Now if a computer that has learned to play only from past data constantly wins and lacks the same capacity that humans do, it shows that the realm of poker goes way beyond the idea of luck.
It was in July 2019, that a piece of news spread like wildfire across the poker community all around the world that a technology named Plurubis bea the top poker players at heads-up no-limit Texas Hold ’em poker. Darren Elias, Chris Ferguson and others with World Poker Tour Titles were beaten alas by a computer. These players are not just famous; Darren Elias, held the record for most World Poker Tour titles, and Chris “Jesus” Ferguson, was the winner of six World Series of Poker events. To put it simply, ‘the computer’ played a sound, game-theory optimal strategy often played by the top ‘human’ poker professionals; even the top ‘human’ poker players were not successful in finding a way to exploit it.
Over 12 days, Plurubis was tested by playing against a pool of professionals who have won more than $1 million playing poker. They were always six-player games, meaning that the AI was put against five human players. Over 100,000 hands, the computer consistently beat the human professionals. Apart from only winning, the AI even developed new strategies that humans currently do not employ. Different types of bet sizing techniques were used. It clearly showed that the computer, even in a game based on unpredictable gameplay, bluffing and unknown information, was not taken lightly. It can compute and formulate strategies based on data and use math to its advantage.
According to a report in Science Daily, Pluribus’ algorithms created some surprising features into its strategy. For instance, most human players avoid “donk betting” — that is, ending one round with a call and starting the next round with a bet. It’s seen as a weak move that usually doesn’t make strategic sense. But Pluribus placed donk bets far more often than the professionals it defeated. Its primary strength is its ability to use mixed strategies.
Tuomas Sandholm and Noam Brown were developers of Pluribus whose older technology was known as Libratus. Libratus decisively beat four poker pros playing a combined 120,000 hands of heads-up no-limit Texas Hold ’em!
It is interesting to see that while playing the computer, employed different strategies in different and even similar circumstances, one would expect tech to be more repetitive in their approach to a problem, instead it seems that humans have more predictable patterns!
Another aspect to keep in mind is that due to the lack of emotion the computer possesses, it can follow exactly what the math shows. By this, if the math shows that the chance of winning this hand is 25%, the computer would take a risk without hesitation. In contrast, a human might lack the confidence to make the same decision for various reasons. On average, the computer could make decisions 20 seconds faster than the standard professional poker player.
It is high time, we accept that AI is here to take a lead. Plurubis will be a force to be reckoned with.
Chess’ and ‘Go’ have been used as a standard to determine intelligence or IQ levels. AI didn’t much waste any time in beating them in strategy, intuition, and reasoning. They also play a significant role in the evolution of the game of poker. The future of poker looks even more challenging with even more exciting gameplays being developed.
The AI even serves as an effective way to prove that poker is a game of math’s and odds. Simply put, with only 52 cards in the deck you can easily calculate which cards you need to make your hand, the chance of getting them and what cards work against you. By doing this math you can bet accordingly by putting more money in the pot when the odds are advantageously in your favor and less when they are not. There is an element of chance that you may not win the particular hand you are playing this time, but if the math is in your favor, over time you will be a winning player.
So no, poker is not your average fun casino gambling game like blackjack, roulette and many others. Though luck may work in your favor in the short run, it will not be your magical potion steamrolling your bank account to the crores you want in the big picture. That will happen only when you develop the right skills.
A passionate writer and Economics student, Ananya Agarwalla aspires to build a platform to share information and her opinion on the stuff she loves. The 19-year-old has been surrounded by poker since she was 7 and has built a good understanding of the game since a young age. In her spare time, she loves spending time out-doors. An advanced scuba diver, she has dived in the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, and Pacific Ocean. As an individual who has shifted between 5 schools, 3 cities and 2 countries, she enjoys interacting with people from different backgrounds and loves making new friends.