Artificial Intelligence systems, which are being developed in labs all around the world, are becoming increasingly good at beating humans at their own games.
But earlier this year, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and Facebook Inc. have developed an AI machine called Pluribus, which beat five top poker players with ease. Will such technological advancements lead to the extinction of online poker?
Pluribus And The Limits Of A Human Brain
Well, in recent history there are several examples of AI machines beating people at their own games. For example; an AI called Libratus, also developed at Carnegie Mellon University, managed to beat a poker star in a one-on-one game back in 2017. Along with this, AI machines have beat humans at games such as Dota-2, checkers, chess, Jeopardy and Go.
But Pluribus has been considered as a huge leap forward in AI machines and their capabilities, and this is mostly due to the fact that it was able to beat not one, but five professional poker players at Texas Hold’em. Apart from it being able to beat multiple players at once, what sets Pluribus apart from previous AI victories, is how it made to claim victory over the pro players.
Pluribus is so advanced that it was actually able to master an integral human skill known as deception. The incredibly powerful computer was able to perform trillions of calculations in order to perfect its bluffing skills. Researchers from the University say that its winning strategy comes as a result of playing trillions of hands against five other clones of itself.
After each one of these rounds it played, it analysed the decisions made and if it resulted in winning the hand, it was more likely to choose such strategies in the future. In addition to this, Pluribus was able to learn to bluff as it noted that making a bet when having a weak hand can result in a win.
Learning these factors, the AI was able to implement a variety of different strategies while playing and also making real-time decisions and adjustments, as it played against some of the best players. The players who confronted Pluribus said that it had felt hopeless, like there was no way to win.
Looking at some statistics from the results of the games played, we can see how much better this powerful AI was able to perform. During the game between the professional player and Pluribus, there was a deviation of 1 big blind per 100 hands and an average of 0 big blinds lost/won per 100 hands. The results while playing against bots ranged from -0.5 to -4 big blinds per 100 hands. The humans, on the other hand, lost by 2.3 big blinds per 100 hands. This result shows that the humans lost by a significant amount.
Being so good at dealing with the uncertainty and deception (which surely are two key elements of poker), is what makes this AI machine so powerful and nearly impossible to beat. But, what’s even more impressive, is that Pluribus uses less than 128 gigabytes of memory and runs on two chips only when playing.
This is a drastic improvement when compared to previous AI machines. For example; during its one-on-one poker match, Libratus used 100 chips to run and IBM’s Deep Blue was made up of 480 custom chips while playing chess against Garry Kasparov.
How Online Poker Suffers From Technological Advancement
Well, AI brings completely new solutions and brings improvement, but the casino industry surely has reasons to worry. Although online betting and casino operators are able to make money from several different game and betting options, online poker has always been a key to both casinos and players themselves, who have favoured this game for hundreds of years.
The fact that AI machines like Pluribus are being developed and are actually beating the top poker players, is causing an increase in the risk to the online gambling industry and more importantly the online ecosystem. Research shows that some of the industry’s leading operators have safeguards against bots, but this does not mean that the development of such AI will not cause harm to the industry.
There are several issues caused by this development in AI, which can have a bad effect on the online ecosystem. For starters, one of the main issues will be a huge fall in player confidence. Knowing that such technology is out there, players may start to stray away from online poker as they become aware of how hard the possibility of beating such machines may be.
Knowing that casual players make up about 80% of people playing poker, and are the net depositors, shows that this will definitely impact the industry. Thus, operators have to ensure the regulation and constant monitoring of bots and player aids in order to give back the confidence to their players and make poker feel like it still is a fair skill-based game.
The ones which would be most affected are the professional players and ‘grinders’. The return expected to these players will be drastically reduced as an effect of AI machines like Pluribus and poker will start to become less and less a game of skill. Operators might want to combat this by introducing a larger variance of games in order to keep players engaged.
Although it seems like Pluribus caused the impending death of online poker as we know it, Dr Brown, one of the creators of Pluribus says they have not released the code yet because of the consequences it may have on online poker. But AI such as this, developed for playing a game, is not always aimed just to be good at that game.
In fact, Pluribus was not just successful because it is good at poker, but it is successful because it is able to deal with uncertainty very well, whereas previous AI systems were lacking in this area. This limited the areas in which AI could be implemented. But with these new developments, such AI systems can be implemented in many other useful ways within health care, gaming and defence and, indeed, we do come across its use on an every-day basis without even acknowledging it.