How Random is Online Poker?

Ever wonder how the deck is shuffled in an online poker game? Who can you blame for this terrible river suction? Randomly shuffled cards can be seen as the core business of online poker rooms and you will be surprised at the effort it takes to get truly random cards. Read about online poker rooms, quantum mechanics, radioactive decay and more.

First let’s determine the requirements for the source of a true random generator: First, it must be a high entropy source. Entropy is the “measure of disturbance and randomness in a closed system”. Are you still reading? Well, the second requirement is that the source is not deterministic. This means that there is no way the source can be controlled, calculated or predicted (note: our first requirement guarantees these last two properties).

Now that we know that, we can throw computers out the window with regard to randomness. Math is the only language your computer speaks, and randomness and math are mutually exclusive. Basically, any random function created by humans or human-built machines cannot be non-deterministic. To create true randomness, we need to turn to something bigger (or really much, much smaller) than ourselves.

The way forward 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. Here is our answer. These phenomena are used by hardware random number generators to generate a truly random number (from our perspective at this time).

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 varies by site, but you can be sure that the deck is shuffled more randomly than the dealer in a live game.

I hope this article has provided some tips on how the deck is shuffled in an online poker game. It’s pretty sick that the state of an atom (about a million times smaller than the thickness of a hair) is responsible for the letters you receive. So the next time you get a bad hit, think of this article, count to ten, and blame the atoms!

NOTE: I only really know that Poker Stars, Poker, Party Poker and Everest Poker use certified random number generators. If you are unsure of the software you are using, send them an email.

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