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We have all heard about the power artificial intelligence holds – the disruptive technology that looks set to change our future entirely. From banks to security firms to government, AI is set to transform almost every industry imaginable. One in particular, will be the world of casinos, gaming, and specifically poker.

To give you some background to this growing trend, in March 2016 Google’s DeepMind went up against the worlds best Go player. Go is an ancient board game of deep strategy built for two players. Chinese player Lee Sedol was beaten by an artificially intelligent unit four games to one. In its convincing win, it kicked off a wave of paranoia about how AI will become a force to be reckoned with in terms of intellectual prowess.

Fast forward nine months, at a casino in Pittsburgh, an AI built machine constructed by two Carnegie Mellon researchers officially defeated four top players at no-limit Texas Hold ‘Em walking away with $1.8 million — a particularly complex form of poker that relies heavily on long-term betting strategies and game theory. There are other variations of poker such as Unfold Hold’em and Omaha, but Texas Hold’em remains the most popular of variations.

When this happened, it rocked the technology market. It certainly wasn’t the first time that a computer had beat humans at their own game, we all remember when IBM’s Deep Blue supercomputer defeated renowned chess master Garry Kasparov in a six-game match. But this was the first time that AI specific computer had beaten humans at one of their more valued skill sets, intuition. The variables in this game remain largely hidden from AI, which is what makes this particular task so difficult.

What it did particularly well was knowing when to bluff and when to bet low with very good cards, as well as when to change its bets just to throw off the competition. If it ever felt the humans found a hole in its strategy, the gap would close.

The fact remains that human cognition cannot be improved – we only have 100 billion neurons to exploit whereas AI can only improve and the datasets and capacity for it will get bigger.



Data for the gambling world

Beating humans at their own game is just one of the ways that technology will change gambling. Utilising data sets to encourage new ways of embracing gaming for humans will also set the bar high.

For example, casinos will be able to identify factors such as what games users are enjoying or how the physical arrangement of games on the floor impacts player selection.

In the future, if you choose to gamble online you will be able to step into your own virtual casino, with all your favorite games based on your UX iterations. The more you play it, the more you design it so to speak.

There is also the risk that in the future players will be able to deploy unique AI strategies on their phone to play games, winning against the house. A new form of cheating may arise.

But in the future, AI surveillance software will be able to counter that detecting particular postures, choice of words, behavioral signals that show cheating. This will be an intelligent game of cat and mouse arising in a whole new context.

Data will also be able to encourage responsible gambling – a place that casinos are well aware of and trying to improve their attitudes.


 AI will change the gaming world in many ways, but its convincing win over four players in January of 2017 proved that we are just at the start of a new wave of AI augmented gambling.

One of the biggest concerns related to that is automation, imagine in the future coming into a casino and finding that all card dealers have been disposed of because AI software can moderate the game much better. But this is an anxiety that is fueling concern in every industry, not just gaming.

Maybe humans need to go back to the drawing board to see how we can work with AI instead of competing with it because there is no way we will be able to beat it.