Skill-Based Slot Machines vs. Skill Games

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Skill Games vs Slots

Slot machines aren’t normally known for featuring skill-based play. However, certain types of games do require a degree of finesse.

Skill-based slot machines and “skill games” fall into this category. Your prowess affects your winnings with both types of gaming.

Of course, skill-based slots and skill games sound awfully similar to each other. Therefore, you may wonder what the differences are between them.

This page discusses how each kind of game varies from the other. You can use this information to decide if you like one style of gaming over the other.

What Is a Skill-Based Slot Machine?

A traditional slot machine is almost completely void of skill. The only strategy for these games involves looking for high return to player (RTP).

A slot with 97% payback, for example, will deliver more winnings in the long run than a game with 96% RTP. With an online slot, you can typically find these payout percentages in the info screen.

Unfortunately, land-based machines don’t display RTP. Even when you do know the payback, you aren’t guaranteed to win anything. Slots are so volatile that even a game with 99% RTP might not offer much money in the short run.

Unlike standard slots, skill-based machines give you the ability to influence the outcome to some degree. Their bonus rounds are fashioned after video games.

If you’re playing a Wild West slot, for example, you might shoot outlaws in the bonus. Assuming you’re playing a racing game, you’ll take a wheel of a racecar during the bonus.

Skill-based slots aren’t completely reliant on your abilities, though, and work like normal real money slots for the most part. The only difference is that the bonus requires a higher degree of skill than free spins.

What Is a Skill Game?

A skill game is similar to both skill-based and traditional slots in many respects. It’s like a regular slot in that it features spinning reels, paylines, and a high degree of chance.

It’s like a skill-based slot machine in that it requires some strategy. The strategy comes into effect in one or more ways.

For example, you might need to select winning combinations after they happen. This action differs from a normal slot, which automatically delivers payouts without you having to spot them.

Casino Games

In other cases, you might play a game during the bonus round. For instance, you could play a memory game, where pictures are briefly shown before they’re flipped over and concealed.

You can see the similarities and skill games and skill-based slots. However, the former doesn’t normally require as much prowess as skill-based machines.

Operators, such as convenient stores and bars, merely use the skill element to get around local laws. If they give you a small degree of control, then they’re not offering complete games of chance.

Key Differences Between Skill Games and Skill-Based Slots

By reading everything discussed above, you likely already see differences between skill games and skill-based machines. However, I’ll recap the main differences below and add more context to them.

Skill Based Slot Machines Are Strictly in Casinos

You won’t find a skill-based slot at a bar in the middle of nowhere. Instead, you’ll need to visit large casinos to play them—most often in Atlantic City or Las Vegas.

After all, these machines are only available in licensed brick and mortar casinos. You’ll find them located amidst rows of traditional slots.

The downside to this is that you may not live near any land-based casinos. If you’re in the mood for a trip, though, then you can play skill-based and regular slots.

Skill Games Are Everywhere

Skill games provide a way around local laws. A certain state or city may require a casino license to offer slots. They may even ban gambling in general.

In either case, bars and convenience stores don’t normally qualify for gaming licenses. They can, however, use skill gaming as a loophole.

Unlike regular slot machines, skill games aren’t based entirely on chance. They provide a level of control over results through different means.

Most commonly, you’ll have to manually select a winning combination to receive the payout. In other situations, you’ll need to complete a different skilled task.

A Skill Based Slot Identifies Wins for You

Some gamblers love slot machines because they don’t need to concentrate much while playing. All they have to do is spin the reels and wait for the results.

The machine will automatically find winning combos—if any—and deliver prizes accordingly. You don’t need to do any of the work in finding payouts yourself.

A Skill Game Forces You to Find Wins

Skill games are quite different in this regard. They commonly require you to identify winning paylines yourself, hence the skill element.

If you’re used to regular slots, you may not be thrilled with the extra work involved. Instead, you might like the fact that traditional slots automatically tally wins.

On the other hand, you may appreciate the different look that skill games provide. Hunting for winning combinations can be entertaining.

Skill Slot Machines Involve More Skill

If you don’t want to use gambling strategy, then you can simply choose a regular slot. You won’t need to do anything besides spin the reels and wait for the results in this case.

Assuming you want the ultimate skill-based experience, though, then you should definitely choose a skill-based game. The latter requires a higher degree of ability to earn winnings.

Slot Machines

If you’re bad at first-person shooter games, for instance, then you won’t earn much money from skill-based slots. Assuming you’re good at first-person shooters, though, you stand to win more credits than the average player

Of course, skill games also require some level of expertise. But the degree of talent needed doesn’t usually come close to reaching what’s required with skill-based machines.

Some Skill Games Have Pre-Reveal Functions

I’ve mentioned different types of skill games throughout this post. But one type that I haven’t covered so far involves slots with a pre-reveal function.

Popular in Florida, pre-reveal machines show whether you’ll win the next bet. Given that you already know if you’ll win or lose, pre-reveal games don’t constitute traditional gambling.

Of course, you don’t know how much you’ll win and if the payout will cover your spin cost. But you might still consider trying pre-reveal games for something new.

Traditional small machines, by contrast, never show what will happen in the future. Everything that happens with them is an unknown until the official results.

Is One Type of Game Better Than the Other?

You can see that skill games and skill-based slot machines have some obvious differences from one another. With skill games, you often need to figure out where winning combinations occur.

You may also have to use other forms of skill to win. Memory games in the bonus are popular with these types of machines.

Skill games cover larger geographical areas than skill-based slots. They’re commonly available in convenience stores, bars, taverns, and restaurants (in certain states). Meanwhile, skill-based machines are only found in casinos.

As for skill-based slots, they feature highly detailed bonus rounds. The latter play out much like video games rather than simple memory tasks or spotting winning combos.

Skill-based slot machines also reward talented players more so than skill games. If you’re good at a shooting bonus, then you’re going to win more money than the average player.

In summary, neither type of gaming is inherently better than the other. You just need to look at your own preferences to figure out what you like the best.


Skill-based and skill gaming sound similar to one another. In certain respects, they are quite similar.

Each form of gambling sees you spin reels in search of prizes. However, they’re also different in various ways, too.

Namely, a skill-based slot puts all of its skill into the bonus round. The better you are at the bonus, the more money you stand to win.

A skill game can feature skill in a variety of ways, including through the bonus and/or forcing you to locate winning combinations.

Depending upon your tastes, you might find that you enjoy one form of gaming over the other. I encourage you to try both types if you get a chance.

Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for since early 2016. ...

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