The desire to master this sort of game has inspired the development of entire branches of mathematics. Computers are better at maths than humans. They're less prone to hazardous cognitive biases (gambler's fallacy etc.) and can put on an excellent poker face.
As a layperson who's rather ignorant about both no-limit Texas hold 'em and applicable AI techniques, my intuition would tell me that super-human hold 'em should have been achieved before super-human Go. Apparently your software requires way less CPU power than AlphaGo/AlphaZero, which seems to support my hypothesis. What am I missing?
Bonus questions in case you have the time and inclination to oblige:
What does this mean for people who like to play on-line Poker for real money?
Could you recommend some literature (white papers/books/lecture series/whatever) to someone interested in writing an AI (running on potato-grade hardware) for a niche "draft and pass" card game (e.g. Sushi Go!) as a recreational programming exercise?
Fortunately, these techniques now work really really well for poker. It's now quite inexpensive to make a superhuman poker bot.
That said, I suppose it would be possible for the bots to become so prevalent that all this sort of opportunity is effectively used up, so the return vs time and risk for a human player is no longer worthwhile. (That already happened long ago for most players, as the initial online poker boom faded and most casual players left.)
On the other hand, all the major platforms have terms prohibiting using bots, so their numbers might be sufficiently limited to prevent that scenario.
It would probably be possible to figure out the types of detection being performed by the poker sites and use adversarial training methods to train a machine learning solution to mimic human input patterns. Or, more pragmatically, have the bot analyse the state of the game and give orders for a human to perform at their own natural pace.
A successful bot shouldn't get caught for "playing like a bot" because the moment it's actions are that predictable it would presumably no longer be effective.
But it will get caught for operating like a bot. So, don't run it 24hrs a day. Sites also randomize things to keep bots at bay, even card imagery.
If your performance and success drops whenever they randomize something that gives the bot false inputs, then you might get caught.
Inputting all of the poker events manually would be really tedious I'd imagine.
Of course, if you're winning millions, they can interview you about your poker history and how you got so good.
It sounds like easy money, but probably not.
People have tried it and online poker sites know they've tried it, so they'll randomize images and other data. If you take a dive when the randomizations are triggered and outperform otherwise good luck trying to collect your winnings.
Edit: In fact, if we're talking worst case, circumventing their anti-bot restrictions would presumably be illegal under the CFAA. So if you're in the US you could even be charged criminally, although I expect in reality that would be less likely.
You might be surprised by the lengths people go to in order to bypass bot-detection just for ordinary games. All of the things you mentioned are pretty standard. Considering there is serious money on the line here, I am positive that plenty of poker bots will be virtually indistinguishable from professional players, if they aren't already.
Reaction times ought to be one of the easiest things to fake. All it would take is a bunch of monitoring of large numbers of games to create a nice model of real player reaction times, which in all likelihood are normally distributed anyway.
Oh, right. I was thinking along the lines of 100m dash, where people often do have negative reaction times (which we penalize as false starts).
In poker we don't have much of an incentive to react instantly to any play.
The problem would be if i was a pro i would rather run 1000 bots than play myself. Which means the only players left are AI and fish. Once the fishies learn of this fact, they will abandon in drove.
It's all gonna go back to live poker soon.
Not really. With perfect information you know the correct strict equity plays assuming normal opponents. This doesn't give you the ultimate answer, because a player's reads and inference about another player is definitely an input - especially at the highest level - but it is more than enough to give you a winning/losing player at the small/midstakes.
source: worked for an online poker company that had these tools... and far more available to us
I think player-dependent strategy is more important at lower levels because the players are much further away from what you call "normal opponents", so there's far more opportunity to exploit their mistakes.
That's interesting, could you share an example? Most of my search results are anecdotal Reddit threads about how many people cheat in online chess.
From what I've read, they work by comparing the player's moves against chess engines, and if the player is picking engine's choice too often in positions where there are multiple roughly equal moves, they get flagged.
OP discussed it but while this is true, it is not necessarily true or straightforward when it comes to games with hidden information like poker. This is more of a game theoretical problem (Economics) than it is a purely mathematical one, which had less support in the AI/ML community, hence the delay.
The lower CPU/GPU/resource use supports that fact as does your intuition. Breaking poker required a lot of manual work and model design over brute force algorithms and reinforcement learning.