Can Computers Beat People at Poker?

Computers are incredible machines that are capable of rapidly performing calculations to solve problems. Over the years, they’ve improved a lot as technology has allowed them to get faster and solve increasingly complex problems. These days, computers can be used for various functions, including accessing the internet and playing poker online. In some cases, they can also play poker independently, with computer programs set up to play against human opponents. 

Over the years, people have attempted to create computer programs and software that are capable of beating human players consistently. Such a program could potentially make a lot of money online and even more if it could be used in live tournaments. However, computer programs designed to play poker, also known as bots, do run into some problems. 

The Issues with Poker Bots

The biggest problem that poker bots have is that poker is a very complicated game. Although the strategy itself is relatively straightforward, there are a lot of different situations that can occur during a game of online poker. Although it’s possible to calculate and predict certain outcomes, knowing what each opponent is doing and the best course to take is much more challenging. In addition, players can bluff, and their behavior is not always predictable. This leads to issues for the poker bot, which can only operate how its programming tells it. 

For now, poker bots aren’t truly intelligent, although some may seem that way when they play. They are still used online, though, with some players able to make money using them. The other issue with these bots is that they’re not really allowed to be used at all. Using a poker bot will normally violate the terms of service you agreed to when you joined the poker site. Almost all sites now ban third-party software from use, meaning bots are out of the question. 

Bots Beating Players

So bots are capable of beating human players, although whether they can do it consistently or not is a matter of their programming. Most of the bots you’ll find available to buy online are capable of winning hands against human opponents but may not be as successful over longer periods of time, especially when playing against the elite. However, some specially designed computer AIs have been able to beat pro players. 

Artificial intelligence has been steadily improving over the last few decades, and the capabilities of many modern computers are astounding compared to the systems of just a few decades ago. In 2019, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, announced their AI poker program known as Pluribus.

Pluribus was tested against five copies of itself and one top-class poker professional opponent as well as against five top-class poker professionals plus one copy of itself. The results found that over 10,000 hands, Pluribus was able to produce better results than a human opponent. This was a major breakthrough in poker AI, which had previously struggled to cope with multi-opponent tables. 

According to the co-author of the study, Dr. Tuomus Sandholm, “Poker is the main benchmark problem for testing imperfect-information game solving capability—both in the AI community (at least since 1970) and the game theory community (at least since 1950).”

“All the AI gaming milestones in history have been for two-player zero-sum games. This is the first such milestone for multi-player games. Multi-player games present additional challenges not present in two-player zero-sum games.”

The success of Pluribus shows that major advances continue to be made in the field of artificial intelligence. In addition to developing a poker bot, this kind of strategic reasoning research can also be used in many other areas. The technology could be applied to investment banking, medical treatment, political campaigns, and much more. 

If you’re playing online, there are a few ways you can tell if you’re playing against a bot. The most obvious thing to watch out for is the time it takes them to make a decision. If it’s a consistent time each play, there’s a good chance they’re a bot. If you have suspicions, you can speak to the site live support, as they’ll be able to investigate.