Real Money Skill Games

In the gambling niche, real money skill games (also known as
“cash games”) are games in which the outcomes are determined
by skill rather than by chance. In certain jurisdictions, this
distinction makes these games legal rather than illegal. Some
states and countries make a distinction between gambling on
a game of chance and gambling on a game of skill.

This page takes a look at what constitutes a game of skill versus
a game of chance. It lists and categorizes most of the major
games of skill that people play for cash online. It also provides a
broad overview of some of the larger companies on the Internet that provide these cash games.

If you’re interested in learning to play skill games, you might be interested in the following game guides we’ve written.

Games of Skill vs Games of Chance

It’s helpful to define terms from the beginning. Some games can be agreed upon as being games of pure
skill—the outcome of such games is determined by the player’s skill level. An example of a pure game of skill
might be chess or checkers. All of the decisions are made by opposing players, and neither game includes a
random element.

Some games can be agreed upon to be pure games of chance, too. An example of a pure game of chance
might be Candyland or the card game War. No amount of skill can help you succeed at either of those games.
All of the outcomes are determined completely at random.

Most games are a hybrid of both skill and chance.

Poker is a great example of a game that combines random chance with skill. Chance determines which cards
you’re dealt, but your decisions about how to play those cards determines your outcome. You can make all
the right decisions and still lose at poker, but in the long run, if you consistently make good decision, you’ll
be a winning poker player.

Fantasy sports are another example of a game which combines skill with luck. Knowledgeable players who
can identify value in salary cap draft leagues can achieve more success than players who just pick their
teams at random. But on any given Sunday (as the expression goes), anything can happen. In fact, you can
count on at least one major upset every week in the NFL. So an unskilled fantasy football player can win
individual matches against skilled fantasy football players.

In the world of online cash games, skill games are often divided into multiple categories. This page takes a
look at those categories and provides examples below.

Arcade Games

Arcade games are the kinds of games we used to put quarters in as kids in order to play. Examples include
pinball machines and most video games. The golden age of arcade games ended a couple of decades ago,
but those style games are still prevalent on the Internet, especially in the real money skill games market.

One example of an arcade style game that’s played for real money against opponents online is “Tetris Burst”,
which is based on classic Tetris. It’s played in much the same way, but it offers some new features called
“power-ups”. For example, you can get a “Mino Shower”, which is a power-up you can use to fill the Matrix
with Minos. It instantly clears all your completed lines. The Double Up feature allows you to double the points
you’re earning over a 15 second period.

Another example of this style game is Bejeweled.


Bejeweled is hugely popular as a free game, and can be played
online for real money too.

When Bejeweled is played as a real money version, you compete with other players to see who can achieve
the highest scores. This is done tournament style, with the highest scoring players getting a percentage of
the total prize pool.

These are just two of the better-known examples. Other unique games from a variety of providers include
such colorful titles as Big Money, Swap It, and Swipe Hype.

Card Games

One might think that all card games involve such a great degree of chance that it would be impossible to
classify any of them as games of pure skill. But that depends largely on how the games are played. Many sites
offer card game tournaments where players each play against the computer but are dealt the same hands.
Think about this as being similar to playing a duplicate bridge tournament.

For example, you might play a game of solitaire in a tournament style. You get points based on how quickly
you create your tableau and make your moves. Your opponent gets the same cards you do, so you both have
the same opportunity to score points.

We’ve also seen variations that combine popular gambling games like blackjack with a solitaire style play.
Catch 21 is one of the most popular of these. Spades is another game that’s played in this style. You’re dealt
a game of spades, and you play it out against 3 computerized opponents. Your score is compared to the
other players’ to determine who the winner is.

Other sites consider games of cards to be a game of skill even
when chance is clearly a part of the mix.

For example, most cardrooms online, including PokerStars, Party Poker, and Merge, would argue that their
games are predominantly skill-based, even though the laws regarding such games might disagree. Poker is
just the most prominent example, though. Spades is also considered a game of skill by many, even when
played in a traditional format instead of in the tournament format we described above. Rummy is another
popular example.

