There have been many technological advances in recent years, and one of the things that has moved forward quickly is artificial intelligence (AI). Every time developers are working on a new piece of AI they want it to be able to solve problems and to work with situations that are unpredictable. Gaming is an area that can provide the challenges they need, and poker has become a particular favorite because of its imperfect information and the problems it poses.
How Do You Know If You Are Playing Against A Bot?
When you join a poker table, you initially have no way of knowing if any of the players are a poker bot – possibly the most common application of AI in the game. However, there are things to look out for that will help you to spot one. They tend to use identical bet-sizings and repeatedly use a certain line, usually uncommon ones. Two of the most telling traits are that they do not respond to chat, and they will always take an identical amount of time to decide on their move. In some cases, this can be longer than the house rules allow, and then they are soon picked up by the casino.
What is worse is if there is more than one of them on a poker table who are working together as a team. Then they could be sharing card information that would give them a very unfair advantage. In reputable online casinos, the accounts are closed as soon as they realize there are bots involved, as using them is against the house rules of most casinos. But not all bots are put into games without other players knowing; there are some that have very openly played the best human poker players in the world.
Developed by the Computer Poker Research Group at the University of Alberta in Canada, DeepStack was the first AI program to beat professional human players at poker. Over the past few years, AI bots have beaten humans at various different online games, including chess, Go, and Jeopardy. Poker has taken a little longer for them to master.
It was December 2016 before DeepStack played 44,000 hands of poker to beat 11 professional players out of the 33 that took part. To achieve this, the AI had to be able to resolve situations that were unexpected and arise during play. A strategy could not be worked out beforehand as Texas hold ‘em has millions of possible combinations. DeepStack had to be able to solve the problems as they happened, something that had not been previously achieved with a poker AI.
For a long time, poker was considered to be a game that was too complex for AI bots but then, in 2017, came Libratus who won over £1.8 million dollars from 4 of the worlds top professional players. Some of the humans, who are used to winning, found losing to an AI very hard to accept as it made them feel demoralized. Not that Libratus had much sympathy.
World Series Of Poker Robots
There is no doubt it’s only a matter of time before AI wins the World Series Of Poker. With bots like Libratus having won a brains vs. AI competition, which was awarded by HPCwire for best use of AI, there will be no holding them back.
Looking for poker dominance may seem a strange way to continue moving forward with AI, but the developers are learning a great deal from how they handle play, which they are then able to apply to other situations. Already, things learned from poker bots are being used in the fields of medicine and education, as well as others.
As AI poker bots continue to progress, some people are wondering if they will change online poker forever. This is doubtful. Players being beaten at other games has not changed them, and playing poker online will still provide the fun and excitement it always has.
As an example, Libratus learns from its mistakes and plays differently every day. This means that even the professionals cannot predict what it will do and have to treat it as they would any other poker player.
The next step forward was a competition where the bots play each other, and this first took place in Las Vegas in July 2005. The very first World Series Of Poker Robots (WSOPR) was played entirely by AI. The competition gave the winner a $100,000 dollar prize and the chance to play against the winner of the World Poker Series, which took place at the same time.
The organizers wanted to learn more about online poker bots and how they are developing. The WSOPR was the perfect opportunity for them to do this.
Playing Against House Bots
The Bellagio Casino in Las Vegas was the first to introduce bots to play on behalf of the house. There was a limit of $2/$4 so that anyone could play against it. The casino was not targeting the professional players who, of course, would be betting much more, but wanted to see how it coped against a diversity of people.
This was back in 2012, and the bot proved relatively successful against the general level of players it was trying to beat. However, with the development of bots such as DeepStack and Libratus, playing against house bots might not now be so simple.
If an online casino does use house bots, players would not necessarily have any way of knowing. It does not mean they are being used to tip the odds in the favor of the casino, and most times it appears they are used to make up numbers when needed. Really, any casino using them should be honest with their members and let them know they may sometimes be playing against AI poker bots – it may give players a chance to hone their skills when it comes to the cards.
The Traits Of AI Poker Bots
AI poker bots have traits that humans have yet to master, and probably never will. They can play for many hours without getting tired. They are not frightened to lose money and never get angry when they do. Perhaps the trait that will make them the best is that they are able to identify and exploit your weaknesses. By the same token, it’s very difficult for AI poker bots to know if you are bluffing or not and all their moves are based on mathematical probabilities.
For many years AI was considered a joke. It has taken about 25 years to get to the stage it’s at now, but it’s no longer something from a sci-fi movie. It’s very real and it’s here to stay.