How it is Done: PokerStars Quantum RNG6 years ago
A recent video revealing behind the scenes operations of PokerStars generated quite interest in the poker community. Naturally, one aspect that people were most curious about was the random number generator (RNG), as there is always a lot of mystery regarding that particular subject. Seeing the interest, PokerStars representative shared a link to the whitepaper explaining all the details of the special quantum RNG.
A lot of these things are very scientific, but I'll try to highlight some of the most important features of this sci-fi product and the specifics behind it.
Generation of random numbers plays an important role in many applications and it is not restricted to use in gambling software. However, in the casino industry, people’s winnings and losses are directly connected to the RNG and it is thus no wonder that people involved in online poker or online gambling (or both) display the biggest interest for this particular piece of technology.
Cryptography is the key to keeping all the information safe from many interested parties. Encrypting and protecting data can be a difficult task, because it is hard to find a solution that creates a strong enough protection but does not use too much physical resources.
Confidentiality of information is guaranteed by a process that creates a cipher text using the plain text sent by and user and a key of encryption algorithm. This text is once again decrypted upon reaching the recipient by using decryption algorithm and a new key. Ultimately, the strength of the entire system depends on the strength of the key used.
Speaking of the random numbers themselves, although it may seem simple, defining them is not that easy of a task. True random number is the one created by a process whose outcome is unpredictable and which cannot be subsequently reproduced. In practice, this definition cannot really be met because it must not be possible for a computer program whose length is finite to produce an infinite random sequence. For this reason, when speaking of random numbers, they are always observed within the constraints of practical definition.
Statistical randomness tests try to determine whether a particular sequence of numbers was produced by a random number generator. There are different tests, all aiming to reveal imperfections in any given sequence.
There have been many solutions used to create these random number sequences, from purely software solutions using pseudo-RNGs to physical random number generators utilizing physical process as the source of randomness. This process developed over the time, and today, we have reached the point where quantum physics can help with creating truly random numbers.
PokerStars utilize the Quantis – quantum random number generator that exploits optical quantum process as the source of randomness. The product comes as a USB device, PCI card or an OEM component. So how does it work? Light consists of elementary particles called photons. In certain situations, these photons exhibit random behavior; for example in a transmission upon a semi-transparent mirror, which is very suitable for generation of random numbers. This is the process that is both easy to model and monitor.
Quantis continuously checks if the light source and two detectors are working properly. The processing unit also performs unbiasing process to make sure the generated string is satisfactory. Quantis is compact, low cost and very efficient random number generator that passes all statistical tests and utilizes modern scientific achievements to do so.
I am by no means expert on the subject, not even close, but find this topic interesting and decided to try and write a short overview of the process. Further information on random generation processes can be found all over the web.
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