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Beating Keno

Before you get too excited, let me first say that I don't have a foolproof method of beating keno at any casino. What I do have is an interesting story of how one man did indeed beat the casino at keno, very convincingly. This of course could be repeated, but if you're lucky enough to come across it, I recommend you keep it to yourself. The tale is often misinterpreted as the story of the math wiz who used chaos theory to determine consistent patters below the surface of a pseudo random number generator. In essence this is pretty much true, except it wasn't a math wiz, he didn't do a single calculation, and probably couldn't define what chaos theory is with anything more than the Jurassic park explanation. But his realization of a pattern within a set of no patterns is entirely true.

First off lets explain the difference between pseudo random numbers and random numbers. On another page of this site I mention that computers are actually much worse at picking random numbers than humans are, and I'd like to qualify that a little. When a computer program is asked to generate a random number, they go to a sequence of code designed for just that, which coincidentally enough is usually referred to as a random number generator. The problem is that the random number generator is only as good as its seed value, from which the random string of numbers is produced. A seed number acts sort of as the random starting block.

The problem is, how do we make the seed number random? Well we don't, computer scientists do; at least they attempt to. The most recent research in the field that I've come across talks of scientists in California calculating the number of raindrops which fall within a certain set area, in an attempt to draw random seeds from something truly random. So you see this is why most random number generators are actually pseudo-random number generators and, if you know both the seed and the number generator algorithm, then you can perfectly predict the coming numbers (hence the pseudo, 'cuz it sure ain't random if its predictable). Most seed values are achieved by adding an offset number to the preceding seed number before the next random number is produced. This could be achieved, for example, by a computer taking the seed and multiplying it by the number of keystrokes at the computer over the past 5 minutes, squared, or by any other equally nonsensical, and therefore relatively random way to produce a number.

So in the case of this fellow who 'beat' keno, we now have some idea how he must have gone about it. Basically he either needed to know the algorithm and the seed, or have someone feeding him information in a method I can't even imagine. Turns out he had what was essentially equal to the seed and the algorithm, by simply consistently observing the keno numbers each day at the same casino. While searching for patterns day after day, he realized the keno machine was starting with the same seed, and running the same algorithm, each and every morning. An automated system at the casino must have physically shut the machines down and started them up each morning. This, in concert with programming that resets its seed value upon start-up each day, and utilizes just one random number generation algorithm, results in the casino displaying the same 'random' set of results starting with set one, proceeding to set two, and set three. So if you played the first game of the day each day, the winning numbers would be exactly the same each time. If you played the 45th game each day, it would be the same as the 45th game from the preceding day. Eventually the 'math wiz' caught onto this fact, and started taking advantage. He saw a pattern below the patterns, while busy searching with chaos theory for a pattern above the patterns.

In reality, the player didn't beat keno; the casino beat itself.

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