Games of skill vs. games of chance

September 24, 2020

The recent boom in the mobile gaming industry has resulted in a plethora of games and communities that entail a skillset and an element of chance. We take a lot at how much of a ‘skill’ does it take to be ‘lucky’.

What are they?

A game of ‘skill’ requires a player to have a degree of mental and physical expertise to succeed. A game of ‘chance’ however, is determined by a randomizing variable, rendering any requirement for a skill obsolete.

As these games have evolved in time, so have our understanding of them. The concept of ‘skill’ and ‘chance’ is not mutually exclusive; they exist in tandem. Every skill-based game has a degree of luck involved, and every luck-based game can be cracked by a esoteric group of people with statistical understanding beyond your average Joe.

The idea of how much ‘skill’ is involved in games of chances has been a matter of big debates across the world because of the different laws that looks at these games from different angles. The games of chances have evolved over time to include monetary reward to anyone who dares to venture, and the boom of mobile gaming industry has dropped access to a lot of these games in to virtually everyone. We look at two of the most famous gaming markets chuffing off the fumes of real-life sports – fantasy sports and betting.

Betting and Fantasy Sports

Betting is essentially customers taking a punt at a certain outcome in a match. While there’s a sense of gambling in making a calculated guess to favour an event, the odds for said events are determined by the bookies based off some intricate data-based performance analysts and players and teams with relation to their opposition. The stakes set by these odds mean sometimes (and very rarely) one can walk away with a lot of money from an investment of pocket change. Famously, a Leicester City fan Leigh Herbert pocketed over $26k when he betted in favour of his team winning the Premier League title in 2016 – a once in a century event.

Another market of chance-based games is fantasy sports – where a player creates a virtual (or fantasy) team of real-life players from any sport and competes with other players’ fantasy teams in a fantasy league. Reward points are allocated to players based on the points gained by the players in their respective teams off the back of their on-pitch performances.

Fantasy sports has quickly become a multi-billion-dollar industry, with people spending hours and even money on learning the trade of how to make it big in the world of ‘fantasy’. While the idea of making money by simply getting the right players in your teams is alluring, it’s not very practical. Studies show that only just over 1% of people engaging in fantasy leagues make significant profit – we’re talking a select few winning thousands off millions worth of entry fees paid by the rest 99%. The stats kill the ‘chance’ vibe of the game, don’t they? But the element of luck in fantasy sports have made them incredibly addictive, and mobile gaming has given them a platform to hold billions of users.

It is to be noted, however, that these games cannot operate unequivocally all over the world. Based on the manner a law of a country looks at them, these games are often altered to fit the legally acceptable description, or altogether banned.  

In the US, many states have legal requirements to define what is a game of skill and what is a game of chance. Therefore you would be escorted off the premises if you’re too mathematically astute to win in a game of poker in a casino in Vegas, because it is acknowledged as a game of chance in the state of Nevada.

Similarly, EU laws are relatively relaxed and allow both fantasy and betting markets to operate as long as they are pursuant to the freedoms stipulated under the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). Some betting companies like “Betway” and “Bet365” are official sponsors for many leading sporting clubs, with the caveat that they have to provide a disclaimer to their customer to “gamble responsibly”.

India is famously against all forms of betting, though informal betting markets still operate in small pools across the nation. Fantasy Sports, however, get the run of the mill, with companies like Dream11 enjoying a large pool customer. This is because the outcome of fantasy sports directly depends on the stats pool generated by real matches.


There is always some stroke of luck associated with skill-based games, and vice versa. After all, everything is a skill if done well enough, or a matter of chance if not. These games should be played in spirit of enjoyment and relief and shall not be allowed to take you down a rabbit hole you might not come out of. Remember – when fun stops, stop!

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