Skill games rank among the most popular in terms of both games played at home for fun and online at top gambling websites. The distinguishing characteristic of a skill game is that your decisions will go a long way in determining whether you win or lose. That’s why a lot of people play skill games for real money, because they can control the action to some extent.
Many play social skill games at home that are based entirely on luck. You might enjoy the rush that comes with a lucky turn of events, but it can also be frustrating in that you have no real control over them.
Skill games rectify that by giving players a chance to distinguish themselves with smart, strategic decisions.
In the following skill games guide, we’ll explain what separates skill games from other games that you can play online or at home. We’ll also take you through some of the most popular skill games so that you can learn how to play them. Finally, we’ll give you some tips to improve while also answering some of your most-asked questions on the subject.
What Are Skill Games?
Although the name says it all, in some ways, you have to realize that the outcomes of some skill games can indeed be affected by luck. Think about a game like rummy, where drawing the right cards off the deck can help you clear all your cards faster than your opponents. Or you can refer to games like backgammon or Yahtzee, where dice rolls affect your chances of winning or losing.
But even in skill games where luck is involved, there are some strategic decisions you can make that improve your chances of winning. By contrast, making poor decisions will hurt your chances. When two players meet in a skill game, either at home or on an online gambling site, the more highly-skilled player will go in with a better chance of winning regardless of any lucky turns that might occur.
Some of the skill games that we’ll detail in the sections below will be more reliant on luck than others. Only one of them, chess, is entirely dependent on skill since players are in complete control of moving the pieces on the board in that game. In any case, skill games are synonymous with player control.
Different Types of Skill Games
The games of skill we are going to discuss in this article might sometimes be considered board games, although they are not to be confused with other board games like Monopoly or Risk, which have elaborate setups and are tied together around some theme.
The board games we’re discussing have been around for many years (in some cases, hundreds) and haven’t really changed much since they were first formulated. They are so popular that some of them have variations.
But they don’t quite cover the entirety of the skill games you can play online or in person. Take a look at some other categories that might be considered games of skill.
The gaming world has been booming pretty much nonstop from the late ‘70s when people first started playing Pong through to present day, where many video/arcade games are played on phones and other console systems. Your skill is based on your dexterity to press buttons (or tap the screen quickly).
A puzzle game can include anything where you’re using your mind to unlock the situation in front of you. Think of something like a Rubik’s Cube or Sudoku. Your intelligence will help, but skill also comes from experience playing these games.
The first thing that might come to mind when you’re thinking of word games is Scrabble, which is extremely popular as a board game and in online versions. But crossword puzzles also fit into the “word games” category. In any case, your ability to manipulate words to make them fit into predetermined spaces is what will help you with these skill games.
Think of Trivial Pursuit, which took off in the ‘80s when players tried to prove their mettle with little-known facts. Many people often take part in trivia contests in locations like bars, or you might find contests online as well. If you’re really good at it, you might even make it to the ultimate trivia test: television’s Jeopardy.
In fantasy sports, you are using your knowledge about the players in sports like baseball, football, and basketball in an effort to beat other players. There are season-long leagues, or you can play in Daily Fantasy Sports for a quicker result. In any case, the better the performance of the players that you pick, the better that you’ll do in this game.
We’ve included a few card games in this list. The basic gist is that you receive cards from a standard deck of 52; your skill in knowing how to play those cards in conjunction with the rules of the game will help you defeat other players. Many card games are played for money in casinos or at real money online casinos.
Most Popular Games of Skill
Yes, you can do more with dominoes than set them in a line and tip them over. Dominoes have been a popular game of skill game for hundreds of years. And you can play it informally, get into a game for money with acquaintances, or play the game online for money.
One of the things that distinguishes it is the sheer number of different ways that you can play it. But the basic gist is the same. You have a set of tiles with a specific number of pips on each side; you and your opponent (or opponents) take turns laying down those tiles.
The idea is that you must connect one domino to another. For example, if the tile on the table has an open side with three pips on it, you have to lay one down with three pips on it. If you can’t do that, you have to keep picking from the pile until you can play.
The process will continue until one player has no more dominoes in their pike. At that point, they would be declared the winner. In scoring games, the points would be determined by the value of the dominoes still in the hands of the other players.
