Carnegie Mellon University to Begin New Poker Challenge This Week

In today’s society, we are used to computer technology. We use computers to work and play, starting at a very young age. Computers provide us with information as well as a form of entertainment. However, computers can also be a challenge. In the past, when you played a video game or arcade game, you would have the option to play against the computer. This meant putting your mental capabilities to the test against a somewhat ‘higher intelligence’.  Of course, if you win, you suddenly feel superior.

In the poker world, it is an interesting concept to consider playing against a computer. A computer would use algorithms to be able to make a decision while the human would use their brain. Poker pros have went up against computers in the past to test their skills and this week, it will happen again. Carnegie Mellon University will begin a challenge this week where four poker pros will take on computers in a Brains vs. Artificial Intelligence challenge.

Jimmy Chou, Daniel McAulay, Dong Kim and Jason Les will all take place in the challenge which will be hosted by Carnegie Mellon University School of Computer Science beginning on the 11th of the month. The Brains vs Artificial Intelligence: Upping the Ante competition will take place over a twenty day time frame with each day seeing gaming begin at 11am and ending at 7pm.

Every human player will be pitted against a computer in a heads-up No Limit Texas Hold’em matchup. A computer program named Libratus will be used to compete against the pros until there is only one remaining.

The same competition took place in 2015 and 2016 and Libratus was created to be able to improve the previous competition’s format. The 2017 version will see two matches played simultaneously online. One player will be located at the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh while the other will be in an isolated room away from the gaming action. The 2017 version will be much longer and will allow for more hands to be played.

Libratus was created by Noam Brown, a Ph.D. student as well as professor of the university, Tuomas Sandholm. In a press release by the school, the two stated that the competition is important due to the AI’s ability to defeat humans. Since the earliest days of research involving artificial intelligence, the goal has been to defeat humans in order to see the progress of the field.

The game of poker poses a particular challenge as it requires the computer to make complicated decisions based on incomplete information. The computer has to deal with bluffs as well as other ploys by the human player, as one would do during a standard poker game between two humans. According to Sandholm, the development of such computers and the ability to make a complex decision quickly has an application that can be of benefit to humans. The benefit is that AI could be used during medical analysis as well as military and cybersecurity, among other business applications.

Back in 2015, the challenge saw both Kim and Les competing along with Bjorn Li and Doug Polk. Within 80,000 poker hands, the four were able to defeat the computer in an amount of $732,713. Li won the majority of that amount at just over $528,000.

Despite the dollar amount, the competition was essentially considered a draw due to the low number of hands played, plus the fact that Li was the only one to have seemingly beat the computer. It will certainly be interesting to see how the computer and players fair during the competition beginning this week and to see if any progress has been made with the computer programming.