Could Creativity Help Humans Beat Poker Bot Libratus?

January 18th, 2017 | by Jason Reynolds

Humans’ superior poker playing powers are under threat from Libratus after the artificial intelligence (AI) computer raced to a commanding lead on Day 7 of the man vs. machine challenge.

Libratus beating humans at poker.

Carnegie Mellon University’s Libratus continues to pummel the humans after racking up a $231,329 lead. (Image: glassdoor.co.uk)

After quickly taking the lead in its $200,000 jackpot match against Jason Les, Dong Kim, Jimmy Chou and Dan McAulay, Libratus is yet to look back. Indeed, by Day 3 the super computer was $193,000 ahead of its rivals and by the close of Day 5 it remained on top with a $151,000 lead.

Hope for the Humans

For the human brains, a glimmer of hope appeared on Day 6 as Jason Les put in a strong performance to reduce the deficit to just $51,000. Unfortunately, Day 7 (January 17) saw the pro players go into meltdown as Libratus applied consistent pressure throughout the session.

Making all the right plays at all the right times helped the intelligent poker bot amass a commanding $231,329 lead by the time the latest battle ended on hand 34,340.

Now, before people start running for the hills fearing the rise of the machines, it’s important to note that there are more than 85,000 hands left to play before a winner is declared.

Not only that, but the humans have already shown they’re capable of overturning a sizeable deficit in a relatively short space of time.

So, how can the humans restore faith in the human brain and take control against Carnegie Mellon University’s (CMU) latest creation? One option is to be slightly more creative and unpredictable with their bet sizing.

When four professional players took on CMU’s Claudico in 2015, the computer struggled to read the size of the pot because it wasn’t able to process bet sizes well enough. As outlined by Professor Sam Ganzfried, off-tree problems meant Claudico was prone to approximating bet sizes and, therefore, misjudging the size of the pot when making a decision.

Humans Have the Heart

Although Libratus appears to have corrected this weakness, it could be something the humans can exploit. As it stands, AI software is still lacking in the creativity department, which may also mean it’s not particularly adept at reading creativity in its opponents.

If this is the case, some over/under sized bets in spots where a more standard sizing would be considered +EV may have the effect of confusing the computer. Of course, with the ability to process millions of variables in a short space of time on its side, Libratus won’t be easy to fool.

But, even if the humans can’t use their creativity to gain the upper-hand, they all possess something the computer can never have: heart.

And, as poker’s Tony G once said: “you must have the heart and commitment to this game if you want to become a champion.” So, if the pros can channel the spirit of Mr. G and show their determination, things could look a lot different by the close of the match.

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