Superhuman AI Bots Pose a Threat to Online Poker Firms, Morgan Stanley Says
Morgan Stanley digital signage is displayed on the exterior of the company’s headquarters in New York, U.S.(Photographer: Christopher Lee/Bloomberg)

Superhuman AI Bots Pose a Threat to Online Poker Firms, Morgan Stanley Says

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(Bloomberg) -- The threat for online poker players is not the human desktop card sharks playing against you, but the superhuman artificial intelligence bots that could infiltrate games, according to analysts at Morgan Stanley.

“The (re)emergence of superhuman poker bots in the online ecosystem now appears to be a matter of when, not if,” analyst Ed Young wrote in a note.

In July, a new AI program called Pluribus was unveiled by Facebook Inc. and Carnegie Mellon University, which beat five professional poker players in a six-player Texas Hold’em tournament.

Notably, Pluribus’s strategy was created at a low-cost and in a short time, whereas previous AI bots playing games like chess or checkers required expensive supercomputers or large numbers of servers. That’s a “major development” for AI as it makes the strategy affordable and quick to replicate on a technical level, Young said.

Poker is uniquely exposed to the threat of bots because it needs multiple players and is arguably a game of skill, so players having confidence in the system is essential, according to Young. If that confidence is damaged, it could hit the number of recreational players taking part and these are the main source of revenue for operators, he said.

While online gaming firms like The Stars Group, GVC Holdings Plc and Playtech Plc have safeguards in place to protect against bots, a loss of player confidence and ultimately revenue from a proliferation of AI bots are “plausible risks,” Young said. The broker trimmed price targets for all three stocks, with Stars the most exposed to online poker.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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