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How Random Is Online Poker?

Oct 12, 2007
You ever wonder how the deck is shuffled in an online poker game? Who can you hold responsible for that terrible suckout on the river? Randomly shuffled cards can be seen as the core business of online poker rooms and you will be surprised how much effort is required to achieve truly random cards. Read on about online poker rooms, quantum mechanics, radioactive decay and more.

First let's determine the requirements for the source of a true random generator: Firstly it should be high-entropic source. Entropy is the 'measure of the disorder and randomness in a closed system'. You're still reading? Good, the second requirement is that the source should be nondeterministic. This means the there is no way in which the source can be controlled, calculated or predicted (note: our first requirement guarantees those last two properties).

Now we know this we can throw computers out of the window as far as randomness is concerned. Math is the only language your computer speaks and randomness and math are mutually exclusive. Basically any random function which is created by humans or by machines built by humans can not be nondeterministic. To create true randomness we must turn to something bigger (or actually much, much smaller) then ourselves.

The way to go is physics and the field of quantum mechanics in particular (the relationship between radiation and matter). In quantum mechanics certain physical phenomena, such as the nuclear decay of certain atoms, are fundamentally random and cannot, in principle, be predicted. This right here is our answer. These phenomenon's are used by hardware random number generators to generate a truly (from our perspective, at this time) random number.

The hardware number generators are used by poker sites to shuffle the deck and are thoroughly tested by independent third parties. The implementation of the generator differs per site but you can be sure the deck is shuffled more randomly then a dealer in a live game ever will.

I hope this article provided some insight in how the deck is shuffled in an online poker game. It's pretty sick the state of an atom (about 1 million times as small as the thickness of a hair) is responsible for the cards you get. So next time you suffer a bad beat, think of this article, count to ten, and blame the atoms!

NOTE: I only know for a fact Poker Stars, Poker.com, Party Poker and Everest Poker use certified random number generators. If you're not sure about the software you use, drop them an email.
About the Author
Shark-Academy is a free poker strategy site with interactive lessons, quality articles and an entertaining collection of videos. Have a look at http://www.shark-academy.com.
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