Casinos draw in a wide variety of patrons, from little old ladies looking to kill time at penny slot machines to middle-aged card counters hoping to fleece the house at the blackjack tables. While America may have been the original melting pot, the global superpower has been supplanted by gaming establishments willing to accept anyone with change in their pockets or access to an ATM card.

In fact, the famed Emma Lazarus sonnet “The New Colossus” could easily be reworked by these venues to include the line “Give me your well-rested, your middle-class, your huddled masses yearning to breathe in cigarette smoke.”

Goodbye Ellis Island, hello Las Vegas and Macau.

While all customers prefer to leave the casino with a surplus of money, their methods of play can often vary. Some enjoy the relaxed pace of pure games of chance, while others enjoy the opportunity to match their intellects against the house edge. For those who prefer the latter, games allowing for a certain amount of skill are often preferred.

As luck would have it, the pros and cons of skill-based casino games is our topic for today.

Casino Games of Skill

Before we talk about the positives and negatives and skill-based casino games, let’s look at a few examples of what I’m talking about.

  • Video Poker
  • Blackjack
  • Poker
  • Sports Betting

While luck still factors into the above games, the player is also provided with an opportunity to make decisions that greatly influence the outcome. This is directly contrasted by games of pure chance like slot machines and roulette, where the player is powerless to influence the overall results.

Pros of Skill Based Casino Games

Now that we’ve defined the difference between games of skill and chance, let’s look at some of the more positive aspects of the former:

Not Entirely Dependent on Luck – The main and most obvious advantage is that skill-based games allow the player to affect the outcome of the contest. This is usually accomplished by either memorizing a strategy chart or learning the mathematical odds for each option during gameplay. While those who favor games of chance leave their fate in the hands of Lady Luck, skill players become custodians of their own destiny.

Lowering the House Edge – By employing strategies that have been honed by other players over the decades, a gambler can often lower the house edge to a more manageable level. One of the most notable examples is video poker, where the right version of the game and adherence to the best possible strategy can even eliminate the house edge entirely and give the player a slight mathematical advantage.

Wins are More Satisfying – While the money won on a slot machine spends just the same, there’s something innately more satisfying about beating the odds through hard work instead of sheer luck. Card counters and video poker enthusiasts spend countless hours honing their skills, and the sense of pride they get when it all pays off is often as valuable as the payout.

Increasing Number of Options – For years, the games listed earlier in this article were the only options for players who wanted to rely on skill. That seems to be changing, however, as some casinos are starting to install new games that favor skill—especially reflexes and muscle memory–more than ever before.  This movement is currently being spearheaded by Atlantic City in an effort to bolster their faltering gaming economy.

Cons of Skill Based Casino Games

Despite some of their obvious advantages, skill-based games aren’t favored by all players. This section details some of the most popular reasons why.

Luck Still Plays a Role – No matter how much skill is applied to games such as poker or blackjack, the cards are still dealt at random. Some players view these options as being just as unpredictable as other casino options, so they prefer to save their time and energy and let fate run its course.

More Work for the Player – Taking the time to learn various forms of strategy and probability can seem like a full-time job to some. It’s true that card counters and other advantage players spend hundreds of hours honing their skills, both at home and in the casinos. Without committing the time to learn the best action in any situation, the player is once again dependent on luck to determine the outcome.

House Retains an Edge – With the exception of a few video poker games with the perfect paytable, all casino games provide the house with a built-in advantage over the player. This edge has been carefully calculated to generate a profit while not driving away customers, and it’s worked effectively ever since the first casino opened its doors. Since the house retains a consistent lead over the customer, many patrons have decided that study and practice doesn’t pay off in the long run when confronted with the cold reality of random chance.

Automated Help – Most people are essentially lazy, which is why an increasing number of casino games are being manufactured with built-in automated features to help customers who want to play skill games without first committing the proper strategy to memory. For example, the auto hold feature in some video poker games keeps the best cards for the players, preventing them from having to remember anything other than inserting money and pressing the deal button.  With these helpful functions in place, most customers may be just as prepared as those who put in hours of practice.


Now that you’re better informed about skill-based casino games pros and cons, you’ll be able to make an intelligent decision about which style of gambling best meets your needs and expectations as a player. If you’re interested in sitting back and enjoying the atmosphere without a great deal of stress, then games of pure chance may be the way to go. If, however, you prefer to shave the house edge and demonstrate your proficiency at mathematical analysis, then you may want to tackle the options requiring a degree of skill. The choice is up to you.

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