and tips in an effort to find weaknesses in the AI's game-play.

But they were not the only ones doing homework.

Each night after the play ended, the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Centre added computations to sharpen the AI's strategy.

All four human players shared the $200,000 (?159,000) prize fund, ranked in order of how well they played against the AI.

Jason Les, who came fourth, summed up the feelings of all four players when he said the match had been incredibly challenging.

I was impressed with the quality of poker Libratus played, he said.

We tried everything we could, but it was just too strong. It became very demoralising.

In a Pittsburgh casino, artificial intelligence is beating poker champions for the first time

The night before his newest poker competition was set to begin, Carnegie Mellon's Tuomas Sandholm and his PhD student Noam Brown sat down to play a little No Limit Texas Hold'em against the main competition: the artificial intelligence program they designed called "Libratus."

"I was totally wrecked," Sandholm told The Washington Post. The machine destroyed him. But he is not a serious poker player, so that's not such a big achievement.

But for the past 13 days, however, Libratus has been facing off against four world-champion poker players in a Pittsburgh casino. If it can beat them like it beat Sandholm, it would be an enormous breakthrough.

So far, after 67,000 hands, Libratus has won $701,242 worth of chips after starting from a balance of zero. That means, of course, that the champions have lost that same amount, $701,242. (They're not playing with real money but rather for a lump-sum prize of $200,000 that will divide at the end of the tournament.)

There are 53,000 hands left to play and if this trend continues, it will be the first time that AI has beaten humans at poker.

That would be a huge achievement. Poker is not like other games, such as chess, where AI has emerged victorious thanks to advanced algorithms. Poker is much harder for AI. As the MIT Technology Review explained:

"Poker requires reasoning and intelligence that has proven difficult for machines to imitate. It is fundamentally different from checkers, chess, or Go, because an opponent's hand remains hidden from view during play. In games of 'imperfect information,' it is enormously complicated to figure out the ideal strategy given every possible approach your opponent may be taking. And no-limit Texas Hold'em is especially challenging because an opponent could essentially bet any amount."

"Libratus has had the lead since the outset," Sandholm says.

Monday, on the tail end of Day 13, four poker players, Jimmy Chou, Dong Kim, Jason Les, and Daniel McAulay, sat in the dimly-lit blue light of computer screens in Pittsburgh's Rivers Casino, playing a virtual hand of cards against a virtual opponent.

For Sandholm, a computer scientist with a 126-page C.V., this is the culmination of twelve years of research. Starting in 2004 at Carnegie Mellon University, Sandholm began studying abstract algorithms for sequential imperfect information games. A "perfect" information game is one like chess, for example, where both players see the board and are in a good position to anticipate the opponent's next possible move. An "imperfect information" game is one in which on each players' turn they don't know all the information available in the game - such as the other person's cards.

Poker is an "imperfect information" game because players hide their hands, limiting the capacity of the opponent to calculate what their next move should be, thus allowing players to bluff.

The uses of the exercise go far beyond poker. War and cyberwar are both areas in which this could be useful.

Sandholm settled on No Limit Texas Hold'em poker as a model that could be extrapolated to real-life "imperfect" situations like cybersecurity or military strategy. He wanted a general purpose algorithm that would excel in strategic reasoning.

In the course of his research, time after time, his algorithms failed against humans in the game. Even as late as May 2015, when Sandholm organized a similar poker competition at Rivers Casino pitting AI program "Claudico" against four champion poker players, Claudico lost by $732,713 in chips.

"Where a human might place a bet worth half or three-quarters of the pot, Claudico would sometimes bet a miserly 10 percent or an over-the-top 1,000 percent," Carnegie Mellon explained in a 2015 news release. As Doug Polk, a player against the program, explained at the time to CMU, "Betting $19,000 to win a $700 pot just isn't something that a person would do."

However, Sandholm's team did win the Annual Computer Poker Competition against other AI research teams twice in a row.

"Different research builds on results," he explains. None of the teams had succeeded - until Libratus.

Now, in the current competition in Pittsburgh, "AI is making moves humans would never make. AI is a Martian playing poker," says Sandholm. Libratus, concocting a strategy based on its knowledge of the rules of No Limit Texas Hold'em and the moves you can make in the game, began beating even the two champion players who had played Sandholm's prior AI program, Clautico.

It went like this:

27,000 hands in, Libratus had a $50,513 lead.

67,000 hands in, Libratus had doubled that lead fourteen times, to $701,242 in chips.

The challenge for Libratus was that while the AI program remained constant, the human players were constantly studying, learning, and able to improve. They also had extra motivation to win: prize money and social pressure. On Day 9, a man said to Les, "Hey, you're letting us down!"

Right now the AI is in first place. Sandholm has begun receiving, as he describes, "a lot of nice emails" from other AI researchers about Libratus's success. Meanwhile, the human poker players are streaming their games on Twitch and live-tweeting their results: "Humans end up winning $93k for the day. #BrainsVsAI" Les tweeted on January 23rd.

The competition lasts seven more days, unless they add on an extra day to account for the human poker players' relative lack of speed. Sandholm won't be popping any champagne yet, but by the end of the month that may no longer hold true.

Oh the humanity! Poker computer trounces humans in big step for AI

An artificial intelligence called Libratus has beaten four of the world s best poker players in a gruelling 20-day tournament that culminated late on Monday.

The Brains vs Artificial Intelligence competition saw four human players Dong Kim, Jason Les, Jimmy Chou and Daniel McAulay spend 11 hours each day stationed at computer screens in the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh battling a piece of software at no-limit Texas Hold em, a two-player unlimited form of poker. Libratus outmanoeuvred them all, winning more than $1.7m in chips. (Thankfully for the poker pros, they weren t playing with real money)

It s a crushing defeat for humanity, but a major milestone for artificial intelligence.

Machines have already become smart enough to beat humans at other games such as chess and Go, but poker is more difficult because it s a game with imperfect information. With chess and Go, each player can see the entire board, but with poker, players don t get to see each other s hands. Furthermore, the AI is required to bluff and correctly interpret misleading information in order to win.

The Brains vs Artificial Intelligence competition at the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh. Photograph: Carnegie Mellon University

This challenge is so huge and complicated that it s been elusive to AI researchers until now, said Carnegie Mellon University professor of computer science Tuomas Sandholm who, along with his PhD student Noam Brown, built Libratus.

Sandholm said he wasn t confident at all that Libratus would beat the poker pros. The international betting sites put us as 4-1 underdog and the humans expected to win.

Alas, they did not.

They put up the best fight they could, said Brown.

Libratus the AI thrashed four human pro poker players.

They were no match for Libratus, which improved on Sandholm and Brown s previous poker-playing AI called Claudico. Claudico competed and lost against four poker pros in the same tournament in 2015. Its successor was clearly out for revenge.

In a Pittsburgh casino, artificial intelligence is beating poker champions for the first time

Online poker for money will be dead soon. You will never be able to detect these algorithms.

This is a couple of days old, and the computer eventually won.

BTW, (and not to take anything away from the technical achievement) the computer played 1 on 1 games (multiple opponents is too complex). But it played 4 games simultaneously, hence they were able to get through so many hands (120k!) in 14 days.

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