Sunday, January 15, 2012

Games of Skill & Chance

To me, poker is a perfect blend of skill and chance. And although I may not sing this song when my aces are cracked, chance is good. Chance makes the game accessible. A complete newbie has a chance to beat a seasoned pro in the short run. This is good for the newbie obviously, but also good for the pro as it draws in a new player to the game for him to teach the hard lessons.

What games can compare to the skill/luck ratio of poker? Well there are games like tic-tac-toe, checkers and chess on one end of the spectrum. These are all skill based and at varying levels of difficulty. The flaw in not involving chance is that each aforementioned game can be won with a predetermined best move in every situation. We all should know how to play tic-tac-toe to either a win or a draw by now. Checkers and chess are the same only at a much more complex level–as proven by computers ability to overcome the best of us.

The other side of the spectrum? Keno is devoid of skill and a good example of how chance can quickly go too far. (Despite what Bizarro Grundy might have to say.)

So if poker is a middle ground, what other games can compare? Well, there are other card games of course...bridge, canasta, gin rummy to name a few. I am not too experienced in most of these, but without the opportunity to bluff it takes away some of the psychological element that I love so much. Of course you can bluff in "BS," but that game lacks the gentlemanly quality.

Backgammon is a popular gateway game into poker. The introduction of dice bring chance to an otherwise skillful game. Stratego is another favorite of mine. It involves neither cards nor dice, but the mystery of the placement of your opponents pieces allow for lucky guesses at times. Man, I miss that game.

What else? Are there any other games that achieve the balance of skill and chance?


  1. Interesting you bring up backgammon. There are quite a few poker players who started out playing backgammon. Similarities? Possibly, you play the percentages in both games.

  2. When I start to learn poker, I'm gonna come back here and study your blog like a bible!

    I remember when you guys used to play in the bottom of FRC back in the day.. I think I might have played once but usually I was too busy?? anyways, I am NOT a poker player (yet).. so I liked the list of gateway games. Stratego used to be one of my favorite games! sending my spies in.. disabling bombs.. capturing that flag -> satisfaction. However, I've never made the jump to poker :( i miss more cards in my life and that's for sure. I think it's awesome yr helping people like me become better playas!

  3. One board game I particularly like is called the Settlers of Catan.  There is chance involved as you roll dice every turn.  Where you start on the board is part skill, but the person that places first also is determined by chance.  After all the chance is left behind though, there's a huge strategic element to be found: where and what to build first, trade or not to trade, etc.

    Similar to your comment about bluffing, there isn't really that much of it involved, but your resource cards are hidden from the other players and so are some of the cards you can purchase.  Since the purchasable cards may contain points towards victory, that is where some bluffing can come into play.

    It's quite fun and if you haven't tried it, I suggest you give it a try.


  4. Poker is by far the hardest and complex game from the rest of the skill-luck games. Personally I don't like backgammon for the same reason you posted. I am more inclined in giving rummy a chance, prob it will grow in the next years.


  5. rakeback...

    [...]Games of Skill & Chance |[...]...

  6. Wise words - perhaps you should pass it on to these boys... deep pockets, but not so well placed.


  7. I completely agree with this article. Poker isn't either clearly based on skill or clearly based on luck, it's a combination of the two. Understanding that it's a fusion of the two will ensure that you get the best out of yourself when playing!