Game Shows

Game show-themed games dominate the casino floors at most land-based casinos. We can’t recall the last
time we stepped into a casino without hearing the Wheel of Fortune theme playing repeatedly because of the
slot machine based on that game show.

But in those cases, these game-show themed games are entirely chance-based. Online, you’ll often find
game-show based games that are predominantly skill-based.The skill games based on game shows that we
find ourselves returning to are versions of classic game shows like Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. Believe it
or not, you can play versions of these actual games online, for real money and prizes.

How does it work? Sites providing real money game shows games all operate a little differently, but the basic
premise is the same. You play a game against online opponents, then your score is translated into a point
system by the site hosting the game. You can exchange these points to purchase tickets for cash drawings,
so long as you are over the age of 18. Many of these sites also offer non-cash prizes for players under the
age of 18.

Playing a game show game at a real money skill game site is not the
same as gambling on a slot machine styled after a game show.

This is an important distinction to make. When you play a slot machine based on a game show, you’re
gambling for real money directly. When you play one of these games at a skill games site, you’re actually
playing the game. The goal is also different. In gambling games, you’re betting real money, hoping to win a
jackpot. With skill-based games, you’re hoping to win points toward the claiming of a future prize.

Word Games

Word games have been popular as long as the written word has existed. The use of anagrams and acrostics
goes back to ancient times. This proto-word game is still taught in schools, and though acrostics aren’t one
of the word games available for real cash bets that we cover on this page, it’s certainly evidence that human
beings have loved to play with words from time immemorial.

Many of the sites offering word games with cash prizes do so under tournament systems that would not be
unfamiliar to gamblers familiar with slot and poker tournaments. These sites host word games like Scrabble
and Boggle in tournament formats, where the prizes and overall outcomes are based on players’ actual skill
at the game. Under this format, players start by paying an entry fee. The winners will then be paid a
percentage of the total prize pool, based on a tournament rubric known to all players beforehand.

Word Games

Scrabble and Boggle are just two examples of popular words games
that can be played online for real money.

Still other sites pay prizes for word game performance by rewarding points or tokens based on your final
score. Over time, you accumulate enough points to exchange for tournament entry fees, raffle tickets, or
prizes as identified at the site or through the cashier department. These games are less like traditional
gambling than the tournament format described above, but they’re actually more popular. It’s tougher to win
prizes in a tournament, and by earning points at your own pace, you can play when and where you want.

Real Money Skill Game Sites

Excited to play skill games for money? The Internet is awash in sites offering a variety of games like the ones
described above that you can play in exchange for prizes, including cash rewards and jackpots.

We researched dozens of real money skill game sites. Below are ten of our favorites, as reviewed and
evaluated by our writers. The games aren’t listed in any particular order; we like number ten just as much as
number one. It’s safe to say that these represent a good chunk of the overall cash game market. Below, you’ll
find details on each site, such as the games they offer, their real money options, and some notes on their
user interface and other technical details.

1. World Winner

World Winner doesn’t have a huge list of available games, and we have some technical issues with the
site. Those things being said, we like the dynamic high score tracking, low entry fees, and variety of
reward styles available.

Games Offered

World Winner currently hosts just twenty-two games, broken up into the following categories: arcade
games, card games, game show games, strategy games, and word games. Some of the classics are
here – Wheel of Fortune, the Price is Right, Solitaire, Spades, and Tetris. Where World Winner falls behind
is in overall variety. Still, if you’re a fan of traditional skill games, your needs will be well met here.

Real Money Contests

World Winner offers the two standard formats for real money competition. You can pay a deposit of $10
and enter tournament-style competitions in any of their hosted games. Entry fees for these tourneys star
at $1. You can also compete at a slower pace, earning tokens to exchange for cash and prizes at a later

Design & Interface

Our biggest knock on the design of World Winner is the fact that you have to reload the title you’re playing
each time you start a new game. We understand why they do this – so that the dynamic high scores
feature is accurate. Still, it slows down our overall cash game experience, and we don’t miss that dynamic
scoring feature at other cash game sites that don’t offer it. We suggest they get rid of it in favor of faster
play, better graphics, and a revamped library of games.

