Poker will never be the same again. On Thursday, Facebook and Carnegie Mellon University announced that a joint team of researchers have managed to build artificial intelligence-powered software capable of beating some of the worlds best poker professionals in games of six-player no-limit Texas Holdem poker.
Pokers complexity, its multiple participants, and the limited information available to players have long made it a major milestone that AI researchers have been working towards. Its a fiendishly difficult problem to solve, and one that has other real-world applications, from self-driving cars to negotiations.
But now, like Go and Chess, previous goals for AI development, researchers have managed to develop bots that are capable of superhuman performance at the game — and like the games before it, the achievement will likely radically transform the game itself. In an interview with Business Insider, Facebook AI research Noam Brown said that the company isnt releasing the code of the bot, named Pluribus, publicly because of concerns about the potential impact on the poker community, but discussed how it might ultimately impact the game in the years to come.
Its going to change the way that professional poker is played, he said. I think well see some of the approaches it used subsequently employed in the real world. One example, given in the researchers paper published in the journal Science: The donk betting technique, traditionally derided by poker players, was regularly incorporated by Pluribus in its winning strategies.
Pluribus disagrees with the folk wisdom that donk betting (starting a round by betting when one ended the previous betting round with a call) is a mistake, the researchers wrote. Pluribus does this far more often than professional humans do.
It also worked to balance its bluffs, making it harder to predict when it was bluffing or not, and varied bet sizes wildly in a way that risk-averse humans are less likely to — also making it harder to read. An example of where conventional wisdom has been proven right: The idea that limping is bad.
Limping (calling the big blind rather than folding or raising) is suboptimal for any player except the small blind player who already has half the big blind in the pot by the rules, and thus has to invest only half as much as other players to call. Pluribus played extensively against a suite of human pros, over the space of 12 days and 10,000 hands of poker.
But this is still a tiny number of games relative to the total number being played all around the world every day. As the technology becomes more widely available, it will offer fascinating new insights into unconventional and successful strategies for human-versus-human play. It may also drastically upend online poker games, eroding trust.