Gambling Skills

  • Gambling might be an entertainment expense and being successful simply means having fun. For others being a successful gambler may mean being able to gamble and break even. You might enjoy playing with a low house edge and collecting comps for free meals, rooms, and shows.
  • The Gambling Skill is part of the 100th update from Dreamscape! It's a new Custom skill that can't be leveled up by Lamps. The Gambling Skill also brought a lot of new and cool items with it, including a custom level 99 and level 120 Skillcape!

Games of Chance and Gambling – For over hundreds of years people gamble on loads of different games. Practically all of them are games of chance. This basically means that the result (outcome) of the game is not determined with applying skills but purely by chance. All regular casino games are mainly based on chance.

Gambling, by definition, involves risking something of value on an uncertainevent. This can be a roll of the dice, a turn of a playing card, or the outcomeof a sporting event.

In that respect, gambling always involves a certain degree of luck.

But when you start examining the role of probability and decision-making ingambling, you can see that skill becomes an important aspect of gambling, too.

In fact, if there were no skill involved in gambling, the casinos wouldn’t beable to make consistent profits.

So is gambling a skill or based on luck and random chance? This post examinesthe role of both skill and luck in various types of gambling.

Everyone knows that the winner of the World Series of Poker or the WorldPoker Tour wins because he outplayed the other rounders. In fact, everyone knowsthat poker is a game of skill.

But poker is also a game of chance.

What’s the difference?

Short-term versus long-term thinking is the difference between luck and skillwhen it comes to gambling of all kinds.

Let’s say you’re playing at a table with nine players, and you have pocketaces. In a no-limit hold’em game, you’d want to go all-in and hope that all theother players also went all-in.

You’ll win this hand only 1/3 of the time. Most of the time — 2/3 of thetime, in fact — the other players are going to draw out on you.

But look who’s going to win the most money in this situation.

Assume that every time you do this, you have $100 in front of you.


With nine players at the table, you’ll win $800 on three out of nineoccasions, or $2,400.

You’ll lose $100 on six of those hands, or $600.

That’s a profit of $1,800 over nine hands, or an average of $200 per hand.

Most situations in poker aren’t that cut and dried, but it’s a perfectillustration of how skilled play means you’ll profit in the long run.

But in the short term, some of the time — even most of the time — someoneelse will win.

It’s all about long-term expectation.

Casino Games Are an Example of the Casino Having More Skill Than the Player

All casino games pay out bets at odds lower than the odds of winning. Theclassic example is roulette, where you get paid off even-money on a red or blackbet.

If the probability of winning that bet were 50%, you’d break even in the longrun.

But the real probability of winning that bet is 47.37%. That’s because only18 of the 38 numbers on the wheel are red. (18 of them are black, too, but twoof them are green.)

All casino games have a gimmick that gives them this edge over the long run.

In the short run, say half an hour or an hour, it’s relatively easy to walkaway from a game like roulette as a winner.

Horse Race Gambling Skills

But if you keep playing long enough, eventually, thehouse edge will win out.

In this example, the skill doesn’t involve being good at predicting whichnumber will come up. THAT is a matter of pure chance or luck.

It also doesn’t involve changing the size of your bet based on what happenedon previous spins of the wheel.

And it doesn’t involve the casino having any means of controlling where theball lands.

The skill is simply in recognizing the mathematical inequity.

Games like roulette are strictly chance and luck-based, but they have along-term edge for the house.

You’ll often see gamblers or gambling experts quoted as saying that blackjackis the one game in the casino where a skilled player can get an edge over thehouse.

This is not entirely true.

If you play PERFECT blackjack, making the mathematically perfect move onevery single hand, you’ll reduce the house edge to a low percentage — less than1%.

But the house STILL has an edge.

In a low-volatility game like blackjack, a low house edge means that you havea closer to 50% probability of having a winning session than you would inhigher-volatility games or in games with a higher house edge.

That probability, though, is still less than 50%.

There’s an exception, though.