2. Dice Arena

If you’re a fan of backgammon, you should bookmark DiceArena and give it some serious consideration.
We love DiceArena because it hosts instant-play backgammon, uses quality software that’s easy on the
eyes, and hosts players in either Fun or Real Money modes. Registration is a breeze, and while Dice
Arena isn’t overflowing with traffic, the competition should be enough to keep even veteran players

Games Offered

Backgammon, in both instant and download versions, is the only game hosted at Dice Arena.

Real Money Contests

You’ll find the list of real money games and tournaments taking place immediately upon entering the
gaming lobby. While there, you can choose to play a single game, a full match, or a tournament. All modes
are available for either Fun Money or Real Money. Tournaments are scheduled well in advance, and
require registration. They work similar to Sit & Go poker tournaments, with a wide variety of available

Design & Interface

Don’t expect too much in the way of fancy design. The site runs smoothly and quickly, in part because its
graphics can be a bit primitive. Some may find the design of the virtual game tables to be too cartoonish.
In an industry where realism is becoming the norm, Dice Arena’s choice to produce relatively-ugly graphics
is interesting. We imagine that the site admins put more emphasis on designing a quality game that
doesn’t require a download than designing something beautiful.

3. has among the smallest libraries of any of the cash game sites on this list. We don’t like for its mind-blowing library – instead, we like that it does one thing, and does it very well. offers all the latest social games, a unique type of skill game that’s taken hold mostly in
younger players.

Games Offered

The list of eighteen games available at is made up entirely of social games. If you’re not familiar
with these games, here’s a list of the most popular:

  • Farm Heroes

    a switching and matching game in which you try to stop an evil raccoon from eating your garden

  • Candy Crush

    a switching and matching puzzle game, starring candy and other sweet treats

  • Pet Rescue

    a puzzle game in which you rescue neighborhood pets from criminals and dog-catchers

  • Diamon Digger

    a matching game in which you play a miner digging for diamonds and other precious stones

  • Paradise Bay

    a trading and matching game in which you take over the administration of a tropical island

Real Money Contests

No tournaments are offered; instead, players earn points by playing against their friends. They can then
exchange these points for various prizes, including raffle tickets that hand out gift card and cash awards.

Design & Interface could use a makeover. The games look okay, and they function well, but the interface is just plain
ugly, and it’s difficult to navigate around the site with confidence.

4. Game Duell

Game Duell is a massive multi-platform cash and social game provider based in Germany. Though not
yet as well known in the US as it is in Europe, Game Duell is easily one of the top two or three providers
of these simple but addictive games. Besides a large game library, Game Duell can boast one of the
best-looking and best-performing interfaces in the industry, and a large active customer base. The site
claims more than 5,000,000 games are played every day by some 130 million members.

Games Offered

Available in two formats – cumulative and tournament-style. The site’s tournaments are “every man for
himself,” time-limited contests in which the goal is to score the highest point total. In cumulative play
points you earn for regular rounds of games accumulate over time, until you exchange them for contest
entry fees, cash, or other prizes.

Real Money Contests

No tournaments are offered; instead, players earn points by playing against their friends. They can then
exchange these points for various prizes, including raffle tickets that hand out gift card and cash awards.

Design & Interface

Put simply, Game Duell is attractive. It’s easy to navigate. Everything is where you expect it to be. The
graphics aren’t flashy, with tons of animations and purpose-built music. Instead, the operators of Game
Duell have created a games site that actually works the way you’d expect a games site to work.

5. Stargames

Stargames is a unique entry on this list, because it’s basically set up as an online casino, rather than a
traditional skill games venue. That means the majority of the games here are traditional online
gambling contests. Though the site does host a Skill Games category, the emphasis on gaming at
Stargames is the titles that would perform just as well on a casino floor.

