Chances are, if you've ever shaken the hand of a one-armed bandit in a Vegas casino, or at any of the hundreds of online casinos, you've probably wondered just how random the winning combos actually are. And as much as we'd like to provide a straightforward question with a straightforward answer, we can't; the science behind random number generation is a complex one requiring advanced know-how in both mathematics and statistics.
Without random number generation (RNG), modern casino games would not exist today as we know them. Accurate random number generators created by gaming software developers have paved the way for gambling Web site operators to offer very realistic and indeed legitimate online casino games.
Fair Gaming or Fair Game?
But how exactly can you know whether or not the slots and other random games you're playing at online casinos and traditional venues are indeed fair? Well, as with any industry, your best bet is to start with the leading companies. That's not to say that because they're big, they're automatically on the up and up. But chances are they're more trustworthy than say a start-up that's been in business one year, so they say.
If you've been involved in the online gaming biz to any extent, either as a player, operator or affiliate, you're probably familiar with the names of the big gaming software developers like Playtech, Random Logic, Microgaming, and Cryptologic, just to name a few. These major industry players - as well as the Web site operators providing the games to players - regularly undergo strict certification processes.
Playtech, for example, received its official random number generator evaluation certificate from Technical Systems Testing (TST) for its poker, bingo, online pokies and casino games. Established in 1993, TST ranks as one of the most experienced gaming laboratories in the world. The company is an internationally recognized Accredited Testing Facility (ATF) which continues to work with industry operators, suppliers, manufacturers and regulators to make certain that gaming products function in ways that are fair, secure and auditable, as well as comply with the strictest and most comprehensive legislative and regulatory requirements in the world.
The ‘House' Advantage
It's no secret that in the long run, and under normal conditions, the casino or "House" enjoys an advantage over the player. Otherwise they'd be out of business before you can say ‘craps!' But have you ever wondered exactly how this is done? Or when online casinos, or perhaps casino reviews , advertise that certain slot machines have a payback percentage of say 98%, what do they mean?
Really, Really Random
First of all, to be a good random number generator, the following two rules must be satisfied:
Rule #1: Each number (or slots symbol) in the number range must possess an equally likely chance of being selected.
Rule #2: Each number (or slots symbol) selected must be done so independently of every prior number/symbol chosen.
It's very important to differentiate between the ‘chance' of being selected, and the number ‘actually' being picked. In the first case, each number has an equal opportunity of coming up. The second rule demands that each subsequent selection be independent of all previous selections, instead of each number being picked the same number of times. The logic behind this is: if each number was guaranteed to come up precisely the same number of times, it would no longer be random.
For instance, if you have a random number generator that is programmed to generate random numbers from 1 to 3, and the first two numbers picked were 1 and 2, would the next number to come up be 3? If the two rules stated above are followed, the chances of 1, 2 or 3 being selected would be identical.
According to the first rule, each number must have the same chance of being selected. The second rule ensures that the previous numbers have no influence whatsoever on any subsequent number selections. Thus, we can't possibly know which number or symbol will result next. On the other hand, because of these rules, it is quite possible - and highly probable that - over time, numbers will be repeated, even many times in a row. Go figure. What is for sure is that the rules behind random number generating are the same for online casinos and traditional land-based establishments. Well, at least they should be.
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