Randomization in Gambling: A History

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19/12/2018

Bottom line: randomization in gambling removes any discernible patterns. Without it, skilled players could identify them in the results and predict what's coming next, giving them a significant advantage over other players and the casino.

In the digital age, this has become far more sophisticated and streamlined, so cheating is almost a thing of the past. Let’s take a look at how randomization has evolved in the industry.

Shuffling, Throwing and Spinning

The most common act of randomization is one that card table players will see to this very day – a dealer shuffling cards. The pack comes pre-arranged by number, colour and symbol and players could easily guess what cards are going to be dealt if it's used straight out of the pack. Dealers shuffle the cards as a way to randomize the results, making it extremely difficult to work out what may be dealt next – although in the case of card counting, not impossible.

Another example is the pair of dice thrown at the Craps table, or the ball being released into a spinning roulette wheel, where physical force makes the results random. With mechanical devices such as roulette wheels or pre-electronic slot machines, tumblers similar to the combination lock on a safe are used, but with more than one winning combination. If the tumblers align in a certain way, then the reels match and players win a prize. A standard mechanical slot machine has three reels each with ten symbols on it, so the odds of hitting a winning combination are fairly high, while hitting the biggest three in a row win is 1 in 1000. As a result, the jackpot can't be very large.

Software and Generators

Nowadays, casinos try to remove the human element from randomization to make games fairer. For example, it'll no longer be the dealer who shuffles the cards but rather an automated system that can shuffle up to eight decks at once.

The greatest evolution in randomization in casinos has been the advent of electronic slots and the Random Number Generator (RNG). While previously this was achieved through a series of mechanisms, most modern slots now rely on software to generate the combination on the reels. This is known as a Pseudo-Random Number Generator (PRNG) as it uses an algorithm to generate the numbers. These are tested by accredited agencies to ensure that the results cannot be manipulated.

The one advantage this has over mechanical methods is that it allows for more symbols and reels, as it is not limited by the size of the tumblers or the combination. As a result, the jackpot size has increased but so to have the odds of winning on today's slots. In fact, electronic randomization has allowed casinos to connect a number of slot machines together in a progressive bank of games, where a small portion of each wager is siphoned off to a central cash pot. This could be won by a player on any of these machines if it's triggered.

This has also allowed for the advent of online slot games using similar software-based RNGs. Without the confines of a physical slot machine, software developers are able to expand on the randomization of these games by creating more complex gaming rules that allow for expansion of the reels or game board as well as the number of symbols that appear. These could also be programmed to have special attributes, allowing for the creation of different types of Wild, Scatter and other bonus symbols.

The software RNG can also be applied to online versions of traditional table games such as Blackjack or Poker. As there is no deck of cards to shuffle, the results of each hand would be random and not fallible to card counting – making a winner really a winner.

 
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