Games Offered

Stargames breaks up its library into five categories: slot games, casino games, poker, bingo, and skill games.
Each category is stuffed with dozens of titles, ranging from classics like basic single-payline slots to more
complex modern titles like Royal Crown blackjack. All told, Stargames is home to 69 titles, all of which are
playable for real money as “skill games.”

Real Money Contests

Two ways to play for real money exist at Stargames – you can game the traditional way on table games,
slot machines, and bingo, or you can play in skill- and card-game tournaments, in which the prize pool is
made up of all entry fees divided by the number of winners. It’s a bit confusing, especially if you’re used to
skill games and not playing at casino titles. Still, we find the tournament-style games similar in many ways
to every other skill games site listed, so we don’t think you’ll have too much trouble adjusting.

Design & Interface

If you’ve spent any time gambling at casino websites, you’ll recognize the style of Stargames. It’s not the
prettiest site on this list, and it’s not the ugliest. The interface is about average for online casinos, too – it
can be difficult to navigate your way to the sections of the site you want to visit.

6. Spadester

If you’re as big into Spades as we are, you’ll absolutely love Spadester. When we visited last, some
3,500 players were actively playing or waiting for a game. Yes, you can play Spades for cash at
Spadester. The site has no real competition, though other cash game sites host Spades and Spades
variants, this is a site dedicated entirely to the game. The level of competition is better, and so are
your chances of winning big prizes.

Games Offered

Spades is the only game available at Spadester. They offer instant play, download games, Fun Money
tournaments and games, and Real Money tournaments and matches that reward prizes and even cash

Real Money Contests

The site offers three ways of playing Spades:

  • Play for Free

    You can participate in both Spades matches and Spades tournaments without spending a dime.

  • Play Matches for Prizes

    You can play individual matches to earn points, which can be redeemed for prizes.

  • Play Tournaments for Cash

    You can play in poker tourney-style events that reward cash prizes to a small percentage of entrants, with
    prizes varying based on the entry fee and number of players.

For the most part, the “prizes” you can exchange points for take the form of free entry into tournaments
and tickets into cash prize raffles, with amounts hovering between $25 and $500, depending on the cost
of the ticket and the overall odds.

Design & Interface

Spadester isn’t much to look at. The game itself (and the props, such as playing cards) are well-rendered,
and nothing about the design or the game animations makes the game harder to play or less entertaining.
But we get the feeling that the operators of the site spent very little on its design, and we’re not sure what
that says about their overall business practices. Be warned, we found more than the usual number of
customer complaints about payment issues online. Do your homework before you decide to sign up, and
test the site out with a small deposit first, just to be sure.

7. Play 65

Play65 is probably the best backgammon gaming site online. The site has thousands of active players
from all over the world, and offers both Fun Money and Real Money action. The site is well-designed,
so you’ll rarely experience lag or glitching. The tournament schedule is regularly-updated and lively.
Games take place around the clock. Basically, Play65’s operators took the best of the online casino
industry and applied it to this addictive skill game.

Games Offered

The only game available at Play65 is backgammon, though you can play it in a few different forms. You can
play for real money, or just for fun. You can play single games, longer matches, or tournaments. Instant
backgammon AND downloadable backgammon are both available, with the download game available at
no cost.

Real Money Contests

The standout feature of the site is its varied tournament schedule. Play65 is home to a variety of
tournament styles: Sit & Go, Event, Satellite, Knockout, and Swing tourneys are a regular feature of every
calendar week. Each of these tourney styles involves a different setup, slightly different rules, and a unique
payout system to determine and reward winners.Tournaments aren’t the only way to win at Play65. When
you play any non-tournament game or match, you can earn points. These points can be exchanged for
prizes, raffle tickets, tourney entry fees, and other goodies.

Design & Interface

The site is plain-looking, and we’re not crazy about the ultra-light color scheme. It’s hard to read a pale blue
font against a bare white background, and that no doubt contributed to our larger issues with navigating
our way around the site. But we have to give the site credit for having responsive games that look great
and allow for legitimate backgammon play, instantly or via download, 24 hours a day, around the world.

