Late last autumn, a Russian mathematician and programmer named Alex decided he’d had enough of running his eight-year-old business. Though his St. Petersburg firm was thriving, he’d grown weary of dealing with payroll, hiring, and management headaches. He pined for the days when he could devote himself solely to tinkering with code, his primary passion. The time had come for an exit strategy.
But Alex couldn’t just cash out as if he owned an ordinary startup because his business operates in murky legal terrain. The venture is built on Alex’s talent for reverse engineering the algorithms—known as pseudorandom number generators, or PRNGs—that govern how slot machine games behave. Armed with this knowledge, he can predict when certain games are likeliest to spit out money—insight that he shares with a legion of field agents who do the organization’s grunt work.
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