I wasn't sure whether to address this to CS SE, StackOverflow or Math SE, but here goes...

What algorithms exist, if any, for (pseudo-) random dice rolls such that some aggregate properties across many rolls are obeyed, for example,

I want to get to roll a 3-sided die (faces 'A', 'B', 'C') such that, if rolled 100 times:

  1. the expected numbers of 'A', 'B', 'C' are 90, 8, 2 respectively;
  2. the number of 'A' rolls will be between 89 and 91 with probability 67%

or some other similar such specification. I am still looking for algorithms that can provide a random(-looking) single roll; but over many rolls I do not want the cumulative results to follow a binomial distribution but rather one like I've specified. What should I look into for such pseudo-random rolling algorithms? (Pseudo-code, or actual code in say R or Python or Mathematica, would also be very appreciated)

EDIT: I know how to satisfy property (1), it's (2) I'm interested in

  • $\begingroup$ To be clear, do you want to satisfy both properties, or just the second? If both properties, they appear not to be satisfiable at the same time -- doesn't the first already fully characterize a probability distribution? $\endgroup$ – Peter O. Apr 17 at 18:42
  • $\begingroup$ @PeterO. both, and it need not, we probably have to imagine that the probability of each roll is not independent of each other (but I'm not sure). But then, how would you satisfy the second without satisfying the first anyway? $\endgroup$ – Mobeus Zoom Apr 17 at 18:44

Please see if the below helps:

While you cannot do is to escape CLT, what you can do is to reduce the variance of the individual random variables you add.

Translating your requirement, you want a 36% CI that the sum of 100 RV's are between 89 and 91. This translates to a z value between $-0.47$ and $0.47$. Therefore the standard deviation of $100$ variables is $\frac{1}{0.47} = 2.127$, for a variance of $4.527$. Therefore the variance of each variable has to be $0.045$ around 0.9

You can generate this through a normal RV generator, or you can generate multiple N(0.9,1) and take their mean. In this case taking a mean of 480 $\mathcal N(0.9,1)$ random variables will generate a random variable $\sim \mathcal N(0.9,0.045)$.

Now question arises, how do you decide whether the throw is A or not. I suggest you keep recording $Y_n = 1-X_n$. Then record $S_n = \sum Y_n$. As soon as $\lfloor \sum Y_n\rfloor=\lfloor S_n\rfloor$ changes value, then you say "not A" and then use some other algorithm to determine between B and C (say by recording $u\sim \mathcal U(0,1)$ and deciding B if $u <0.8$, and C otherwise.

This is also susceptible to the "counting" and is not truly random. To make it slightly more random, if you knew requirement (2) was only at throw 100, and you have some leeway between throws 0-100, then you can decide to say "not A" sometime between when $S_n$ is some interval between "$integer-0.1$" and "$integer+0.1$". This can also be random. like "Not A" when $S_n$ goes above $integer +r$ where $r\sim \mathcal U(0,1)$ (different for each integer)

Here's some code as requested:

import numpy as np

def normal(size=1,mean=0,sigma=1):
    if size==1:
        return mean+sigma*np.random.randn()
    return mean+sigma*np.random.randn(size)

def ABCgenerator(size,mean,sigma,BCThreshold=0.5):
    Xn = normal(size,mean,sigma)
    Yn = 1-Xn
    Sn = Yn
    for index in range(len(Sn)):
        Sn[index] =Sn[index-1]+Sn[index]
    thresholds = np.array(range(size))+np.random.rand(size)

    outList = []
    for i in range(size):
        if Sn[i]>thresholds[j]:
            if np.random.rand() < BCThreshold:
    return outList

if __name__=="__main__":
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the idea, the first part seems cogent but I have a little trouble following the second. Maybe you can write up some code for it? $\endgroup$ – Mobeus Zoom Apr 18 at 15:35
  • $\begingroup$ thank you, didn't notice you had put up the code till now. where did you get 480 from by the way? $\endgroup$ – Mobeus Zoom Apr 20 at 18:50
  • $\begingroup$ That should have read 488 and not 480. $488 \sim \lceil \left(\frac{1}{0.04527}\right)^2\rceil$ $\endgroup$ – Rahul Madhavan Apr 21 at 6:24

For (1), choose a random integer between $1$ and $100$. Call the result $A$, $B$ or $C$ using the intervals $[1,90], [91,98], [99,100]$.

I know that's not the algorithm you ask for.

