How Artificial Intelligence Revolutionized Poker

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a field of computer science concerned with developing computer programs capable of solving complex problems. The ultimate goal of AI is to develop a computer that is able to mimic human intelligence. While the field is a long way off from this breakthrough yet, there have been a lot of impressive developments in recent years. Today, AI systems can handle and analyze large data sets and carry out tasks without human intervention. There are a lot of applications of AI, but one of the most interesting is in games such as poker.

Previously, poker had represented an insurmountable challenge to AI researchers. Although AI programs had successfully beaten chess grandmasters and top GO players, poker remained out of reach. The main reasons for this were that poker involves luck rather than just strategy, and there are also a lot of hidden values. However, this changed recently with the development of Libratus and Pluribus, two poker-playing AIs that were capable of defeating top professionals. 

Aside from being able to beat poker professionals, AI can also be used as a tool to help players find the right options during a game. The popularity of online poker means most poker games are now played through a computer, allowing players to make the most of the software. 

Poker AIs Beat Professionals

After many years of research, a team of scientists developed an AI capable of beating poker professionals in 2017. This AI, known as Libratus, is capable of beating pros in heads-up games of Texas Hold’em. While it can win one on one games, it isn’t capable of playing in regular, multi-opponent games. Rather than using a built-in strategy, the AI uses an algorithm to look ahead and compute strategy based on the available data.

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Although Libratus was a success, beating four top poker professionals at the Humans vs. AI match in 2017, the fact that it could only play in heads-up games was an issue for the researchers. In response, they continued the work on Libratus, eventually creating a new AI program known as Pluribus. This AI functions in a similar way, except it is far more efficient in its computing. It only looks a few steps ahead and continuously learns against its opponents.

Pluribus was also successful in beating human professional poker players, but this time in six-player games. It was also capable of playing in an unpredictable manner, learning from its decisions, and always utilizing the best options. This included bluffing and unconventional betting styles. The development of this AI has uses outside of poker, too. The technology could potentially be used in other industries that feature hidden data and potential deception. 

Poker AI Tools

While there are now AI programs capable of beating human opponents, these programs aren’t available for players to use. However, there are other software tools that players can use to gain an advantage when playing online. 

Poker software tools range from everything from databases to AI solvers. Databases are more commonly used to analyze personal statistics and correct mistakes, while solvers help players find the best value decisions. Solvers often use AI to look at all possible game outcomes, but they need a lot of data to be useful. As well as your own hand, you’ll need to enter in opponent ranges, pot size, position, and more.

The presence of these tools means the landscape of online poker is very different from how it used to be. The game has become more competitive than ever, and not using one could put you at a disadvantage. Both beginners and top-level professionals use poker AI tools, and even though some are banned by poker sites, they continue to be used. 

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