Friday, August 31, 2012
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.
At 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 future.
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.]
The 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