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Machine Thumps Man in Poker 'Brains vs AI' Challenge

31 January 2017, By: compncards
Poker "bots," or artificial intelligence, have been around the game in various forms for decades.

Carnegie Mellon Professor and Libratus co-programmer Tuomas Sandholm.

There's an annual computer poker challenge various programmers participate in, there are Limit Holdem machines you can play against in Las Vegas, there are versions online you can test yourself against ...

But never before has a Poker AI so soundly outperformed humans as the new AI "Libratus," developed by a PhD student at Carnegie Mellon University, did this past month.

Over the 120,000 hand 'Brains vs AI Challenge' at the Rivers Casino - 30,000 each against four top-flight poker professionals - the AI came out an eye-popping $1.76 million ahead. All play money, of course. But an astounding figure nonetheless.

Even more impressively the game this time around was Heads-Up No-Limit Texas Hold'em - a game previously thought to be too complex for programmers to match wits with.

Powered By a $9m Super Computer

The biggest advantage for Libratus in this Challenge was two-fold. The scientists had two years to improve on its last iteration of the bot (called Claudico) and put it to effective use by simulating trillions of poker hands against itself.

From that massive database of trial and error the computer then developed a "failproof" strategy, so to speak, that balanced out its actions in virtually every circumstance and made it virtually impossible for the humans to counter-act.

Thanks to the massive processing power of the Bridges Super Computer, which Libratus was attached to as it played, it could also run through all of those previous simulations learned in a much shorter period of time than in the past.

After falling behind by a substantial amount relatively early in the Challenge, the humans developed some rather extreme strategies to try to catch up but it only served to get them further in the hole.

While the Challenge ran from Jan. 11-30 the outcome really hasn't been in doubt since the first week. The four professional players who took part in the Challenge - Jason Les, Dong Kim, Daniel McAulay and Jimmy Chou - all ended in the red against Libratus.

Kim was the most successful, only losing around $80,000 in chips while Les lost almost $1m. Chou lost 500,000 and McAulay 250,000.

For a full account of the entire challenge from the players and the programmers, visit the Brains vs AI homepage here.

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