Poisson approximation for non-backtracking random walks

Noga Alon, Eyal Lubetzky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Random walks on expander graphs were thoroughly studied, with the important motivation that, under some natural conditions, these walks mix quickly and provide an efficient method of sampling the vertices of a graph. The authors of [3] studied non-backtracking random walks on regular graphs, and showed that their mixing rate may be up to twice as fast as that of the simple random walk. As an application, they showed that the maximal number of visits to a vertex, made by a non-backtracking random walk of length n on a high-girth n-vertex regular expander, is typically (1+o(1)))log n/log log n, as in the case of the balls and bins experiment. They further asked whether one can establish the precise distribution of the visits such a walk makes. In this work, we answer the above question by combining a generalized form of Brun's sieve with some extensions of the ideas in [3]. Let Nt denote the number of vertices visited precisely t times by a non-backtracking random walk of length n on a regular n-vertex expander of fixed degree and girth g. We prove that if g = ω(1), then for any fixed t, Nt/n is typically 1/et! + o(1). Furthermore, if g = Ω(log log n), then Nt/n is typically 1+o(1)/et! niformly on all t ≤ (1 - o(1)) log n/log log n and 0 for all t ≥ (1 + o(1)) log n/log log n. In particular, we obtain the above result on the typical maximal number of visits to a single vertex, with an improved threshold window. The essence of the proof lies in showing that variables counting the number of visits to a set of sufficiently distant vertices are asymptotically independent Poisson variables.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)227-252
Number of pages26
JournalIsrael Journal of Mathematics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Mathematics


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