(From Left) Poker pro Jason Les chats with CMU professor Tuomas Sandholm, McAulay and Jimmy Chou at Rivers Casino.

This week, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and Facebook raised the stakes for artificial intelligence.

In a paper published on Thursday, July 11, Prof. Tuomas Sandholm and PhD student Noam Brown unveiled Pluribus, a program reportedly capable of utilizing superhuman skills while playing six-player, no-limit Texas hold’em poker.

Brown is finishing his PhD as a research scientist at Facebook AI.

“Pluribus achieved superhuman performance at multiplayer poker, which is a recognized milestone in artificial intelligence and in game theory that has been open for decades,” said Sandholm in a press release.

“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.”

Sandholm has been leading AI research in computer poker for more than 16 years. Another program from the same team, known as Libratus, made history in 2017 by defeating four of the world’s best professional poker players during the Brains Vs. Artificial Intelligence: Upping the Ante challenge at Rivers Casino. The event was a rematch of a 2015 tournament where another CMU AI computer program, Claudico, failed to beat its opponents.

The experiments involved thousands of hands against dozens of the game’s elite players, including Darren Elias, the record holder for most World Poker Tour titles.

“Its major strength is its ability to use mixed strategies,” Elias said. “That’s the same thing that humans try to do. It’s a matter of execution for humans — to do this in a perfectly random way and to do so consistently. Most people just can’t.”

The breakthrough has gained national media attention. Speaking to The New York Times, Brown explained the underlying tech could have broad applications in fields like cybersecurity and economics — essentially any situation where decisions have to be made with incomplete information.

Bill O'Toole

Bill O'Toole was a full-time reporter for NEXTpittsburgh until October, 2019. He previously reported in Myanmar.