Games of Chance vs Games of Skill

Games of Chance vs Games of Skill in Online and Land-Based Casinos

I can tell that there is some misunderstanding circling around about how to distinguish (in the right way) games of chance from games of skill in online casinos. So, in this article, I would like to cover:

  • Different approaches to criteria based on which we separate games of chance from games of skill.

  • Full list of games of chance, games of skill and semi games in online and land-based casinos, including why classification is different in online casinos.

  • Why such classification even exists (legal aspects).

Based on which criteria we distinguish casino games

I would say, there are three approaches to how to split up casino games whether they are games of chance or games of skill:

1) First and the most prevailing, when all casino games are considered to be games of chance if a player gambles against “the house” (a casino). All other games that do not fall into the first category, and where a player competes against other players, are deemed to be games of skill.

2) Another popular approach, when all casino games are considered to be games of skill if a player can introduce some strategy that allows to get an advantage, over casinos or other players (mostly players). The important distinction that strategy must produce an advantage. Otherwise, it would not make any sense to have it.

3) Some combination of both previous approaches. When you assess each game independently trying to understand where it belongs in its spirit rather than formal criteria. As for me personally, I prefer to use this one, as it allows much more flexibility, and it is cool to have it because some games can not be described purely as a game of chance or game of skill.

Before jumping into classification itself, I would like to notice that sometimes there is some difference between online and land-based versions of particular casino games. For example, Blackjack in land-based casinos can be deemed as a game of skill (if a player counts cards). But in online casinos, Blackjack is a pure game of chance because there is no room for card counting since there are no physical cards to count in online casinos, obviously.

Further in the article, I will emphasize whether I am talking about online or land-based versions of a particular casino game as they can belong to different groups.


Games of Chance

I consider being games of chance only those where a player gambles against a casino and there is no room for profitable strategies at the same time. To be more precise, I would call them Pure Games of Chance as this term better reflects their nature.

Let’s learn what they are:

  • Slots (Both Online and Land-Based). RNG decides whether you win or not, and there is no way to change it.

  • Roulette (Both Online and Land-Based) is clearly a game of chance as there are no strategies that can improve a player's chances to win.

  • Blackjack (Both Online and Land-Based) if a player does not bother himself with any strategies (neither basic nor cards counting).

  • Baccarat (Both Online and Land-Based).

  • Craps (Both Online and Land-Based). Some bets are better than others, but “the house always wins” is still true.

  • Scratch Cards (Both Online and Land-Based).

  • Keno (Both Online and Land-Based).

  • Bingo (Both Online and Land-Based).

  • Sic Bo (Both Online and Land-Based).

Some of these games have different RTP or House Edge for different kinds of bets. For instance, bet on Player (Punto) in Baccarat has House Edge 1.24% and RTP 98.76%, whereas a bet on Tie has House Edge 14.4% and RTP 85.6%. Many players use this knowledge for their best, avoiding clearly shitty bets, and some people would argue that this is an example of a strategy in place.

I cannot agree with them since, in my opinion, it takes more to be a strategy than simply avoiding a few unfavorable bets. A strategy must involve sophisticated moves and calculations so that not everybody can master it. Also, it’d better produce a profit in the long run.

Games of Skill

Poker comes to mind as a pure game of skill, and I am talking only when a player competes against other players, and it does not matter where the action takes place, online or offline. Please do not confuse traditional Poker with Video Poker, which you may come across in both land-based and online casinos.

In classic Poker, you can develop a super complicated strategy based on math and previous actions of your opponents (other players). And this strategy might make you money in the long run, since your contenders are other players like you, not a casino (a casino just takes its commission from each poker hand played which is called “rake”, so that it does not care who wins anymore).

Also, Blackjack can be considered as a game of skill if a player utilizes cards counting in the right way. Such a strategy makes Blackjack profitable for a casino player in the long run, and it requires many efforts. However, it can work only in land-based casinos since online casinos do not use physical decks of cards.

All casino games inevitably have some element of luck. Therefore, casino games of skill are different from what you can expect in other spheres. For example, Poker has some element of luck since cards are dealt randomly, and it is much less a game of skill than, let’s say, Chess, where there is no luck involved at all. Hence, there are no games of skill among casino games in its purest sense, but Poker and Blackjack (only when card counting takes place) are very close, I would say.

Games of Chance and Skill (Semi Games)

There are some casino games that do not belong to the previous two categories, because such games allow players to use beneficial strategies, but those strategies are rather limited since they cannot overcome the eternal rule that “the house always wins”.

For example, in Blackjack, you can use basic strategy, which does not make this game profitable for casino players, but it is still pretty beneficial because basic strategy allows us to lose less in the long run (just 0,5% instead of 1%). I hope, you have got an idea behind, and that being said, let’s list the games:

  • Blackjack (Both Online and Land-Based) when a player uses basic strategy.

  • Video Poker (Only Online version). Here RTP depends on how a player arranges his/her hand, but it is still negative.

  • Pai Gow Poker (Both Online and Land-Based). Similar to Video Poker, when a player can only lose less by introducing some strategy.

Legal aspects

The distinction between games of chance and games of skill is very important when it comes to the legal aspects of it. Some countries ban or allow casino games on their territories based on which category they belong to. As you may have guessed, governments around the world are more favorable towards games of skill as a rule of thumb. That’s how in some countries Roulette is banned, but, at the same time, Poker is welcome.

Also, there could be different tax regimes for casino games depending on whether they are games of skill or games of chance.


As you can see, the majority of casino games can be considered as games of chance which is a rather predictable thing to happen. Nevertheless, there is clearly some room for cunning strategies even when you take your chances against the house.

Also, please keep in mind that some casino games can belong to all three categories depending on which strategy a player has and whether the action takes place online or offline.