If you count cards in addition to playing with perfect basic strategy, youcan get an edge over the house.

Here’s the thing about that edge, though. It’s a long-term edge.

In the short run, even a skilled card counter can lose lots of money. And byshort run, I’m talking about a single session, several short sessions, or asingle casino trip.

The long run doesn’t really kick in until 1,000 hands, and even then, yourresults can be off by 1% or more in either direction.

To be confident that you’re looking at your actual long-term results, youneed to get in at least 10,000 bets.

Even if you’re playing heads-up against the dealer and getting in 200 handsper hour, you’re looking at 50 hours of play before you can be confident thatyour results are truly long-term.

If you’re playing at average tables, where you’re getting 50 to 100 hands perhour, you’re looking at between 100 and 200 hours of play.

What About Gambling on Your Own Performance?

Everyone knows that you canbet on sports,but it’s tough to pick winners the 53% or more of the time needed to generate aprofit.

But what if you’re the athlete?

Some people participate in darts tournaments, for example. If you’ve everplayed darts with someone who’s good at it, you’ll understand that it’s a gameof skill.

Improve Your Gambling Skills

But no one throws a bullseye every time he throws a dart, either.

The outcome is uncertain, especially if you’re dealing with someone of thesame skill level. Often, handicaps will be involved when playing darts in atournament.

This same line of thought applies to games like billiards and shuffleboard,or even in more sporty endeavors like touch football or soccer.

Yeah, you can shoot pool in a bar with someone for money, and yes, it’s agame of skill.

Some of the skills involved might be more involved than just putting theballs in the pockets, too. Some psychology might be involved.

Watch a couple of movies like The Hustler or The Color of Moneyto get a clearer idea of how that works.

Purely Random Games Like Slot Machines and the Lottery

You can gamble on some games where luck is the sole factor. Slot machines andthe lottery are both examples of these kinds of games.

When you play a slot machine, not only are you unable to use skill to improveyour probability, but you can’t even choose one game over another. Identicalslot machine games might be programmed with entirely different probabilities.

For example, you might play a game where you have a 1 in 2000 probability ofwinning the top jackpot of 1000 coins, but the identical machine right next toit might only give you a 1 in 2200 probability of winning that same amount.

Modern slot machines use a random number generator (RNG), which is a computerprogram that generates the results on gambling machines. This random numbergenerator can be set to provide whatever kind of payback percentage the gamedesigner and the casino prefer.

It’s entirely random, still, but the house gets an edge because of thediscrepancy between the payout odds and the odds of winning.

The lottery, on the other hand, is a game where you can calculate the odds ofwinning. In fact, if the jackpot gets big enough, you could be playing a gamewhere your mathematical expectation is positive.

With Mega Millions, for example, the odds of winning are based (at least inpart) on the number of tickets sold. If the jackpot gets between $220 millionand $260 million, you’re looking at a game with a break-even expected value.

The bigger the jackpot gets beyond that point, the higher the expected valuebecomes.

The problem is that the odds of winning are so small that expected valuebecomes irrelevant.

If you bought $150 million worth of tickets, you might have a 50% probabilityof winning the jackpot and showing a profit. But who really has that kind ofmoney to wager?

But if you wager just $1,000, you’re still looking at odds of winning thatare comparable to being struck by lightning.

That’s not skilled gambling.

That’s plain insanity.

I could list examples of the roles played by skill versus luck in the lotteryall day, but I know you’ve got to get back to work. And so do I.

I’ll leave you with this, though. Gambling is almost always a negativeexpectation bet, so you should never bet money you can’t afford to lose.

Even the most skilled gamblers are only pressing the smallest of edges, andthey can go broke even when the odds are in their favor.

I’ve recently been part of a discussion about rarely used skills in Star Wars campaigns. Gambling in particular seems like a skill that has little actual use for players and that is difficult for GMs to work into adventures in a meaningful way.

