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Future Tech: 

Why are we teaching an AI to bluff?

Can't read his face. Because he doesn't have one.

Can’t read his p…p…poker face. Because he doesn’t have one.

As a society, we seem to have a bit of an inferiority complex when it comes to our AI friends. Not content with making them smart enough to beat us at Chess and classic video games, we seem hell-bent on making sure they take the pot at future Poker tournaments as well.

Poker is, of course, a bit more complex than Chess. Not just because in Chess, an AI can see every piece on the board, but also because in Poker the best players deliberately bluff to give the impression their hand is stronger than it is. That’s a pretty tough concept for an artificial intelligence to understand, but they’re getting there.

An AI program called Claudico recently took on many of the world’s finest Poker players at Heads-Up No-Limit Texas Hold ’em at Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh. It played a total of 80,000 hands over two weeks and did better than can be reasonable expected of a computer, ending in a statistical tie.

And like a parent being pushed to the limit by their child at a sport for the first time, there’s only one way this tide is going.

“I am guessing [a poker-playing AI] will be stronger than the best humans in the world in one to five years,” Tumas Sandholm – a scientist from Carnegie Mellon University who led the team designing Claudico – told Live Science.

What’s particularly interesting about Claudico’s success is that Sandholm and his team didn’t pre-program it with a poker strategy. Instead, they wrote algorithms that compute a strategy based on the Nash equilibrium – a concept of game theory, where players make the best decision available by assessing other players’ decisions. In other words, Claudico wasn’t just looking out for itself.

All very impressive, but is making a poker playing AI really necessary? Not really, but as Sandholm explains, when it come to solving problems with incomplete information, “poker is a great benchmark.” The technology in Claudico could be used in everything from cybersecurity to military functionality and auctions.

But yes, it could also be banned from casinos if it keeps this up. Good work Claudico!

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