Online Casino

How to Play Various Skill Based Gambling


Skill based gambling may seem too good to be true – but you may be surprised to learn that you’ve already been using skill in certain casino games! Find out all about what skill based gambling games are in this blog.

Skill Based Casino Games: An Introduction

Casinos have traditionally relied on games of pure chance, but a new genre of skill based gambling games is starting to emerge! These games incorporate elements of skill and strategy with the familiar house edge. While these games are yet to really take off (largely due to regulatory issues), there is clearly an appetite among some players for games that allow them to influence outcomes beyond simple luck.

Today, we’re going to look at skill based casino games; do they exist? Can you play them? Are they legal? Let’s find out!

What Are Skill Based Gambling Games?

Skill based casino games are those where a player’s decisions and abilities have an impact on the game’s outcome. While many casino games involve an element of chance, skill based games allow you to directly influence the outcome – and it usually implies that it’s possible to be better than others, allowing you to win more money than others.

For example, in poker you must decide which cards to hold or fold, when to bet, bluff, and figure out what your opponent is thinking, too. Blackjack also incorporates some skill elements, as you can choose to follow a mathematically-sound strategy – and count cards if you’re really smart.

However, it’s important to remember that any gambling game involves chance. Cards dealt are random, and even if you do everything “right” you can still lose. This post will answer the question of “what are skill based gambling games”, so let’s kick things off with a look at poker.

Mastering Poker: Skill vs Luck

Poker is widely considered to be the “purest” skill based casino game – and unlike the other skill based casino games we’ll talk about on this page, poker involves real strategy, decision-making, and the ability to read other players.

The basics of poker are simple – all players are dealt cards, betting occurs, and the player with the best five-card hand wins. But profiting at the table goes far beyond just the cards. You need to quickly analyze the strength of your hand, figure out how much to bet, correctly read your opponents’ bets and body language to gauge whether they’re bluffing or not, and do this consistently to stay in profit.

There’s also a lot of math and probability involved. You need to calculate pot odds and equity to determine if a call or fold is +EV (positive expected value). Balancing bluffs and value bets based on range analysis separates winning players from losers.

But, of course, poker is still not entirely skill based. The cards you’re dealt are random – sometimes you’ll get great hands and win, other times you’ll get nothing and lose. However, there’s a reason why the world’s best poker players win over and over again – and while luck is involved, in the long run, the better players will always come out on top.

If you fancy giving poker a try but don’t know where to begin, check out our curated list of the best online poker sites.

Blackjack: The Art of 21

At its core, blackjack is a game of mathematical odds and strategic decisions. By learning time-tested blackjack strategy, you can reduce the house edge and improve your odds.

There are two ways of bringing skill into blackjack. Firstly, there’s your standard decisions; each round, you must decide whether to hit, stand, double down, split pairs, or take insurance based on your cards and the dealer’s up card. Basic blackjack strategy provides mathematically optimal decisions for each scenario, so this isn’t the most difficult thing in the world.

Counting cards, though, can further shift the odds in the player’s favor – and this is where the skill elements can really hurt a casino. Card counting in blackjack involves tracking the ratio of high to low value cards that have already been dealt from the shoe.

By keeping a running count, you can determine when the remaining deck is “full” of tens, face cards, and aces (which favor you, the player) versus low cards like 2-6 (which favor the dealer). When the count is high, card counters increase their bets to capitalize on the increased odds. When used correctly, card counting can shift the odds from the house’s favor to the player’s favor.

However, it’s a skill that can take years to learn – longer to perfect – and casinos are very vigilant about it these days. While it’s not illegal to count cards, if you’re suspected of doing so, you may be asked to leave, the deck may be changed, or your maximum bet may be limited. It takes concentration, practice, and risk to yield rewards.

You also can’t count cards at US blackjack sites – or at any online casinos, at that. Card counting relies on physically tracking the cards that have been dealt from a shoe in real time. This is only possible at land-based casinos where players can see the cards being dealt.

Online blackjack uses random number generators to shuffle cards virtually after each hand, making it impossible to track the ratio of high to low cards remaining in the deck.

Skill Based Slot Machines

Slot machines have traditionally been games of pure chance and you should always be wary of anyone or any casino telling you they have slot machines with a “history” or that you can influence. However, skill based slot machines have started to creep into the online gambling world – although they remain very hard to find.

