Luck vs. Skill in Gambling

min read
A roulette table with casino chips.
BetMGM Feb 07, 2024, 6:52 AM

New to the world of gambling? Then, you’re probably still exploring the wealth of live and online casino games available and wondering about the difference between luck and skill. What’s the difference between luck- and skill-based casino games? Is there a way to positively influence your luck when playing games of chance? And is there a difference in luck versus skill when playing online instead of in a live casino setting?

Read on for answers to these questions and more.

What Is the Difference Between Luck and Skill in Gambling?

There are some key differences between luck and skill when it comes to gambling. Luck refers to random chance and events that are out of the gambler’s control. Games based purely on luck include roulette, slots, keno, and bingo. There is no strategy or skill involved — the outcome is entirely random.

Skill refers to a gambler’s ability to analyze information, make strategic decisions, and influence the outcome based on knowledge and experience. Games involving more skill include blackjack, poker, sports betting, and video poker. Skilled gamblers can improve their odds of winning over time.

Which Casino Games Are Based More on Skill than Luck?

Prefer skill-based gambling? The casino game with the highest element of skill is poker (it’s such an intense game that it can even help you enhance your skills away from the casino floor, including strategic thinking and risk assessment). Whether playing live or online poker, you can rely on strategy, calculated betting, bluffing, and reading opponents to give you an advantage and improve your winning odds.

But poker isn’t the only casino game requiring skill. Here are a few others where skill plays a role.

Blackjack

Using a basic strategy around when to hit, stand, split, and double down can reduce the house edge. Some seasoned players may also use advantage play techniques like memorizing card sequences and edge sorting to further shift the odds. Although these techniques can be tempting, they are frowned upon in most casinos and could land you a ban.

Video Poker

You’ll have an advantage in video poker if you understand optimal play strategies and can calculate odds.

Sports Betting

Researching teams and analyzing statistics and line movements require skill to make informed picks.

Craps

While dice rolls are random (unless you’re using dice setting and dice control to your benefit — which, again, is controversial), betting wisely based on percentages and making strategic plays on the odds can improve your craps outcome.

Baccarat

Basic strategies around banker/player bets and card counting can shift the odds slightly in your favor.

How Much Does Luck Contribute to Winning in Skill-Based Games?

There’s always an element of luck involved when playing casino games online or in person — in most cases, luck outweighs skill when it comes to determining a game’s outcome. For example, even though it’s the casino game demanding the most skill, experts agree that approximately 50% of a poker game’s outcome is determined by luck.

Is There Any Way To Influence or Increase Luck in Gambling?

No, there’s no way to influence your gambling luck. You’ll undoubtedly meet gamblers with their own superstitions and lucky charms (and you’ll probably have some of your own), but, at the end of the day, these don’t have any bearing on the outcomes of casino games, which are all entirely random in luck-based games like online slots and roulette.

But, just for fun, here’s a look at some of the most common gambling superstitions:

  • Blowing on dice before rolling.
  • Wearing a lucky item like a shirt or hat.
  • Carrying a lucky charm like a rabbit’s foot or clover.
  • Using the same slot machine every time.
  • Sitting in the same seat or on the same side of the table.

Another superstition is believing certain numbers are “hot” or “due.” This relies on the “gambler’s fallacy” — the mistaken belief that past events can influence future random outcomes. For example, believing a slot machine is “due” for a jackpot after many spins without one. Or that a roulette wheel will start landing on black after hitting red many times in a row.

In luck-based games, each spin, roll, or deal is an independent event. The odds are exactly the same regardless of past results. A common phrase is “the casino has no memory.” The house edge and payout odds remain fixed.

So, while such rituals may provide confidence, they can’t actually influence luck or change the underlying probabilities. No action you take can improve your mathematical odds in games of pure chance. Only by developing skills in games like blackjack or poker can you hope to increase your edge and expected return over time.

Are There Strategies To Minimize Losses in Luck-Based Games?

Yes, there certainly are ways to minimize losses.

First and foremost, you must set a bankroll for yourself — a certain amount of money you can afford to lose — and stick to it. Proper bankroll management is crucial to minimize your losses and know when to walk away.

Here are a few other tips:

  • Be wary of online casino games with progressive jackpots: games with huge jackpots often have less than attractive odds. When playing jackpot slots, always review the game’s volatility and return to player — or RTP — ratio.
  • Ignore betting systems: systems like the Martingale can’t overcome the house edge and often increase losses over time.
  • Focus on entertainment value: view gambling expenses as paying for entertainment rather than a chance to win money.
  • Review probability: understand the low odds of hitting jackpots or hot streaks to avoid unrealistic expectations.

Is There a Difference in Luck vs. Skill When Gambling Online Instead of at a Casino?

There are a few key differences between luck and skill when gambling online compared to at a physical casino. For purely luck-based games like slots, keno, or roulette, there’s no difference — luck dominates either environment.

For skill-based gambling, online play can alter some skill elements. For example, in online poker, you can’t read physical tells and body language. This can influence bluffing and strategy. In blackjack, memorizing the card sequences is more difficult online because of the faster pace of play. But the basic strategy remains the same.

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Actress Vanessa Hudgens flipping casino chips next to the text "The King of Casinos"
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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.