How Do Random Number Generators Work?

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In a real-world casino, random chance plays a huge part in ensuring that games are fair. If neither the player nor the house can predict which card will be drawn next, or where the ball will stop on a roulette wheel, then the games are unpredictable, and therefore fair. Whilst relying on the laws of physics, or the near-infinite number of combinations that a deck of cards can be arranged into is easy in real life, when it comes to online casinos, things aren’t so simple.

The problem is that making something truly random is really quite difficult. Humans are very bad at creating random combinations, and computer programs need to base any number that they generate on an already existing set of data and human input, so how does the casino industry do it?

Random Number Generators

Random number generators (RNGs) are the subject of many essays and scientific papers, but to put it simply, they work by starting with a number, known as a seed number, and perform a different mathematical problem on that number every time a new random number needs to be generated. Simple, right? Not quite. The seed number can often be over 200,000 digits long, and can change every second, making hacking extremely difficult, if not impossible. The original seed number and the algorithm used to generate the math problem are kept top secret, so whilst there is technically a pattern, without both of those pieces of information, the system is as good as totally random.

The Real World Applications of RNGs

Ok, so now we have a very long string of digits that after having a math problem applied to them, become another number, how does this affect what happens when you play any of the variety of betting games at Paddy Power? Each outcome in each game, whether you’re rolling a virtual dice, or pulling the lever on any one of the many virtual slot machines, is assigned a number from the RNG. So maybe a pair of sixes in a dice game corresponds to 673,467,527,656,14 or 8 Black on a roulette wheel to 574,862,745,879. The mathematical algorithm is different for every game and ensures that the numerical outcome always lines up with a possible outcome in the game.

Who Keeps Everything in Check?

In principle, RNGs sound great so far, but to ensure that the programs and algorithms are fair and legitimate, third-party organisations have to inspect and approve RNGs in order to keep players safe. In the EU, this is the Gambling Commission, whilst in the US, the authority varies by state, but in all cases, they ensure that RNGs meet a variety of criteria to be ‘acceptably random’. Indeed, there are organisations that constantly review systems to ensure that they are operating to the best of their ability. Regardless, legitimate gambling websites will display the contact details of these authorities and make their certificates available to be publicly viewed.

So next time you take part in an online casino game, you’ll have a better understanding of how these games work and know that you’re in the safe, fair hands of a randomly-generated string of digits!


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