8. Casinorip

Casinorip provides online casino and skill games to a global audience. Casinorip is one of the few sites
on this list of ours that hosts both cash games, as described in the early part of this page, and
traditional games of chance and skill used for gambling. As such, Casinorip may not be legal in some
parts of the world where the other skill game-only sites on this list are.

Games Offered

Casinorip’s collection of games includes: slots, table games, lotto games, board games, and skill games. The
only games of interest to us are those board games and skill games. These are fully-functional versions of
classic games like Monopoly and Uno, but designed to reward a player with tokens, which players can
exchange for goodies like merchandise and tickets to cash raffles. Casinorip doesn’t offer any skill or board
game tournaments, only the play-for-points system. It appears, from reading reviews, like most members
of the site use the skill games to build up their bankroll for the site’s traditional gambling games.

Real Money Contests

Sorry, tournament fans, the only way to play skill games for real money at Casinorip is by earning points
based on your score.

Design & Interface

Casinorip is designed to appeal mainly to online gamblers. That makes it one of the better-looking and
better-designed sites on this list. Everything is intuitive, the menus are really useful, and the site is easy on
the eyes, with a dark color scheme punctuated by light fonts and flashes of gold and silver.


Unique on this list, BETandRACE is a virtual racing game in which player skill can lead to actual cash
prizes. The game replicates real tracks in real cities, with landmarks, authentic cars, real driver
opponents, and (naturally) the ability to make real wagers with real cash.

Games Offered

The only game hosted here is street racing. But there’s a unique training mechanism by which you can
improve your in-game stats as you improve your driving skill.

Real Money Contests

The site offers a “Play Money” mode, in which you race against three other real opponents to increase your
stats. In the “Real Money” mode, you can race against up to seven opponents, though you must be
over 18, and you can only wager within a limited set of stakes.

Design & Interface

The game is just gorgeous, replicating the experience of street racing in a dozen world cities as perfectly
as you could expect from an online game. The realistic environment is backed up by a solid wagering
system that doesn’t allow for outrageous wagering or collusion. We like everything about BETandRACE,
even though racing cars is normally a bit outside our wheelhouse.

10. Kickback

Our final entrant is another unique site – one that pays users cash prizes and bonuses as they play the
video games they know and love. Kickback isn’t a site – it’s more like a skin that players add to their
existing game format, integrating with the game to match opponents, prevent cheating, and create a
deposit and withdrawal system.

Games Offered

Right now, just two games are hosted – Minecraft and Counter-Strike. These are massively-popular games,
and the site has done well for itself with just these two offerings. Now that Y Combinator has come out in
support of Kickback (in a big way), we expect them to expand their library to include even more traditional
video game favorites.

Real Money Contests

Users are matched up (player-vs.-player style) and rewarded points based on in-game performance. In the
case of Minecraft, points are awarded according to a specific rubric and fan voting. IN the case of
Counter-Strike, it’s all about the player-vs.-player kills. Most stakes are really low, as are the prizes, typically
around $5.

Design & Interface

We love that Kickback is partnered with PayPal, and operates fully legally in the US and Canada, two
countries where playing anything online for real money is often difficult. But we also love the seamless
way Kickback integrates with these video games, creating a whole new way to interact with games millions
of people already love and obsess over. We wish Kickback would do more with the “Play for Fun” feature,
instead of focusing pretty much exclusively on the “Pay for Play” real money feature, but maybe that will
come with time.


Cash games pay real money rewards in exchange for player skill, rather than the luck of the draw. These are
legal games in most parts of the world, even those where online gambling is outright illegal. Though we often
lump skill games in with games of chance, for purposes of brevity and simplicity, it’s important to understand
the distinctions between them, especially if you’re new to online play.

The future of skill-based games looks bright. As the world goes fully-mobile, the cash game industry is ready
to respond, producing beautiful smart phone- and tablet-friendly titles that offer the same functionality as
the Web-based games of a few years ago. As long as the legal landscape remains steady, in the face of
opposition to things like daily fantasy sports, people all over the world should continue to have access to cash
skill games for years to come.