On Randomness

Recently a friend who plays online sent a rant in to a poker chat room I frequent. It was a spasm of paranoia about the random number generators (RNGs) used to "deal" cards online.

He is convinced that something is amiss; that someone, somewhere has it in for him - not to mention all the other innocent souls like him who, he suspects, are not on the "inside" of the site and not reaping the monetary rewards of rigged RNGs.

Because PokerListings is a major hub through which most of the world's major Jerry Yang: The exception to the externalizer rule.

To understand what's going on here, let's continue a discussion begun in a huge pots, when screamingly improbably outcomes win, they fertilize the more suspicious parts of your mind. Paranoia enters, stage left.

It may be tough to grasp, but when randomness is doing its thing, wacko stuff happens. It has to happen and it will keep happening. There are so many wildly improbably things that can happen in poker that some of them are bound to happen.

Sweet Mullet!
Almost everything that happens in poker is unlikely.

Almost everything that happens in poker and the rest of life is unlikely. You flop a set three times in an hour. Unlikely but cool. You win money and forget about it. Three opponents hit sets against you and you chew on the felt for hours, days.

But, of course, there are eight or nine bozos out there, so the likelihood of this happening to you is a lot higher than that of it happening for you. Capice?

One more tidbit to chew on here. Some years ago the Rand Corporation (I've always liked the implied pun in this story) compiled a list of random numbers. This was before the development of RNGs, so they used a series of other methods.

After they had 1 million digits, they analyzed the list for "randomness." It wasn't really random. There were all kinds of odd features to it.

But they could not find any biases in it - in the sense that they could not predict which number would come up next by analyzing the sequence of previous digits.

In short, it was "random." If your brain doesn't hurt now, it will in a few minutes.

Take-home message: Don't sweat the wacko features of those SNGs. Be more "internal" and work on your game.

Author Bio:

Arthur Reber has been a poker player and serious handicapper of thoroughbred horses for four decades. He is the author of The New Gambler's Bible and coauthor of Gambling for Dummies. Formerly a regular columnist for Poker Pro Magazine and Fun 'N' Games magazine, he has also contributed to Card Player (with Lou Krieger), Poker Digest, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Titan Poker. He outlined a new framework for evaluating the ethical and moral issues that emerge in gambling for an invited address to the International Conference of Gaming and Risk Taking.

Until recently he was the Broeklundian Professor of Psychology at The Graduate Center, City University of New York. Among his various visiting professorships was a Fulbright fellowship at the University of Innsbruck, Austria. Now semi-retired, Reber is a visiting scholar at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

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ironbar 2012-08-23 02:32:52

Im speaking hypothetically here......

If I owned a poker site, the most important thing to me is to keep as many customers as I can. The more people playing, the more money revolves, the more I make from rake. Now, at a brick and mortat poker room, you have your regulars, and you have the newcomers usually fish. by the end of their session the newcomers are usually felted, and off they go. Theyre usually tourists amongst the regulars anwyays.

Online poker however is open to the world, why arent these sharks biting off big enough chunks of the fish to totally dominate online poker rooms?

Well lets say I had an online poker room, I'd devise an equalibrium factor tossed into the RGN. In the long run, players with lower winning percentages at showdown will catch their donk hands against better players to equal and balance everyone's winning percentage. The longer these guys play, the better for my site and my pocket. The pros can chalk up the bad beats to variance........the donks can keep playing like donks, both parties can deposit more money when their done, everyone's happy, especially me.

Poker pro's don'T really have to deal with this, they're usually playing heads up, or Omaha at 6 person tables....you're average player is in micro stakes, where everyone gets a piece of the pie, but the bigger piece comes to me. I would love action inducing cards post flop, can'T have that every single hand of course, but enough to get teh people guessing, and the hardcore believers chalking it up to the number of hands per minute played.

Are you guys seriously out of your minds to believe and swear that online poker uses totally unmanipulated RGN's? ''Why would they? they'll lose customers......bad business......'' Bullshit......They make more money, and try proving they manipulate their programs........good luck, you can'T due to variance.....Unless you sit at high stake tables where most hands aren't shown down, .....and you have more control over play than the cards.....or hammer a huge tourney which is hard enough with the gigantic field of players, you cant win online. PERIOD. In the long run, you will always lose. I say good luck to the believers......I'll stick with live play where real poker players toss their chips around.

Arty Smokes 2011-06-07 17:59:55

It's crazy how many supposedly intelligent and well-balanced people think poker sites are rigged in some sort of conspiracy against them. Why would the site engineer an app that handicapped particular players and gave them losing cards? That would be both difficult to program and kind of pointless anyway, as sites make their money from the rake. (They want people to believe the game is random, so that they will keep playing until they get better luck). It's so much simpler to use an RNG. The RNG doesn't care who is playing; it dishes out cards randomly.

I used to hate how sometimes a fish would get runner runners against the odds, but these days I just laugh when it happens. Yesterday I had 88 and flopped a full with a flop of 855. I shoved, hoping someone had a 5, but one person called with pocket 7s. The turn and river were both 7s, giving him quads. A bad beat for sure, as the chances of it happening were about 1 in 1000, but the thing about random numbers and probability is that the 1000-1 chance does actually happen once every thousand times. If runner runner quads happened more commonly than that I might suspect something is up, but in the previous 1000 hands I saw runner runner blanks.

zyg0tic 2009-03-19 17:36:00

Wait a second... you're saying that because the RNG's generate numbers that are perfectly random over hundreds of million incarnations, that is somehow proof that it's not random after all?

Do you even think about what you're saying before you say it?

go to www.random.org there's a 100% perfectly random number generator for free on the internet. If they can do it for free, I'm pretty sure poker sites can do it.

cristi 2009-03-19 14:35:00

I have a question:

When poker site's RNGs are checked, the numbers always coincide with the mathematichal probability of the thing happening.

U're supposed to get aces 0.45% of the time (might be mistaken here). Well somehow when RNGs are checked, aces are dealt 0.45% of the time (or really close to that). Since they calculate for millions of hands, long term may apply, but still:

They are Random No. Gen. but they generate so closely (almost perfectly) to the mathematical truth.

So yes they generate corectly, but i think that somehow action is encouraged by these RNGs. For example u get aces 5 times in 1000 hands. Ok. Mathematically true. But u win the blinds 3 times, get sucked out once, and win a small pot the third time.

I think that variance is the shield behind witch RNG operate in the interest of the poker site.

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