Heather Johnston is appointed Executive Director of the Information and Referral Center of Greater Montréal
Games of money and chance are entertaining activities on which people bet money or something of value and whose outcome depends partly or completely on chance. A gambler who enjoys games of chance exposes him/herself to the strong probability of losing all the money he/she has bet.
Games of money and chance distinguish themselves through the following criteria:
These games can also be played online, which can sometimes increase the risk of addiction.
Some of these games do not rely 100% on chance. For example, it is possible for a poker player to gain experience through practice and have a «certain» control over the outcome. Even if skill plays a significant part in this type of game, the outcome remains partly or entirely due to chance. With this in mind, games of money and chance are classified into three categories depending on the degree of unpredictability. Please note that games of pure skill such as pool or darts are excluded here since they have no elements related to chance. In fact, the outcome of games such as those solely relies on the player’s skill.
If you are a fan of games whose results are entirely unpredictable and uncontrollable, such as, lotteries, bingo, keno, roulette, slot machines or video lottery terminals1, you are exposing yourself to numerous financial losses, seeing as how the outcomes are completely dependant on chance and the probabilities are never in your favour. Your skills are not required here as these games are programmed to turn a profit for the company that owns them and often at the gambler’s expense.
In games of semi-skill, it is possible to compile information over time and develop certain skills. Among others, there is horseracing, sports betting and Blackjack. If you bet on races and sports, you can use the partial information you have, such as, past performances of a horse or sports team, to place your bet. Likewise, for Blackjack, you can count cards and compile that information while the cards are being dealt.
In this category, your skill can increase the possibility of winning. If you play the popular Texas Hold’em, you can compile partial and relevant information during the games. For example, by observing your opponent’s style of careful plays on certain occasions, you can profit from that knowledge. You can therefore acquire a real element of control over the game and hope for a subsequent win. However, in spite of that, the outcome will still depend on chance and how the hands were dealt.
No matter the category of games of money and chance, it is important to keep a few facts in mind:
In light of this information, the line between chance (good or bad luck) and strategy (skill) may seem thin to you. It bares repeating: even games of skill and semi-skill can lead to erroneous beliefs (Link to Erroneous Beliefs). The nature of chance in a game, whether it is unpredictability or the absence of control, plays a partial role in the outcome. Evidence shows that professional poker players are extremely rare and those that win consecutively in tournaments are practically non-existent. All games of money and chance carry risks and make you lose in the long run. It is better to see these games for what they really are: risky entertainment that are (at times extremely) costly and for some gamblers, they can lead to debts which can bring about their own share of negative consequences.
These games are also part of Category 1: Craps, Baccarat, sic bo, war, Wheel of Fortune, Caribbean poker, 3 card poker, Paï Gow poker and Grand Prix poker; these four poker games require the knowledge of basic strategy, but other than that, gamblers cannot develop skills by playing them.