Everything You Need to Know About Skill Games

Closeup of a Blackjack Game and a Chess Board

Casinos are full of games of chance, and most gamblers don’t see them as anything more than that. Unfortunately, they fail to realize that many of the games are made dramatically less advantageous for the house with a bit of skill.

I don’t have to tell you that you’re much better suited for winning anytime you can reduce the house edge or gain an advantage. Here’s everything you need to know about skill games.

Skill-Based Games In the Casino

Skill-based games come in a huge variety. However, the list of skill games you’ll find in a casino is much shorter.

Most people think of casino gambling as a proposition of pure luck. They either get lucky and win, or luck shines on another player, and they lose.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, casinos are full of games where the proper strategy and skill will lead you to a profit.

Games like chess, dominoes, or backgammon are obviously skill-based. Even an adequate chess player could quickly dominate a novice. Unless the casinos can figure out a way to monetize chess, your finely-tuned skills are useless in Las Vegas casinos. However, there are several opportunities to put in the work and walk away from the casino a winner.

Casino games like blackjack can drop the house edge to nearly 0% with the proper gameplan. Video poker actually provides a slight advantage to the player with enough skill and the right machine.

The most obvious games where skills are advantageous are sports betting and Texas Hold’Em. If a player becomes skilled enough at these disciplines, they can easily become millionaires.

Let’s take a closer look at the skill-based games you’ll find in the casino and how you can work that to your advantage. Ultimately, I want you to understand how developing skills at the proper games can lead to long-term success in the casino.

You Can Slash the House Edge in Blackjack

Blackjack is widely considered to be one of the best games in the casino. However, I’m not sure why most players understand why it’s so popular.

Blackjack stands out for two main reasons. While the reasons are very different, they really work hand in hand to make the skill-based game so amazing.

I see many casino gamblers head for the blackjack table because of its simplicity. The primary objective being to get as close to 21 as possible without going over.

You’re typically cozied up to the table with other players, which helps to keep things light and fun since you’re only competing against the dealer.

Caesars Palace Blackjack Game

Blackjack is easy to learn and moves at a pace that’s neither so fast that you’re hemorrhaging money nor so slow that you grow bored.

It’s also a very engaging game. You have multiple decisions to make on every hand; this is where the skill gets involved.

Three basic blackjack skills will cut the house’s edge drastically.

The first advantage gaining tactic is “hole Carding.” Hole carding occurs when you’re on a table with a particularly sloppy dealer and can catch a glimpse of their hole card or face down card.

Hole carding is rarely an option because most dealers will carefully guard against showing their hand. Still, from time to time, you’re able to gain a huge advantage.

The next skill that will take your chip stack to the next level is card counting. Card counting is somewhat stigmatized in the gambling world.

It’s important to note that card counting is perfectly legal, but you won’t want to be caught either. Card counting is a skill that almost anyone can learn and implement.

Short of blatant cheating, there aren’t many better ways to cut the house advantage.

The final and perhaps most beneficial skill is also the most commonly overlooked. The basic blackjack strategy will automatically reduce the house advantage to under 1%.

Basic strategy is completely legal, and you can even buy a small chart in the casino. Want to hear something crazy?

You can then use the said chart at the blackjack table.

The charts give you the best play with every possible hand versus the dealer’s up-card. Every casino blackjack player should be using the basic strategy on every single hand.

Gain the Edge With Video Poker

Real money video poker starts with one of the lowest house edges in the casino. It’s a shame that so many players completely skip video poker for slot machines.

Video poker plays much like a hand of five-card draw. You’re dealt five cards and are able to discard to a draw.

Unlike normal poker, where you’re facing an opponent, your payout is determined by the strength of the hand you assemble.

Much like blackjack, video poker has strategy charts to help you make the best play on every hand. Typically, the charts are categorized into a basic and advanced strategy.

Basic charts are phenomenal for beginners and provide an excellent foundation for advancing your video poker skills. Simultaneously, advanced charts are the perfect progression once you’ve established your understanding of the game.

Online Video Poker Game

You’ll come across several variations of video poker, and every game has its own best strategy. So, it helps if you pay very close attention to what machine you’re playing.

By employing the right strategy for the proper game, you can actually have the machines paying out over 100%. That absolutely ensures that you’ll have a long-term profit on these games.

Be careful not to stumble into the pitfall of breaking from the strategy chart. Playing every hand based on the chart may become monotonous.

Players often grow bored, despite being in the black, and will stray from the chart. When this happens, you can quickly see your wins be erased.

Bring the Bling With Baccarat

When it comes to simplicity on the casino floor, baccarat takes the lead. You’re going to see 1 of 3 possible results on every hand.

Either the banker wins, the player wins, or the hand is a tie.

The dealer does all of the work in baccarat. So, there’s no real work for the player other than what bet to place.

The “dealer” bet has the lower house edge but takes a 5% commission on winning bets. The “player” bet pays out 1:1. Even with the 5% commission, you’re better off in the long run with the dealer.

The “tie” bet pays 8:1, but it’s a sucker bet and should be ignored completely.

The casinos prominently post past hand results for players to examine. Don’t fool yourself into believing you can predict the next hand’s results based on any completed hands. Each hand is an independent result.

Baccarat carries a certain amount of secret agent/high roller ambiance to it, and has Baccarat has become more popular than ever. I suggest you fully embrace your inner Bond and give the casino a run.

Getting Good at Texas Holdem

Texas Holdem is by far the most obvious skill-based game in the casino. Players that have spent the time to hone their craft can dominate a table of weaker players.

One thing I love about playing Texas Holdem for real money is the skill aspect and how it affects every game on the planet.

Occasionally, a weaker player can catch a big hand and snatch a pot. Sometimes they’ll catch a card at precisely the right time and knock out a much stronger opponent.

This means that even the most highly skilled players on the planet have to play every hand with the same attention and focus.

However, with few exceptions, the more skilled players will walk away winners far more often.

The beautiful thing about Texas Holdem is that you don’t need to be one of the most skilled players on the planet to win. You only need to be one of the most highly skilled players at the table you’re on.

Closeup of a Texas Holdem Game

Even as a total poker noob, I was able to find myself in positions to win a decent amount of cash at the poker table.

I remember being invited to a cash game by a member of the country club I worked at during my freshman year of college. I was 18 and pretty intimidated by the men in their 30s-50s.

I made the poor choice to have a drink to loosen me up, and being a lightweight, I was quickly bust. Fortunately, the quick surrender of my cash earned me another invite.

I came back much more suited to play. I noticed that the first game was basically just a competition to keep your head straight the longest.

I folded plenty of decent hands and stuck to only drinking water. Within a couple of hours, I was winning almost every pot.

I became a regular at the game, and by my second semester, I was only working one day a week. The poker game was paying much better than the club.

My point is, look for games where you’ve got the edge. There are thousands of resources for expanding and improving your poker skill.

Take the time to become a master of the felt, and you’ll watch your gambling bankroll experience massive growth.


Obviously, I can’t cram everything you need to know about skill-based casino games into one article. However, by spotting the weaknesses and opportunities for these popular casino games, you’re going to see much better returns on your next casino trip.