The skill in dominoes comes in knowing to lay dominoes down and when to hold them in reserve. You also have to show recall to know which dominoes are being laid down by the other players, so you might be able to spot weaknesses in their hands. In that way, dominoes mirrors some of the card games that we’re going to be discussing in this article.
Check out our dominoes page for an in-depth look at the game.
Rummy stands out as one of the most popular card games for informal players at home. But it can also be played online for real money since there are different ways it can be scored. This is one of the online skill games that can be played in a variety of different formats, even as the basic format is usually in place.
In the most basic version of rummy, you have to get rid of all your cards before anybody else in the game. If you do, you earn points based on whatever the other players have remaining in their hands. It’s kind of like dominoes in that fashion.
Rummy allows you to either pick up an unknown card from the main pile or a card that you can see from the discard pile. You can then discard if you wish, but you can also lay cards on the table if they can be arranged in certain combinations. The two basic forms:
Runs: At least three cards consecutive in rank of the same suit, like six of hearts, seven of hearts, eight of hearts
Sets: At least three cards of the same number, like nine of diamonds, nine of hearts, nine of spades
As you lay these cards down, there will be fewer cards in your hand. You can also earn a bonus if you wait to lay down your entire hand all at once instead of in piecemeal fashion. This is known as a rummy.
Part of the skill in rummy is knowing when to pick up from the discard pile in order to improve your hand. You also have to know when to cut cards loose that you don’t think are going to help you. But you should try to be cognizant of what your opponents have discarded and laid down, since you don’t want to help them by putting down a card that gives them a run or a set.
As we mentioned, there are many different ways to play rummy. Some versions let you count up the cards that you lay down in sets or runs as points for you, while others allow you to end the hand with a “knock” before you’ve laid down all your cards. The luck of the draw will help, but a skilled rummy player can give themselves an excellent advantage.
If you really want to play a game of skill that’s been around a while, backgammon is the way to go. The classic battle between black and red pieces has been around by some estimates for 5,000 years or so. Because it is based on dice rolls, the possible variations of outcomes mean that no two backgammon games are ever really the same, which means that you’re not likely to tire of it.
The simplest way to look at backgammon is that you have to get your 15 pieces, or tiles, off the board before your opponent can do the same. Your pieces will be moved around the board based on your dice rolls. Double rolls are valuable because they let you move around much faster than any other roll.
The board is divided up into segments, with each player having a home board section that they’ll be trying to protect while simultaneously moving their pieces into their opponent’s home board. Once they get all of their pieces into the other player’s home board, they can then start taking them off the board. But this isn’t an easy process because you have to make sure your tiles aren’t left vulnerable.
When one of your tiles is on one of the 24 spaces on the board by itself, it can get knocked into the center of the board, or the bar, by one of your opponent’s tiles. When that occurs, you essentially have to start over with that tile, no matter how close you might have been to getting it off the board. But if you have more than one tile on a line, the opponent cannot land on that space with one of their tiles, which lets you play defense.
The push and pull of knowing when to protect your tiles and knowing when to take a chance and advance are a few reasons why backgammon takes such skill. Many experts in the game say that it’s an easy game to learn and a hard game to master. But there’s no doubt that your skill level, which you can advance by visiting our backgammon page, will help you out.
Here is another game that has been around since what has been the beginning of time. Chess always seems to be enjoying one renaissance after another in the culture, simply because the mental demands of the game make it a challenge that players love to try and conquer. As we said above, chess is the one game on this list where there is truly no luck involved because piece movements are predetermined and not sourced from dice rolls or drawn cards.
The goal of chess is to capture your opponent’s king. You do that by situating your pieces in such a way that the king of your opponent can’t make any move without being vulnerable to a move of one of your pieces. This is known as “checkmate,” and it ends the game.
Before you get to that point in this skill game, you’ll generally be trying to take your opponent’s other pieces off the board, which makes their king more vulnerable and removes threats to your king. There are several different pieces on a chessboard, and each one has their own special characteristics:
There are eight pawns on each side, and they generally move one space forward (or two if it is still in its starting point). Pawns can move diagonally if they are able to take another piece off the board. While pawns are technically the least useful pieces on the board, your strategy with them can really help you win.
