Random number generators… what the heck are they? And more to the point, why should you care?
Well, to put it simply, random number generators are used by gaming companies and online casinos to make sure that their games are always fair and that their websites can’t be cheated. Understanding what they do and how they are used helps you to feel reassured when you gamble.
You see, here at Gambling Metropolis, we like our members to feel safe online and to be well-informed about all aspects of iGaming. Our guides give you a more complete picture of what’s going on behind the scenes when you visit a website and make a deposit. They let you make good decisions and avoid bad ones. And, most of all, they help to maximise the fun of gaming.
So let’s start by asking a simple question….
A random number generator is exactly what it sounds like. That is, it’s literally something that can generate a number in a random way. You’ll sometimes see it referred to as simply an RNG for short.
The high-tech engine of the iGaming world
A random number generator is what lies beneath all the glitz and glamour of gaming. In a physical casino, it could be a computer chip in a slot machine. For an online casino, it could be a computer programme.
A nice way to think of it is to picture opening the bonnet of your favourite sports car. If you did this you’d see that underneath the shapely body is a whole load of highly advanced engineering. It’s this that allows the vehicle to perform on the track or the road. Well, so it is with gaming—if you could somehow open the bonnet of an online casino, you’d see a random number generator that allows the slot machines to run smoothly, the virtual cards to be dealt out properly and, ultimately, the pay-outs to arrive in your e-wallet on a fair basis.
Why do casinos use a random number generator?
If casinos didn’t use random number generators then the gaming wouldn’t be so fair. When you play the online slots, for example, you want to know that there’s a fair chance of completing a payline. It’s not nice to think that the guys behind the scenes have control over the results and can say whether you win or lose and dictate how much gets paid out. Random number generators take the control out of the hands of the online casino operator and make sure that the players aren’t put in an unfair position.
OK, so now we’re getting into the more technical part of the guide where we try and explain how an RNG actually works. The random number generator used by online casinos works by using an algorithm and a seed number.
What is an algorithm?
An algorithm is something that’s used by websites and apps. It’s a word you might well have heard coming up recently because over the last few years it’s been mentioned all over the place, from TV and radio to the papers.
At one time, a decade or two ago, it would only have been mathematicians, engineers and scientists who were familiar with the word as it is a technical term from mathematics. These days, however, since algorithms have been used by so many websites and apps it has become a much more commonplace term.
An algorithm is defined, at its most basic, as a set of rules for solving a problem. It’s used by apps such as YouTube to help find videos that suit your taste, or by an app such as Spotify to help find music that you’re probably going to enjoy listening to. The computer programme effectively looks at what you’ve watched, or listened to, in the past, and then using that as its starting point it follows a set of rules in order to choose new videos and songs.
In the case of a random number generator, it’s a similar situation. The computer will take a number as its starting point and then follow an algorithm, some set of rules, to arrive at a completely new number. So you get, say, the number 5 and from there the computer has to add this, divide that and so on until it generates a new number.
And what is a seed number?
The seed number is the number that the computer uses as its starting point. Like the seed of a plant, it starts off the whole process. In the above example, the seed number is 5. The computer takes 5, goes through its algorithm, its set of rules, and then generates the random number.
How do random numbers actually get used in the games?
Once a computer has generated a random number, what happens next? How do you make that random number into anything more meaningful than what it quite literally is—just some random number?
Well, to explain how random numbers actually get used in online casino games, let’s imagine a more everyday scenario; let’s imagine a dog training class. In this class, instead of training the dog to obey commands based on words, we train it to obey commands based on numbers. When talking to your puppy, instead of saying “sit” you could say “1”. Instead of saying “fetch” you could say “2”. “Roll over” could be “3”. Then, once all the lessons have been learnt, you just say 1, 2 or 3 to instruct your dog.
In the world of computer science and programming, you can assign numbers like this to all sorts of things. So with something like a slot machine, you could number each reel as reel #1, reel #2, and reel #3. Then, each symbol on each reel could also be numbered. For instance, the classic dollar sign ($) could have a number and the timeless cherry sign could have another number.
Once everything you’re working with is numbered in this way, numbers command your actions. That means that random numbers effectively command random actions. Well, that’s exactly what you want for iGaming.
A “pseudo-random number generator”
There’s an interesting point to be made about this sort of random number generator. The fact that the random numbers are arrived at on the basis of a seed number and an algorithm means that they’re not absolutely random, in the purest sense of the word. The process involved is highly complex; but since, in essence, it uses a seed number and a set of rules, it gets the name “pseudo-random number generator”.
This is just the way that software creates random numbers. The “pseudo” part of the name should not mislead anyone into thinking that the online casinos are not operating fairly. It’s important to make clear that this really refers to a technical, mathematical sort of difference and should not be confused with any sort of dishonest conduct by iGaming companies.
To make sure that online casinos are operating fairly, tests are done on their equipment by outside examiners. This means that the software used—including the random number generator—gets tested to make sure it really does what it claims to do. This goes for the big iGaming brands as well as the smaller ones. It sounds funny when you put it like this, but once the tech is officially declared random, the fun can go ahead!
So now you understand random number generators, you’ll be able to play online with more confidence in the high tech systems that you’re using. All our recommended sites are trustworthy, licensed and dependable, which means you can have fun gaming without any worries. Check out our other guides if you found this one helpful; and the best of luck from the Gambling Metropolis team with all your future online betting and gambling. Have fun!