Facebook And CMU Team Up To Produce Next Level Poker AI

Written By Vanessa Lutz on July 16, 2019 - Last Updated on October 17, 2022

For the first time in history, an artificial-intelligence (AI) poker program consistently beat some of the top poker professionals in the world.

Specifically, Facebook teamed up with Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) to create the AI bot, Pluribus. Moreover, Pluribus is the pioneer AI poker bot to consistently beat professional opponents in a six player format no-limit Hold’em according to the research article released in Science.

Pluribus soundly beats opponents in trials

Facebook and CMU ran two different trials. One trial ran with five AIs and one human opponent. The other, as seen above in the video, ran with one AI and five humans. It soundly defeated its opponents, considered among the best professional poker players in the world.

Direct from the research:

If each chip was worth a dollar, Pluribus would have won an average of about $5 per hand and would have made about $1,000/hour playing against five human players. These results are considered a decisive margin of victory by poker professionals.

The players’ reactions

Pluribus’ opponents considered to be the cream of the crop, heaped praise on the AI.

Michael “Gags” Gagliano spoke exclusively to PlayPennsylvania stated that Pluribus is a “formidable opponent.” When asked about his strategy against the AI, he stated:

“Knowing that it would be trying to play an optimal strategy, my goal was just to stick to the math and theory that I know and try to be as fundamentally sound as possible.”

Jason Les, two-time WSOP runner up played against earlier no-limit hold’em AI iterations.

“In this competition, the AI played a sound, game-theory optimal strategy that you really only see from top human professionals and, despite my best efforts, I was not successful in finding a way to exploit it. I would not want to play in a game of poker where this AI poker bot was at the table.”

Sean Ruane also spoke exclusively to PlayPennsylvania about the “relentless consistency” of Pluribus.

“Even considering the best human professionals who play soundly with optimal game theory in mind, they are subject to bad days which can then translate into making mistakes in poker. In humans, sometimes making one mistake or bad decision compounds. As a human with emotions, you unnecessarily linger on the mistake. You let the mistake torture you which affects the rest of your poker session. Pluribus never tires. It has no emotions. It is superhuman perfection.”


Economics of Pluribus

Astoundingly, Facebook and CMU took eight days, 512 GB of Ram and $150 to create Pluribus. In contrast, previous predecessors like Libratus, used millions of dollars and required supercomputing power.

The “real breakthrough” according to Noam Brown, Facebook AI Research Scientist, is the efficiency of Pluribus to look ahead in the game and then decide what move to make. Instead of coding to predict how opponents would play to the end of a hand, Pluribus only looks two or three moves ahead with its search function.

Brown explains further:

“The amount of time Pluribus takes to search on a single subgame varies between one second and 33 seconds depending on the particular situation. On average, Pluribus plays twice as fast as typical human pros: 20 seconds per hand when playing against copies of itself in six-player poker.”

The end of online poker?

Naturally, concerns about bots running rampant in online poker games date back to 2017 when Liberatus beat out human players. However, keep in mind that Liberatus required a supercomputer to analyze and improve gameplay. Whereas, in comparison, Pluribus requires much less processing speed, time, and, most importantly, money.

So, is this the apocalypse of online poker? No. Pluribus is so successful that researchers have decided not to release the code. Brown stated to MIT Technology Review that Pluribus “could be very dangerous for the poker community.”

In addition, Tuomas Sandholm, co-author of CMU, states that destroying online poker was never the objective.

I have come to love the game, because these AIs have really shown there’s a whole additional depth to the game that humans haven’t understood, even brilliant professional players who have played millions of hands. So I’m hoping this will contribute to the excitement of poker as a recreational game.

At any rate, Ruane sees the potential in Pluribus to help poker players train harder, better and think differently.

If you try to mimic the bot’s style in a live game, failure is imminent. However, I would like to be able to play against Pluribus in a training environment where mistakes can be made without major consequences.

Event horizon for online poker in PA

Meanwhile, online poker is finally on the horizon for Pennsylvania. However, don’t get too excited yet.

While the first two PA online casinos (Parx Casino and Hollywood Casino) launched on July 15, online poker is still a few months away from going live.

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Vanessa Lutz

Vanessa Lutz graduated from Washington and Lee University School of Law with a J.D. She played poker professionally and then took some time off to have a family. Now she is combining her experience as a contributor to PlayPennsylvania.

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