BySimon Rune Knudsen, writer at
A tryhard person enthusiastic about dad rock and weird beers.
Simon Rune Knudsen

Another one of humanity's bastions of greatness has fallen to the overwhelming intelligence and cunning of the machine. It seems the game of poker is going the same way as chess and Jeopardy, as it is no longer the domain of clear-eyed and smug-ass humans.

Libratus, a hyper intelligent AI, calmly defeated four Texas Hold 'Em poker pros over and over again, making it evident that machines will dominate this bluff-calling game forever forward.

Statistically Significant Victory

Playing 120,000 hands from January 11 to January 30, Libratus managed to collect the first prize of $1,766,250 on the last day of a heads-up, no-limit variety marathon poker competition. Something the machine's creators, Prof. Tueomas Sandholm and PhD Noam Brown, must be quite content with.

Because not only did they take home a decent bag of money for their future research at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science, they also proved an important point through the sheer amount of hands dealt in the tournament. Machines can, without any statistical doubt, and despite all the bluff related tricks in this game, beat humans in Texas Hold 'Em poker.

But... I.. How?

According to Carnegie Mellon's declared design of the Libratus' AI program, the robot focuses on "algorithms that analyzes the rules of poker and set its own strategy." And by focusing, they mean it has spent 15 million super-computer hours trying to figure out poker.

In contrast to most other robots that have been built for the sole purpose of playing poker, Libratus doesn't try to exploit the mistakes of its human opponents. “When you exploit opponents, you open yourself up to exploitation more and more," Carnegie Mellon researcher Tuomas Sandholm tells IEEE Spectrum.

The two happy guys in the middle created the robot. [Credit: River Casino]
The two happy guys in the middle created the robot. [Credit: River Casino]

Instead, Libratus constantly tries to improve its own play, which Tuomas Sandholm describes as a more reliable and safer approach to the game.

“After play ended each day, a meta-algorithm analyzed what holes the pros had identified and exploited in Libratus’ strategy. It then prioritized the holes and algorithmically patched the top three using the supercomputer each night.

Too Advanced For Average Online Poker Rooms

Science, man.

Too Advanced For Average Online Poker Room

If you're playing poker online, you shouldn't be too worried about bots taking over the game just yet, since it takes an insanely overpowered computer to dominate poker. The head’s-up no-limit Texas Hold 'Em version of the game has approximately thousands of vigintillions of informations sets, and processing all of them based on specific plays isn't something the world most powerful computer can do, let alone the average laptop.

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Libratus' maximum speed is 1.35 petaflops, about 7,250 times as fast as a high-end laptop, and its memory is 274 Terabytes, which is about 17,500 as much as you’d get in that laptop. And even with this hardware, the machine isn't close to being able to process all the possible information in poker. So don't worry about robots infiltrating your average online poker room just yet.

And what about the puny humans? Well, Dong Kim, Jimmy Chou, Daniel McAulay and Jason Les, as the pros are called, will split a $200,000 prize based on their respective performances during the event. So they're fine.

Do you see Skynet becoming a reality in the near future?

[Video credit: Carnegie Mellon University]


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