Rooks are located in the corners of the board, and there are two on each side. You can move a rook any number of unoccupied spaces forward or horizontally across the board.
Each player has two knights, which move in a unique way. You can move the knights, which start off next to the rooks, two spaces horizontal and one space forward or back, or vice versa. Knights are also unique in that they can essentially go through other pieces when they are making these special moves.
The two bishops on each side are located next to the knights. They can move diagonally for as many occupied spaces are available. Like rooks, bishops have to either land on an unoccupied space or take one of the opponent’s pieces; they cannot move through your pieces on the board.
There is one queen on each side, located next to the knight on its own color (white queen on white space, black queen on black space). It has all the characteristics of the rook and the bishop put together. That’s why the queen is so valuable, as it’s usually a part of a checkmate scenario.
The king, which sits in between the queen and the bishop, can move one space in any direction. It can also take opponent’s pieces if given the opportunity. Players should try to protect their king.
When it’s all set up, it looks like this:
That’s basically how chess is played. Skill levels in chess vary from novices who are just learning the game to those who operate on a Grand Master level and play in top tournaments around the world. It’s hard to find a game that offers the kind of intellectual challenge that chess does, and you can learn more about it on our chess page.
Yahtzee is one of the newer games on our list of skill games, yet it has already grown in popularity in that time to really stand out. It’s a game based on dice rolls, which is where luck comes into play. But your skill in knowing when to use certain rolls for certain scores is what will ultimately help you become an expert at the game.
In Yahtzee, players roll five dice and try to make different combinations, which are somewhat akin to what you might find in poker. They get three rolls per round, keeping certain dice results that they like and rolling the ones that they don’t again. At the end of the round, the player fills in a certain space on the score sheet.
There are 13 spaces on the scoresheet, which coincides with the number of rounds of rolls you get in a Yahtzee game.
The upper section of the scoresheet is reserved for the dice values of one through six, as a player ideally will be able to get as many of each of those numbers in a round. Meanwhile, the lower section of the Yahtzee scoresheet are reserved for these specialty rolls:
Three of a kind: At least three dice out of the five with the same value
Four of a kind: At least four dice out of the five with the same value
Full house: Three dice with the same value, then two dice with the same value (though not the same as the value of the other three)
Small Straight: Four dice out of the five in numerical sequence, like 1-2-3-4, 2-3-4-5, or 3-4-5-6
Large Straight: All five dice in numerical sequence, like 1-2-3-4-5 or 2-3-4-5-6
Chance: This is a roll that can be taken at any time and is scored as the sum of the value of the five dice
Yahtzee: The ultimate roll, this is when all five dice are the same value
The key to winning at Yahtzee isn’t just about achieving the different rolls, although that’s part of it. It’s also about knowing when to use their rolls as part of your score, since the highest score at the end of the game wins. For instance, if you get three 6s in a roll, you have to decide if you’re going to use that in the 6s space or in the three of a kind space.
On top of that, you also have to know when to hold dice after your first and second roll. Part of that has to do with understanding the probabilities of certain rolls being made. And you also have to judge when it’s in your best interest to take a chance on a roll that might be difficult to make.
Yahtzee is a popular family game because it isn’t that hard to learn. But you’ll be able to find many gambling websites that offer it as a game for real money. If you really want to go in-depth with Yahtzee, we suggest you check out our page that tells you about the game.
Spades adds a little bit of a twist to the proceedings because it’s a game that can be played in teams. Two teams of two go at it in Spades. And there is often a betting element added to the proceedings.
The key with Spades isn’t always about getting the best cards. It’s also about knowing how many different rounds of play that you can win. You also have to be able to work in conjunction with your partner, following their lead.
Spades is somewhat unusual amongst skill-based card games in that it uses all 52 cards in the deck. Each of the four players gets 13 each on the deal. After that, bids are made based on how many tricks, which are rounds of Spades where each player lays down one of their cards, they will win, based on the following rules:
The highest-ranked spade laid down wins the trick.
If no spade is played in a trick, the highest-ranked card wins.
When individual players bid, the combined total of each team is used as the number that team will try to make. Players should try to win as many tricks as possible, as long as they’re realistic with their bid. If they are inaccurate with their bids, there are penalties leveled.
