An Artificial Intelligence program, known as Claudico, faced off against actual poker players this month in a game of Heads-Up No-Limit Texas Hold ‘em. Held at the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh, the event spanned two weeks and included 80,000 hands of poker.
While the human players did win more chips than the AI, it was still not enough to pass the threshold needed to be considered scientifically valid. Previously, computers have been successful at beating humans in games such as chess and Jeopardy, and this event suggests that soon poker will be the next.
Tuomas Sandholm, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, is one who believes that poker-playing Artificial Intelligence will soon be better competitors than humans. Sandholm, who led the team that created Claudico, stated after the event that “I am guessing [a poker-playing AI] will be stronger than the best humans in the world in one to five years.”
What separates poker from the other games, in which computers have already proven successful, is that a major strategy surrounding poker is the act of bluffing. Bluffing is an extremely dynamic aspect of poker where players choose to raise their bet without having the best hand, in order to fool an opponent into folding. The ability to bluff successfully results from the players having incomplete information about the other players at the table.
Sandholm and his colleagues did not pre-program Claudico’s poker strategy, instead, they wrote algorithms that automatically compute a strategy by trying to find the Nash equilibrium. Players are said to be in Nash equilibrium if they are making the best decision possible, taking into account the decisions of the other players. Claudico still has room to improve, but this event indicates that Artificial Intelligence is making great strides in its ability to solve problems despite having access to incomplete information.
Although Artificial Intelligence programs are fortunate to not have to disguise their emotions when making a “bluff” as a human poker player must, it is still impressive to see how far this technology has developed. And who knows, maybe someday Claudico will be subject to displaying emotions as well.
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