Yikes! News has surfaced in the past few days that an Artificial Intelligence (AI) bot has beat the world’s best poker players in a six-player online version of the game.
Pluribus is the bot developed by Facebook researcher Noam Brown and Carnegie Mellon University.
The bot played against the only person to have won four World Poker Tour titles, Darren Elias, amongst other top professional players in a 12-day online poker tournament. The poker champ was beaten by the bot, despite having played poker his whole life.
Even Elias learned some new tricks from the AI bot. Noticing that the bot was brave enough to make some non-human moves and place much larger bets at points, he commented: “these huge bets are interesting to me and something I will incorporate into my own play.”
This whole spectacle goes to show the sheer scale and speed at which new technologies can acquire and retain knowledge and solve problems by creating new strategies. It is actually quite staggering when you stop to think about it.
What’s more, it played hands at approximately twice the speed of a typical professional. It looks like there is massive potential for complex problem solving at double the speed.
The Power of the Bot
The very nature of artificial intelligence is that it can learn from its own mistakes. As much as the human species loves to think this is a virtue that only homo sapiens are capable of, the truth is that we very rarely learn from mistakes and, if we do, it takes a long time. Artificial intelligence, on the other hand, learns rapidly from a misjudgement and adapts its thinking.
Succeeding in poker requires discipline, creating and rethinking strategies, and assessing the abilities of opponents. Let’s not forget the aspect of managing your funds. Cash flow is what enables further play of poker and establishing when is best to play or fold is a true skill.
Take these skills and apply them to real-life issues, and it’s fantastic – there is no denying that. There are, however, wider implications around this AI development than beating world champion poker players at their own game. In the wrong hands, the nefarious potential is staggering.
The Impact on the Poker Industry
While this AI achievement could be monumental in its development and future, there is every reason for the online poker industry to get a case of sweaty palms.
Why? Because if a ne’er-do-well managed to recreate this feat and registered to play a game of online poker, it could wipe the floor with the other players, especially since it has outplayed the best poker players in the world. On the other side of the coin, online operators could be taken for large sums of money in jackpots.
Luckily, this particular bot is not being released into ‘real life’. But since it has been created already once, you can bet there are dozens, if not hundreds, of copycat versions in the works, even as we speak. The gambling industry needs to be prepared for whenever this could potentially happen.
From a more positive perspective, researcher Noam Brown optimistically stated that this tech could be used to develop better computer games. Said games could have much more complex strategies and elements to them, which is great for players and the industry. But the potential for abuse outweighs any upside to this AI.
What Can the Industry Do?
In an industry where compliance regulations and international restrictions expand and contract on a daily basis, online poker and casino providers will have to make sure that their sign-up and compliance measures are as tight as they can be. This should be less problematic for countries where online poker is already established, and KYC is the norm; but it can prove to be a nightmare for newer, less experienced markets (which more than likely would be the target for this sort of abuse).
After all, the online casinos need to protect their own name and profits as well as ensuring that all players have a fair chance of success in the dystopia that is being created by the very technology that enabled the world wide web in the first place.
Using AI in the Gambling Industry
But its not all doom and gloom. There are encouraging future scenarios with machine learning too.
AI can be used by casino providers to serve better and more appropriate ads to current or potential clients. Targeting can be freakishly accurate these days and, especially with age limits and vulnerable players, this is something which is very relevant and helpful in the gambling industry. These ads can be served throughout the web, apps and social media.
Chatbots, instead of human customer service agents, are also an intelligent way for users to interact with online casinos, should they have any questions or issues. These can be embedded in messaging applications and on-site webchats, too.
Although this is a little frightening for operators in the gambling industry, there is so much potential for ways in which we can do good through AI. This stands for both within the industry and in society as a whole.
There’s no denying that AI is only going to get bigger and better, so let’s take the precautions while we can and watch as this fantastic beast evolves.
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