On top of that, Spades also allows players to try to lose all their tricks by bidding “nil,” meaning that they won’t win any of the 13 tricks. There is both a bonus for achieving this and a penalty for failing to do it once you’ve made that bid. The game continues for as many rounds as it takes for one team to reach a predetermined number of points.
Many people play this real money skill game with certain monetary amounts tied to each point. And you can also play spades online for money. It’s all about your chemistry with your teammate that will help you come up a winner when you play, and you can learn top strategy by checking out our Spades page.
You’ll sometimes see this game called “tunk,” but the basic gist of it is the same no matter the name. This is another game where you might find local rules that slightly change up the strategy. But the basic format remains a form of rummy that is played at a somewhat quicker pace.
How many cards you receive depends on which version of the game you’re playing. Play moves from one player to another in a similar fashion to rummy, with players either picking up from the stock pike or the discard pile, then discarding a card of their own. They can also meld, which is the term for showing the other players a set (cards of the same rank) or a run (cards of consecutive rank and the same suit).
Some versions of tonk require one player to completely empty their hand before the round ends. But there are other variations of the game where a player can “tonk” or “knock” before their hands are completely empty. Once this happens, the following will take place:
Players will count up the value of the cards left in their hands.
The player with the lowest value wins.
The points they win are based on what’s remaining in the other player’s hands.
There are also rules pertaining to when a player “hits” another player, which is the term for when a player adds something to the other player’s meld. That makes it strategically important to lay down the melds at the right time. If you hold on to them too long and someone else empties their hand or knocks, you could get hit with many losses.
Your skills in tonk will be similar to the ones displayed in rummy. Deciding what cards to discard and when it’s wise to pick up from the discard pile instead of the stock is key. And knowing what other players might have will help you decide how to proceed as well.
You’ll find versions of this game of skill that you can play online. And you can also play for fun at home. In either case, your skills will improve when you use our tonk page as a guide.
Most people have played some form of poker in their lifetime. It’s an extremely popular game in casinos and at online gambling sites, where groups of players can form a cash game or larger bodies of players can play in a tournament. And it’s one of the most popular home games, whether it’s played for small pots or just for fun.
There are two elements to poker. First of all, you’ll be trying to form the best possible poker hand. Rankings for poker hands are as follows:
Three of a kind
Straight (five cards of consecutive rank, like 3-4-5-6-7)
Flush (five cards of same suit)
Full house (three of a kind and two pair in the same hand)
Four of a kind
Straight flush (straight with five cards of same suit)
Royal flush (ten, jack, queen, king, and ace of the same suit)
The other key part of the action is the ability to outsmart other players with your betting techniques. You can win pots by bluffing, which is the term for making players bow out of hands with big bets even when you don’t have a great hand. And you can maximize your winnings on a great hand by convincing others to keep betting for as long as possible.
Poker can be broken down into many different variations of the game, with differences in the number of cards being dealt, the number of betting rounds, and other small distinguishing rules. But in general, there are three basic ways that the game can be played:
Stud: In Stud Poker, you have to live with the cards you’ve been dealt because you can’t exchange them in any way. The key with Stud is that you have to bet effectively to maximize the value of whatever hand you have. And you also have to know when it’s wise to fold to minimize your losses.
Draw: Draw Poker gives you the chance to improve your hand from the cards you’ve been dealt. You can discard cards and have them replaced by others from the deck. With Draw Poker, you need to know your probabilities of making winning combinations based on what you have and what you might be able to get from the deck.
Community Poker: In a community game, there will be certain cards that will be shared by everybody at the table. Texas Hold’em, the most popular form of modern poker games, is a community game. Players are dealt two hole cards of their own but share five community cards.
With each of these games, different skill sets come into play. Poker is one of the most difficult real money skill games for novices because of the difficulty of juggling so much information in a pressurized environment. Considering that the stakes for poker can get very high in a hurry, that only adds to the pressure.
Still, the rush (and the big payoff) for winning a large poker pot is hard to top. That’s why the game has been popular for so long, attracting high rollers and small-timers from all over the world. No matter your skill level, you can improve by visiting our poker page.
You should always try to be aware of everything going on in the game. Many of the real money skill games we mentioned have elements where the actions of other players affect your own strategy. Don’t get so caught up in your own action that you miss out on key aspects that can help you win.