Intuition suggests that you cannot guarantee (2) with any algorithm. What coin tossing algorithm would you use to assure between $49$ and $51$ heads with predetermined probability in a $100$ tosses?

Response to comment.

Consider a random permutation of the sequence $(A(90), B(8), C(2))$. That will give you the exact frequencies for (1) and satisfy (2). This will not serve your purpose if the customer for these dice rolls knows your algorithm and can "count cards".

  • $\begingroup$ the question you ask is identical to what I asked so of course I can't answer, but I can think of one very inefficient algorithm: simulate large numbers of 100-toss samples, count the heads and tails, and select the output sequence from those samples according to the predefined probability distribution. I am looking for something faster and more mathematically grounded $\endgroup$ – Mobeus Zoom Apr 17 at 18:36
  • $\begingroup$ response: how is that a pseudo-random algorithm (as I asked), and how does it satisfy property (2)? (Assuming you meant A(90) rather than A(80), the number of A's will lie between 89 and 91 with probability 100% not 67%.) $\endgroup$ – Mobeus Zoom Apr 17 at 18:56
  • $\begingroup$ I agree that I haven't answered your question as asked. I'm just trying to suggest something similar that might work in the application you have for this algorithm. If you edit the question to tell us what it's for maybe we can help more. Perhaps there's a way to modify my suggestion to choose the number of $A, B, C$ to get the expected values you want and then randomize the order. $\endgroup$ – Ethan Bolker Apr 17 at 19:08
  • $\begingroup$ I'm afraid it's not "for" anything more or less than this: to simulate sequences of rolls where the number of $A$,$B$,$C$ lies within a narrower or broader range than that resulting from individual independent rolls (where the aggregate properties would be defined by the binomial distribution). That's to say, I want to be able to define something like 'the number of $A$ should be between 89 and 91 out of 100 with probability 80%' because, say, I do not want to see so many output sequences (of 100 rolls) where $A$ occurs far more or less than 90 times, as we would get with independent rolls. $\endgroup$ – Mobeus Zoom Apr 17 at 19:20

If you identify the exact distribution you want for the A, B, C tally over $100$ rolls, you can do a two-step procedure as follows:

  1. Make a random sample from the distribution of $100$-roll tallies; this is a triple $(a,b,c)$ with $a+b+c=100$ that tells us the number of each roll we get.
  2. For the next $100$ rolls, choose A with probability $\frac{a}{a+b+c}$, similarly for $b,c$. Then reduce the corresponding number in the triple by $1$.
  3. When the triple hits $(0,0,0)$, go back to step $1$.

This can satisfy both the conditions and additionally has the appealing feature that all rolls are identically distributed (but not independent).

Your conditions 1 and 2 don't specify the exact distribution we want. A very simple (but not very appealing) solution might be that the tally is uniformly chosen from the set $$\{(88,3,9), (89,2,9), (90,1,9), (90,3,7), (91,2,8), (92,1,7)\}.$$ You can check that this has the right expected values, and $89 \le a \le 91$ with probability $\frac23$.

I recommend going for more variety, subject to your requirements, so that you mitigate the "counting problem". With the above distribution, for example, you know that there's going to be between $1$ and $3$ B's. If you've gotten towards the end of the block of $100$ and you've already seen $3$ B's, you know that no more are coming until the next block.

This issue is not going to be eliminated completely no matter what you do: the only way not to gain information about future rolls from past rolls is to have the rolls be independent, and we know that doesn't produce the right distribution for $a$. But we can mitigate it by having more possibilities.

For example, you could select $13$ rolls by having A come up with probability $\frac{3}{13}$, B with probability $\frac{2}{13}$, and C with probability $\frac{8}{13}$. Then add $87$ rolls that are guaranteed to be A to the tally. (I choose $87$ and $13$ by playing around with some numbers; the probability that a $\textit{Binomial}(13, \frac3{13})$ is between $2$ and $4$ is approximately $67.8\%$, which is close to what you want.)

Here's some Mathematica code:

ABCTALLY = {0, 0, 0};

pickTally[] := {87, 0, 0} + RandomVariate[MultinomialDistribution[13, {3, 2, 8}/13]]

randomLetter[] := Module[{k},
  If[Total[ABCTALLY] == 0, ABCTALLY = pickTally[]];
  k = RandomChoice[ABCTALLY -> {1, 2, 3}];
  {"A", "B", "C"}[[k]]

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