There has been a long-running debate over whether poker is a game of luck or skill. Most people have come round to the idea that it is mainly based on ability. After all, how do the top players manage to make the final tables of tournaments time and again? However, until recently, most players would agree that there are some instances of the game that come down to chance. If this is the case, though, how does artificial intelligence keep beating the pros? Does this technology prove once and for all that poker is a game that can be completely mastered?
Online Poker Brought About the Need to Use Different Skills
Modern poker differs a lot from the forms of the game that came before the internet. Most industry experts agree that the players that exist today are much more proficient than their predecessors before the digital age. This is because when playing online poker at a site like Paddy Power, players can only see the names of their opponents through the downloadable poker software. They can’t see and read body cues, facial expressions, or the tone of someone’s voice. For this reason, a more mathematical strategy is required.
Of course, the best pre-internet poker players in the world did have mathematical ability in their toolsets. However, they didn’t have to be overly reliant on it and could often use their instincts. The modern game is much more scientific, and this has paved the way for developers to create machines that can learn and play better than humans.
Taking on the Best in the Business
There have been a number of AI machines in recent years that have managed to overcome the best players in the poker scene. In 2015, a program called Claudico developed by scientists at Carnegie Melon University managed to beat the likes of Doug Polk and other renowned experts. It took them on in games of no-limit heads-up Texas Hold’em and played tens of thousands of hands.
More recently, Pluribus competed against players in six-handed poker. This was created at the same university as Claudico, but this time in collaboration with the Facebook AI Lab. This was the first bot to play against humans in a multiplayer competition, and it managed to prevail by a significant margin.
Unaffected by Emotions
Perhaps the biggest advantage that AI has over human players is the fact that it doesn’t have emotions. It can’t go on tilt and it can’t go with its gut instinct. It sticks to playing its optimum strategy and doesn’t deviate from this path. A lot of human players go into tournaments with this mindset and a well-thought-out strategy, only to face a bad beat and watch it all go out of the window. On top of that, the machines don’t get tired. Therefore, fatigue can’t have a detrimental effect on their decisions.
AI has shown that if humans didn’t have emotions and were unaffected by tiredness, it could be possible to win at poker every time. It doesn’t do anything that would be impossible for a human, but it does have a much lower chance of making errors. This technology has proven once and for all that poker is a game of skill, rather than luck.