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Chance or strategy?

Chance is unpredictable and uncontrollable. However, not all games of chance available to the public are totally unpredictable and uncontrollable. There are games of chance that require elements of skill on the part of the player. Other games make the player falsely believe that his knowledge and expertise of a game can increase his chances of winning. There are therefore three categories of games of chance.

The first category:  unpredictable and uncontrollable games

The first category requires no skill from the player and every game is unpredictable and uncontrollable. All its participants will therefore lose money in the long run. This first category of games includes lotteries, Bingo, Keno, roulette, slot machines and video lottery terminals.1

The second category: semi-skills games  

The second category requires semi-skill. Meaning, that in certain games it is possible to acquire knowledge over time, even become an expert, without expected returns in the long run. Semi-skill games include horse racing, sports betting and Blackjack. For horse racing and sports betting, the player will use the partial information at his disposal, such as, past performances of a horse or team when placing a bet. However, this strategy remains ineffective regarding long term expected returns. Likewise, the Blackjack card counter will consider the partial information he accumulates over time as cards are being dealt, but in the end, that information will be useless in getting rich from this game. Just like games from the first category, games of chance with semi-skill inevitably generate long term money loss.2

The third category : games using skills

Finally, the third category of games of chance enable the player to use skill to increase his long-term potential expected return. This category of games includes certain poker games like the popular Texas Hold'em. In this game, the player can accumulate partial and relevant information over time. For example, a poker player observing the conservative playing style of his opponent, can on certain occasions, profit from this knowledge even if the cards are dealt randomly or with an independence of turns. The player can therefore acquire a real measure of control in this game and thus hope for a long-term expected return, even if the chances of that happening are less than minimal.

But at the end of the day...

No matter which category of games, the randomness found in every game will always be unpredictable and uncontrollable. All games carry risks and, in the end, almost every player will lose money in the long-run. It is better to view these games for what they really are: entertainment with risk that carry long-term costs. Happy responsible gaming to everyone! 

1The following games are also a part of the first category: Craps, Baccarat, Sic Bo, War, 'Roue de fortune', Caribbean Stud, 3-Card Poker, Paï Gow Poker and Grand Prix Poker. These four Poker games require players to have knowledge of their basic strategy, but apart from that no player can acquire skill.

2For further information on this subject, you can read the book by Boutin, C. (2010). «Le jeu : chance ou stratégie? Choisir librement la place du jeu dans votre vie. Montréal : Éditions de l’Homme.»


Games played "against" the house‚Äč Games played against other players 

With return rate

With cover charge

1nd category 

Games of chance  
with no skill

2nd category 

Games of chance  
with semi-skill

3d category 

Games of chance  
with skill


Sports betting

Texas Hold’em


Horse racing on track

Various other Poker games


Black jack





Slot machines



Video Lottery Terminals
(such as videopoker)




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Montreal area

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Everywhere in Quebec