Carnegie Mellon University
April 06, 2017

Carnegie Mellon Artificial Intelligence Takes on Chinese Poker Players

Exhibition in China includes $290,000 winner-take-all prize

By Byron Spice

A version of CMU's Libratus, which in January became the first AI agent to defeat top poker pros at Heads-Up, No-Limit Texas Hold'em, will compete in China April 6-10. The AI will run on the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center's Bridges computer, shown here with Professor Tuomas Sandholm.

A version of Carnegie Mellon University’s Libratus, which in January became the first artificial intelligence to defeat top poker pros at Heads-up, No-Limit Texas Hold’em, will play six top Chinese players for a $290,000 winner-take-all purse.

The 36,000-hand exhibition, featuring an AI named Lengpudashi or “cold poker master,” will be April 6-10 on the island province of Hainan, China.

The human players, called Team Dragons, will be led by Alan (Yue) Du, a Shanghai venture capitalist and amateur player who won the $5,000 buy-in, no-limit Hold’em category of the 2016 World Series of Poker.

“I am very excited to take this new kind of AI technology to China,” said Tuomas Sandholm, professor of computer science and co-creator of Libratus/Lengpudashi with Ph.D. student Noam Brown. “I want to explore various commercial opportunities for this in poker and a host of other application areas, ranging from recreational games to business strategy to strategic pricing to cybersecurity and medicine.

“This is an exhibition, not a match, challenge or competition,” he added. “We are running a relatively small number of hands, so this is not a scientific experiment like the Brains Vs. AI competition in January.”

In the Brains Vs. AI competition, Libratus played 120,000 hands in 20 days at Pittsburgh’s Rivers Casino against professional players who specialize in Heads-up, No-Limit Texas Hold’em. The large number of hands was intended to ensure the outcome would be statistically significant and prove that any victory was not a matter of luck. At the end, Libratus led the human players by a collective $1,766,250 in virtual chips.

In Hainan, Team Dragon and Lengpudashi will play for 10 hours a day, with the human players each playing two hands at a time. As with Brains vs. AI, the Lengpudashi AI will run on the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center’s Bridges computer throughout the event.

Poker is of particular interest to computer scientists because it is an imperfect information game — no player knows precisely what cards the other players have and all players must be able to bluff and recognize their opponents’ bluffs. Business negotiation, military strategy, cybersecurity and medical treatment planning are the types of applications that could benefit from automated decision-making using this kind of AI.

Sandholm recently founded Strategic Machine, Inc., which has exclusively licensed Libratus and other technologies from his CMU laboratory. Strategic Machine targets a broad set of applications: poker and other recreational games, business strategy, negotiation, cybersecurity, physical security, military applications, strategic pricing, finance, auctions, political campaigns and medical treatment planning. The company is supplying the Lengpudashi AI for the exhibition.

The Lengpudashi Vs. Team Dragons exhibition was organized by Kai-Fu Lee, a CMU alumnus and former faculty member who is CEO of Sinovation Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm that invests in startups in China and the United States. He is a former executive of Apple, Microsoft and Google and is one of the most prominent figures in China’s internet sector.

Sinovation and Hainan Resort Software Community are hosting the exhibition. The event will take place in a software park/resort in Haikou City. Video of game play will be streamed via almost 30 broadcasting partners; total views of the streaming video in China are expected to reach 30 million over the five-day event.