How do Games of Chance and Games of Skill Differ?

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Brian Christopher thinking

Brian Christopher often says that slots are not skill games, but instead games of chance. A player asks a helpful question for those who aren’t sure:

What is the difference between a “game of chance” and a “game of skill”?


Casino floors feature both games of chance and games of skill. Traditionally in the casino sense, games of skill feature elements that your own specific game decisions can have an impact on the overall outcome of a game.

Blackjack and video poker are great examples of this. Playing proper strategy, worked out by those savvy at math who can do the calculations, is how you guarantee the optimal payback percentage over time. Deviating from those strategies on hunches will, over time, yield worse results vs. optional strategy.

Games of chance, on the other hand, have no element that through proper strategy can yield an improvement in payout. Tradtional slot machines and roulette are two examples of games that work this way.

A few years back skill-based games attempted to make their way onto the casino floor. They took two forms – traditional slots with skill-based bonus games (such as Space Invaders or Pinball), or truly skill-based games, such as word games or card games.

Many of these attempts ultimately weren’t successful – the pandemic disrupted the development of many of these options. One company, Next Gaming, has been able to keep moving forward, with updated skill games showcased recently.

Part of the reason these terms have gained prominence in recent years is there’s a growing number of states where machines outside of casinos are being challenged legally as violating state law, but the companies are countering that they’re not games of chance, but games of skill. An example has been playing out in Virginia.

These slot-like games of skill are different in that they incorporate elements like nudging or where to place a wild to line up pays, saying knowing what to do on each spin is therefore a game of skill. Ultimately, whether the ability to nudge for a payout is still completely controlled by chance. Certainly this is the same for video poker, where you can play properly but ultimately the cards you need to win have to still come out of the deck.

So that’s really the determining factor – games of skill have some aspect that require knowledge and playing best practices to maximize your opportunity, where games of chance have no skill-based elements.

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