Properly Manage Your Bankroll
Keep your betting at a level you can handle. You should also be especially careful in games where the stakes can arise suddenly or where a certain type of win earns you more (like a “Gammon” in backgammon). Unless you’re a true expert, you should keep your skill games betting at a level where it doesn’t get too far out of control.
Play the Odds
Whenever you’re dealing with a set of dice or a deck of cards, there will be probability math in place that will tell you what your chances are of pulling off whatever you’re trying to achieve. It’s not too hard to figure out some simple percentages beforehand that will help your decision-making.
Stick to Your Skill Level
That can be hard to determine at times, especially if you’re playing real money skill games online against strangers. But it will help you do better in the long run if you can identify the right kind of opponent, and it will keep you from getting too frustrated by constant losses.
Keep Your Composure
With the exception of chess, all of the other games are such where you can play at a high skill level and still lose because of a so-called “bad beat.” This is a term that refers to when you have extremely bad luck. Don’t change your strategy based on something that is extremely unlikely to happen again.
What Is the Difference Between Games of Skill and Games of Chance?
A game of chance is one where you have no control over the outcome. Examples of games of chance include lottery tickets, slot machines, and raffles. You will only win those games based on pure luck.
By contrast, games of skill give you some control over whether you win or lose. Granted, there are often elements of luck also included in skill games as well. But the main difference is that the player will make a difference over whether they win or lose by their actions during the game.
Can I Win Real Money Playing Skill Games?
You can win real money as long as you put some money at stake in the first place. If you’re playing in a home game, you can usually determine what the stakes will be beforehand. For example, in games where the outcome is determined by the score, you and your fellow players could decide on a certain number cents or dollars per point scored.
When you play at online gambling sites for real money, you’ll fund a gambling account. After that, you can then allot a certain amount of money for gameplay. That will be your bankroll and will allow you to win real money in return.
Are Real Money Online Skill Games Legal?
There are a lot of different legal questions in play when it comes to playing real money skill games online. You have to worry about the laws in your jurisdiction. And you also have to make sure that the game in question is indeed labeled a game of skill by that jurisdiction, since that could also have an effect on the legality.
But one way you can get past those questions is by betting at a legal gambling site that is located overseas. In these areas, there aren’t restrictions on online gambling. And since the burden of legality for online gambling is on those taking the bets and not the bettor, you can play games of skill for real money without worrying.
Where Can I Play Games of Skill Online?
We suggest that you choose one of our top online casino sites or you can try to play free online skill games. If you head to the page linked below, you’ll find a complete breakdown of our recommended online casinos where you can play skill games for real money.
These online casino sites have proven to be reliable and have established solid reputations in the online gambling world. And you can play at them with confidence, knowing that your personal and financial information will be protected. Plus, they’ll provide you with bonuses just for signing up to play.
Poker is one of those games that incorporates both skill and luck into its basic framework. On the one hand, it’s hard to win in poker without getting good hands. And that really comes down to the luck of which cards you are dealt and/or draw from the deck of 52.
But once you get those cards, you need to know what to do with them. You also need to know how to wager in a way that maximizes the value of the hand that you have. For that reason, poker is much more a game of skill than a game of luck.
Final Words on Skill Games
We hope you’ve enjoyed this overview of skill games and have a better handle on what they’re all about. Remember that you can play these games for fun if you want. But if you’re going to try them out for real money, we suggest that you learn as much about them as possible, which is where a thorough review of this page will come in handy.
The information found on Gamblingsites.org is for entertainment purposes only. It is a purely informational website that does not accept wagers of any kind. Although certain pages within Gamblingsites.org feature or promote other online websites where users are able to place wagers, we encourage all visitors to confirm the wagering and/or gambling regulations that are applicable in their local jurisdiction (as gambling laws may vary in different states, countries and provinces).
Gamblingsites.org uses affiliates links from some of the sportsbooks/casinos it promotes and reviews, and we may receive compensation from those particular sportsbooks/casinos in certain circumstances. Gamblingsites.org does not promote or endorse any form of wagering or gambling to users under the age of 18. If you believe you have a gambling problem, please visit BeGambleAware or GAMCARE for information and help.