A robot is trouncing some of the world’s best poker players in a marathon 20-day session, using levels of intuition and deception that have big implications away from the gaming table.

The Libratus computer programme from Carnegie Mellon University will play a total of 120,000 hands of no-limit Texas Hold’em against four professionals competing for a share of $200,000 prize money.

In the first day of the Brains vs AI tournament at the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh, the robot collected $81,716 to the humans’ $7,228. The machine doubled its lead on the second day and was extending its advantage on the third, outfoxing its opposition with unpredictable behaviour, including small wagers and huge over-bets.

The first day of action on Wednesday saw Jason “PremiumWhey” Les, Dong “Donger Kim” Kim, Daniel “Dougiedan678” McAulay and Jimmy “ForTheSwaRMm” Chou fall into a 75,000 chip hole against the machine called Libratus. The blinds are 50-100.

Thursday was more of the same for the humans, as the machine extended its lead to 150,000 chips. The 20-day contest will have 120,000 hands. Through Thursday, nearly 9,000 had been played.

“I’m playing nothing like I normally do, I’m trying to beat the bot,” Les said during a session. When asked whether he was happy he was “contributing to science,” Les said he was “trying to get paid.” The high-stakes poker pro said he didn’t have any side action on the match.

The humans each play two tables against the machine for about eight hours each day, and the results are combined to give an overall “Brains vs. AI” score. The poker players stand to each win $50,000 if they beat the machine. They aren’t risking any of their own money.

Before the match, betting sites considered Libratus a definitive underdog in the contest, with odds varying between 4-to-1 and 5-to-1.

In May 2015, Les, Kim, Doug Polk and Bjorn Li beat an earlier version of the machine by 7,300 big blinds, but Carnegie Mellon computer scientists called it a “statistical tie.”

To ensure that the outcome of the competition is not due to luck, the four pros are paired to play duplicate matches, meaning that Player A in each pair will receive the same cards as the computer receives against Player B, and vice versa. One of the players in each of these pairs will play on the floor of the casino, while his counterpart will be isolated in a separate room.

The winnings from each pair of mirrored hands are added together and considered to be one observation. If after 120,000 hands either Libratus or the humans are one standard deviation above break-even, they will have won the competition with “statistical significance.”

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