Artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere these days, whether in Amazon’s Alexa, the latest crop of video games, or your new smart car. It’s also among the top trends at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, the largest event of its kind annually, with this year’s 50th run of the show expected to draw in the ballpark of 165,000 attendees over its four-day stay.
The show is now underway at the Las Vegas Convention Center (Jan. 5 – 8), and robotic inventions are among the very hottest products on display.
For poker players, this should be of particular interest, as an amped-up pokerbot known as Libratus will be battling it out just a week later, starting on January 11, at the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh.
Four poker pros (Jason Les, Dong Kim, Daniel McAulay, and Jimmy Chou) will play a total of 120,000 hands against the computer over the course of 20 days for their share of a $200,000 prize pool. The matches will be streamed live via Twitch.
The match is a follow-up to a previously publicized one that featured a two-week long battle of man versus machine in May 2015, represented back then by Doug Polk, Dong Kim, Bjorn Li, and Jason Les. The men won nine of 13 days of heads-up cash play against the very latest (at that time) in poker playing AI, a bot known as Claudico.
Can Bot Beat Human Brain This Time?
That bot came in fifth out of five, but the results were actually pretty close. In fact, Dr. Tuomas Sandholm, Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, whose team developed Claudico, claimed that the results were “close enough to be statistically called a draw.”
Claudico was close to matching some of the very best heads-up players in the world. And now, the pokerbot’s newer, smarter brother, Libratus, is back for a rematch, and this time it’s personal.
A year and a half is a long time in AI development, but will Libratus have learned enough to beat the pros?
The trouble AI developers have with perfecting a bot’s poker skills, unlike with games like chess and Go!, is that poker is a game of incomplete information. That means that strategies developed by computers can never be truly perfect, because the game itself is not solvable. Instead, they must approximate a perfect poker strategy, which is defined as a strategy that cannot be exploited by any other counter-strategy.
That’s tough enough to do with limit hold’em. Earlier in 2015, the makers of a bot called Cepheus claimed to have “solved” that game, but no limit hold’em is a whole different ball of wax.
Atoms in the Universe
“The game has 10 to the power of 160 information sets, and 10 to the power of 165 nodes in the game tree,” Sandholm told The Verge this week. “That means there are more possible permutations in a hand of poker than atoms in our universe. And even if you had another whole universe for each atom in our universe and counted all the atoms in those universes, it would be more than that.”
While computers designed to beat grand masters at chess have few applications other than being really, really good at chess, Sandholm believes the algorithms involved in battling games of complete information could have future applications in the arenas of business, military and cybersecurity, and could even help humans fight cancer.
And even if the humans do triumph again this year, Dong Kim believes our days of superiority are numbered. “I hate to admit it as a professional poker player, but I do believe machines will be able to beat humans in all forms of poker,” he said. “It is just a matter of time.”
AI and CES: What’s On Tap
If you happen to be in Las Vegas this weekend, you can head on down to the Consumer Electronics Show and see some of the innovations happening in the burgeoning AI universe. Among the conferences on tap (check the CES schedule here) are topics like:
- Autonomous Cars: The Future’s Biggest Surprises
- Laser-Focused Medicine: Precise, Hyper-Intelligent, and Personal
- Five Life Hacks for Tech-Centric Families
- Building Your Own Alexa-Enabled Product
and many more. The show takes places at the Las Vegas Convention Center, 3150 Paradise Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89109.