Skill based slot machines retain the familiar spinning reels and randomness of slot results. However, bonus rounds can sometimes incorporate skill based games requiring your input, and while this varies from game to game, this often includes aiming and shooting targets in a shootout scene. While some players will debate whether it’s truly random or not, there are some game developers that claim to be working on skill based slots like this.

The market is clearly there, too. Skill based slots appeal especially to millennials already accustomed to interactive video games. The machines blend slot machine suspense with the achievements of game play – and online casinos also benefit as they’re able to appeal to new demographics and encourage more time gaming on each machine.

However, most regulators don’t allow games of skill – so even if a casino wanted to offer a slot machine with a fully skill based bonus round, more often than not, they wouldn’t be allowed to. Whether this will change in the future remains to be seen. As of now, here are a few slots that claim to have skill based elements to them:

Dice Dice BabyBooming Games
Prized Pets GigabloxYggdrasil Gaming
Treasure ChaseCT Interactive
Zeus Wild ThunderSYNOT Games
Craps: Not Just Rolling the Dice

Craps may seem like a game of pure chance dictated by the roll of the dice – and OK, for the most part, it is. However, any skill based gambling games list should include it as there are technically ways you can influence the outcome of the game.

It all comes down to throwing the dice. With the right dice handling and a rolling technique (that can take years to learn) it’s possible for skilled shooters to consistently hit target numbers – although doing so consistently and without the casino cottoning on is incredibly tough. With that being said, dice control can sway probabilities ever so slightly, and that’s often enough.

So, while each roll continues, of course, to be random, advanced shooters can, in some situations, “shoot” their preferred numbers – letting them essentially take control of the game until the dealer or floor manager insists on a new shooter.

Other Skill Games to Try

Beyond the mainstream skill based casino games we’ve looked at like poker, blackjack, and craps, it is possible to find other games with at least some skill involved.

Baccarat, for example, can contain skill elements depending on how it’s played – although the main skill is frowned upon (although not illegal): edge sorting. Here, you try to gain an edge by keeping track of the cards that are left in the shoe by picking up on small imperfections on the cards.

While we struggle to call them skill games, games like Three-Card Poker and Casino Hold ’em do require you to make a decision on whether to continue your hand or not – although, most of the time, you simply refer to a basic strategy chart.

The games with the highest skill element, however, are non-casino games like backgammon and chess. While few casinos allow you to play these for real money, you can find some places where you can play against other players – although due to regulations you’ll struggle to find an online gambling establishment or land-based casino willing to host you.

Non-traditional games like backgammon and chess tournaments are even offered at certain casinos, highlighting pure skill based play.

Frequently Asked Questions

Even with skill based games, casino gambling always involves some degree of risk. If a casino game was risk-free, a casino simply wouldn’t be able to offer it; they’d go bankrupt in a matter of days. By now, however, you should have a better understanding of skill based betting and what it involves. To finish off, we’re going to answer some common FAQs below.

What are skill based casino games?

If you’re new to the world of skill based casino games you might be wondering what makes them different from luck-based games – and whether it’s really possible to play and win real money. Well, skill based games like poker and blackjack require a certain level of skill – and unlike slot machines where you pull a lever and hope for the best, you do have some control over the outcome – but there’s still a lot of luck involved, especially with blackjack.

How do skill based slot machines work?

While it depends entirely on the slot machine in question and the market they’re operating in, skill based slot machines generally bring the skill element into the mix during the bonus rounds. It’s new territory, and murky, legally – so more time is needed to see whether they actually catch on or not.

Is poker purely a game of skill?

Poker is often considered the “big daddy” of skill based games, but it’s not just about skill; there’s a fair amount of luck involved too. You need to be good at reading people, making decisions under pressure, and managing your bankroll – but, at the end of the day, if the poker gods aren’t on your side, you can be the best player in the world and still lose.

What makes blackjack a skill based game?

In blackjack, you’re not just relying on luck; you’re making decisions that affect the game’s outcome. You’ll need to understand basic odds and even some math to improve your chances. While you can’t put the odds in your favor, unless you count cards, you can reduce the house edge – sometimes to as little as 0.5%!

Are there other games that require skill?

Absolutely! If poker, blackjack, or slots aren’t your thing, there are plenty of other options that incorporate some skill elements – although remember, you’re not going to find a truly skill based game, with the possible exception of poker, depending on your definition.

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