Facebook AI beats professional poker players in major artificial intelligence breakthrough

Poker has been a notoriously difficult game for artificial intelligence to master due to the 'human' traits needed to win ( Getty Images/iStockphoto )

Facebook has achieved a major milestone after one of its artificial intelligence (AI) systems beat six professional poker players at no-limit Texas hold 'em.

Developed alongside researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, the Pluribus AI defeated a number of renowned players, including Darren Elias, who holds the record for most World Poker Tour titles.

Beating poker pros at their own game has been a major challenge for AI researchers, as the best players need to be both good at bluffing and unpredictable.

"Playing a six-player game rather than head-to-head requires fundamental changes in how the AI develops its playing strategy," said Noam Brown, a research scientist at Facebook AI. "We're elated with its performance and believe some of Pluribus' playing strategies might even change the way pros play the game."

The breakthrough comes two years after an AI algorithm developed by Google-owned DeepMind became the first computer to beat a human champion at the notoriously complicated board game Go.

While it might not be immediately clear why companies like Facebook and Google are developing advanced artificial intelligence algorithms to beat humans at these games, the Facebook researchers say their work will help broaden the applications of AI in the real-world.

"Pluribus achieved superhuman performance at multi-player poker, which is a recognized milestone in artificial intelligence and in game theory that has been open for decades," said Tuomas Sandholm, a professor of computer science, who helped develop the system.

"Thus far, superhuman AI milestones in strategic reasoning have been limited to two-party competition. The ability to beat five other players in such a complicated game opens up new opportunities to use AI to solve a wide variety of real-world problems."

A paper detailing the breakthrough was published in the journal Science.

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