In this case, I think the burden of making the skill useful really does fall primarily to the player. You chose to invest points into the gambling skill, or to take gambler as your character archetype. Of course it is good form for the GM to be accommodating and make an effort to allow players to play to their characters’ strengths. But when you want to play a gambler, or any other character with a focus outside the typical adventure activities for the setting or genre, it falls to you to come up with an idea how it will be part of the campaign.

While I don’t have the slightest idea how to make use of basket weaving in an adventure campaign, I do see quite a number of options of how you can make gambling a meaningful part of a Star Wars campaign, and to some extend in RPGs in general.

When you think of the main purpose of gambling, making money is the obvious answer. But in a Star Wars game, money generally does not play a meaningful role, as all the equipment you really need is a blaster for every character and a small ship for the whole party, which you often get at a very early point of the campaign. It’s not a setting where characters are constantly upgrading their equipment with potato peelers +2 or you have a dozen types of increasingly protective and expensive suits of armor. Like in Sword & Sorcery fantasy, money appears as something much more abstract within the stories, really only mattering when the characters are faced with a massive debt or huge expense that will be impossible to cover unless they take on that one suspiciously well paying job or find the fabled treasure of legend. The need for large amounts of money is an adventure hook, an excuse to get the players to go to a place where the GM has something prepared for them. And in that case it’s in nobody’s interest to have some characters spend a whole session in a casino and play 50 rounds of cards. Which is why the amount of money you can make with gambling or picking pockets is usually trivially low.

My suggestion is forget about money. Don’t go gambling to get rich as a simpler (and boring) alternative to go on an adventure. What really makes gambling interesting from a story perspective are the debts that result from it. When you play a gambler, or any character with a high gambling skill, try to get into games with imperial officers and gang leaders and get them into debt. Because debt means leverage.

This is one of the cases where the GM has to be accommodating. The GM can always say that the NPC in question does not gamble, doesn’t play with the PCs, stops playing when the credits run out, or has the necessary money at hand to pay the debt. But I think when you approach the GM with a plan to try manipulating an NPC through gambling debts, most GMs will be quite happy to give you a chance in at least some situations. It doesn’t make sense for all NPCs and in all situations, but this is just the kind of creative problem solving that I always love to see from players, and which makes running games the most fun.

When you have an NPC in debt, you can have the leverage to either get information or a favor. Have the NPCs tell you about other people you are really after or about places you want to get into, or ask them to do small things that will greatly help you overcoming some obstacles for your big plan. Getting you access keys, disabling alarms, planting bugs, distracting guards, that kind of thing.

But as it says in the name, gambling is always a gamble, and there’s always a real chance that even a master gambler fails and ends up being the one losing a lot of money. Which ultimately can lead to the player ending up in deep debt to important and influential people. Which from a narrative perspective is awesome! We get to increase the tension for the current adventure and have the players facing even more obstacles than they did before, and they all know perfectly well that it’s purely the result of their own actions. These are the best kinds of consequences and a fantastic example of failing forward.

Another way in which gambling can be useful is simply as a cover while spying on NPCs or checking out places. When you’re sitting at a table loosing great amount of credits (or winning them), nobody is suspecting you to be in the place for other insidious reasons. Gambling is a nice way to get NPCs into conversations and to make them let their guard down by either separating them from their credits or making them enjoy a winning streak. The richest and most powerful people usually tend to play in places where the stakes are very high, and being very good at gambling is a classic trait of various villainous archetypes. You might be able to get a simple customs officer or low ranking gangster into a low stakes game in some cheap cantina, but when you want to go against crime bosses and moffs, you have to be able to play with the pros. Both in skill and the money you bring to the table. So as your gambling skill increases, you don’t just improve your chances of success, but also gain access to more influential and important people.

Online Gambling Skills

There doesn’t seem to be any obstacles in a typical adventure that your character can overcome by making a gambling check. And while it may look like a way to make some easy money at the side, like you can do with picking pockets and cracking safes, you really should think of it more as a skill to help you get access to information and objects that are not easily available otherwise. More than anything else, gambling is a social skill. When you approach it like this, the potential situations in which it can win the day broaden considerably.