• The poker tournament we posted about earlier this month is finished and the humans lost

AI just claimed another gaming victory over humans by winning a 20-day poker tournament. The AI, called Libratus, took on four of the world’s best Heads-Up No-Limit Texas Hold ‘Em poker players at a Pennsylvania casino. After 120,000 hands, Libratus won with a lead of over $1.7 million in chips.

Science is celebrating

“I’m feeling great,” says Tuomas Sandholm , a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University who was part of the team that created the AI. “This is a David versus Goliath story, and Libratus was able to throw a pebble.” A poker-proficient AI is remarkable because poker is a game of “imperfect information”: players don’t know what cards their opponents have, so never have a full view of the state of play. This means the AI has to take into account how its opponent is playing and rework its approach so it doesn’t give away when it has a good hand or is bluffing. “It’s a really important milestone for artificial intelligence,” says Georgios Yannakakis at the University of Malta. “This is like reality. The real world is a game of imperfect information, so by solving poker we become one step closer to general artificial intelligence.”

Algorithms can be used everywhere

Libratus’s algorithms are not specific to poker, or even just to games. The AI has not been taught any strategies and instead has to work out its own way to play based on the information it’s given – in this case, the rules of poker. This means that Libratus could be applied to any situation that requires a response based on imperfect information. “There are applications in cybersecurity, negotiations, military settings, auctions and more,” says Sandholm. His lab has also been looking at how AI can bolster the fight against infections, by viewing treatment plans as game strategies. “You can learn to battle diseases better even if you have no extra medicines at your disposal – you just use them smarter,” says Sandholm. […]