By Jon Matonis
Friday, August 31, 2012
Have you ever wondered how easy it would be for online casino
operators to cheat? After all, they’re magically shuffling cards online
and you can’t even see the complete deck.
Formally launching on June 9th of this year, bitZino
has designed a method to prove that its shuffles are fair and bitZino
is not your typical online gambling portal. The first difference you
realize is that gaming is conducted only in the digital currency
bitcoin. The other primary difference is that bitZino displays a
‘Provably Fair’ button which allows you to independently and immediately
verify the authenticity of a shuffle.
Now, the fact that they use
bitcoin as the gaming currency has nothing to do with the cryptographic
techniques of ‘provably’ fair’ card shuffling but it does add a nice
touch. BitZino is differentiating itself on two amazing levels and this
is sure to cause the mega online casinos some heartburn down the road.
At the first level, bitcoin operates as the ideal
digital casino chip providing privacy, immediacy, and irreversibility
– in essence, everything you’d expect from a physical Vegas casino
chip. In addition to advantages for the online gaming experience,
bitcoin doesn’t respect national borders and there’s no third-party
processor that has to aggregate casino cash flow. Bitcoin assists in
jurisdiction-less poker, because if they can’t go after the crime, they
go after the money trail.
the second level, bitZino has boldly encroached upon an area that has
been dominated by the third-party auditing associations. Lowering the
barrier to entry, there is no more need for the auditing, certification,
and standards organizations like eCOGRA (eCommerce and Online Gaming Regulation and Assurance) and APCW (Association of Players, Casinos, and Webmasters).
BitZino claims their games aren’t just fair, they’re ‘provably fair’
and the verifiable proof is available directly to you as a player. If
not for the education issue, this news would stun the established online
casinos of Gibraltar and Malta. I cannot imagine a gaming operator that
doesn’t adopt provably fair systems to remain competitive in the
Basically, bitZino is deploying a cryptographic hash function (SHA256 algorithm) to create a fingerprint
of an already shuffled deck. Since the SHA256 hashing algorithm is
one-way and there’s no way a player can use that hash to figure out what
the shuffle of the deck actually is, the casino can let players look at
the hash before the game starts.
Then, the deck is reshuffled using the Fisher-Yates shuffle algorithm with the random numbers generated from the Mersenne twister
algorithm that was seeded with a hash of the combined server seed and
client seed. According to bitZino, “The second round of shuffling only
serves to ensure that neither the server nor client could possibly know
the final deck before the game starts.” Finally, the initial shuffle and
the server seed are provided to the player for verification. [BitZino
is aware that some older browsers are not as secure as modern browsers
deploying window.crypto and also that a client-side script to generate the client seed would drastically improve the quality of the overall system.]
bitcoin community provides an excellent user base of
cryptographically-aware players which increases the practical
understanding of ‘provably fair’ systems that don’t require a
third-party authority. Larry Taad, owner and lead developer of bitZino,
explains in an interview:
“One of the largest hurdles
to creating a good provably fair system is explaining to users exactly
what it is. When developing our provably fair system at bitZino, we put a
lot of effort into making sure we were able to accurately portray to
our users how it all works.
Because the larger market doesn’t yet
understand provably fair systems, it doesn’t yet demand them. So the big
players aren’t likely to implement them. However, if history is any
indication, the market will come around. Look at the rate of adoption of
HTTPS websites. Users in the 90′s didn’t demand secure websites when
shopping, now they absolutely do.”
When asked about
other types of casino games like craps and roulette, Larry said that any
single-player game can be made provably fair by merely utilizing a
source of randomness that is unknown to the house at the time the
outcome of the game is determined.
For multi-player games, it
becomes more complicated due to the fact that the house could plant a
player that has full knowledge of the state of the game. Mental poker
techniques can address some of these issues but with significant
computational overhead which is why bitZino is working on ways to
improve mental poker techniques. He added that “bitZino currently offers
single-player video poker and single-player blackjack that are provably
fair, but that multi-player games will be offered in the future.”
As I write this article, they have officially added provably fair roulette. I really like this online casino — expect a lot of good things from bitZino!
For further reading:
“bitZino touts ‘provably fair’ games, but can bitcoin-only casinos succeed?”, Steven Stradbrooke, September 3, 2012
“Payment expert dubs Bitcoin a perfect fit for online gambling”, Jamie Hinks, April 2, 2012
“Bitcoins Give Rise to Crypto Casinos”, Bitcoin Blogger, August 28, 2011
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