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One of my favorite ways to learn about a new subject is to look at the various subdivisions of that subject. For example, I’m writing a blog about gambling, so that leads me to wonder what the different types of gambling games are. If I were writing a blog about literature, I might look at how literature experts categorize that subject.
I’ll start by offering a definition of “gambling”, and I’ll follow that with a definition of “game”:
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My favorite online dictionary, Merriam Webster, says that the word “gamble” has 2 definitions:
- To play a game for money or property
- To bet on an uncertain outcome
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I saw an interesting discussion in the Wikipedia article about poker that relates to this, in fact. A well-meaning editor had removed the phrase “gambling game” from the page’s lede, claiming that poker was a game of skill, not chance, and therefore it wasn’t a gambling game.
But according to the definition from Merriam Webster, poker qualifies for sure. After all, you’re playing a game for money. And the outcome of an individual hand in poker is uncertain, even when the odds are in your favor.
The legal definition of gambling might be another matter. USLegal.com has a page about the legal definition of gambling, and it’s also illuminating:
The legal definition agrees that risking money on an uncertain outcome is gambling, but it seems to make an exception for something that’s not under a person’s control or influence. This leads me to believe that a bet on a sporting contest that you’re involved in wouldn’t constitute gambling–at least not in a legal sense. Playing a game of billiards, darts, or golf (just to name 3 examples) for $20 with your drinking buddy wouldn’t count.
That site also specifies that buying securities or commodities doesn’t constitute gambling, even though the future price of those securities or commodities might be uncertain. In fact, anything that would qualify as a “bona fide business transaction” would be considered “not gambling.”
That seems to be a reasonably complete coverage of the definition of the word gambling, at least for this post’s purpose.
Now what’s a game?
Merriam-Webster’s definition of “game” is lengthier than its definition of “gambling.” The main definition is simple enough, though:
A game is any activity you’re participating in for purposes of fun or diversion. The concept of competition is mentioned in one of the other definitions, too.
In fact, “poker and other gambling games” is the 1st example of the word used in a sentence in that definition.
The Wikipedia defines a game as a “structured form of play.” The page goes on to list some key components of an activity that constitutes a game:
I think most of these components apply to almost any gambling activity you can think of.
What’s your goal playing a slot machine?
You try to get certain symbols lined up on a pay line.
Blackjack has specific rules about what values the playing cards have.
The challenge in any gambling game is to win more money than you lose.
And you’re interacting with someone or something every time you place a bet.
How Do You Categorize Gambling Games, Then?
I’m a simple man. I use simple strategies to find the information I want. To find categories of gambling games, I started with a Google search.
And one of the first pages I found included a great set of broad categories for gambling games:
- Pure chance games
- Mostly chance games
- Mostly skill games
1- Games of Pure Chance
Gambling games consisting of pure chance include keno and roulette. No amount of skill gives you influence over the results of a keno draw or a spin of the roulette wheel.
2- Games of Mostly Chance
Craps is a game that’s mostly about chance. You need some skill at choosing the right bets, though. The odds change dramatically from the basics bets to the proposition bets. And some players believe in dice setting or dice control.
3- Games of Mostly Skill
Blackjack and poker are games of mostly skill. How you play your cards have a big role in determining your outcome. Card counters get an edge against the house. Skilled poker players also operate with a mathematical advantage.
But that’s not the only way to categorize gambling games.
The California Council of Problem Gambling lists the following types of gambling games:
- Casino card games
- Other card games
- Dice games
- Electronic games
- Sports betting
- Pitching quarters
- Lottery games
- Games of skill
- Cultural games
I disagree with some of their categorizations, but here are some insights into each category:
4- Casino Card Games
Casino card games include games like blackjack and Texas holdem. I wouldn’t include traditional poker as as casino-style game, though. Poker games played against other players are dramatically different from games played in the casino proper.
In a real poker game, you’re competing with the other players for money. In a casino card game, you’re competing with the house for money. If you lose a hand of blackjack, the casino wins your money. If you lose a hand of poker, the other player at the table wins your money.
The house does bank some poker games, though. Caribbean Stud, for example, is a game you play in a casino versus the dealer. The actions of the other players at the table have no effect on your outcome.
5- Other Card Games
The California Council on Problem Gambling’s page lists some of the following card games as examples of “other” card games:
I’d agree with their categorization, but I’d include all poker games played against other players in this category instead of the “casino card games” category.
6- Dice Games
Any gambling game using dice to determine outcomes qualifies. Craps is the obvious example. Sic Bo is another, less well-known example. You could even gamble on Yahtzee if you wanted to.
7- Electronic Games
The site lists the following games as examples:
- Online keno
- Internet poker
- Web-based slots
It seems as if the California problem gambling site considers any game played on the internet to be an “electronic gambling game,” and I get that. I’d probably include slot machines and video poker games played in brick and mortar casinos, though. That would also include the less common games, video blackjack and video roulette.
8- Sports Betting
This is where you bet on the outcome of a sporting event that you’re not participating in. Place a bet on a baseball or football game, and you’re a sports bettor.
Sports betting is one of the more legally suspect gambling activities on this list. The Wire Act is a federal law that prohibits the running of a sports betting operation over the phone. For purposes of the law, this includes placing bets over the internet.
But the law only applies to the party taking the action. Placing the bet isn’t a crime. Taking the bet is.
Companies (or individuals) who take sports bets as a business are called “sports books.” They’re also sometimes just called “books” or “bookies.”
You can bet on sports with multiple offshore companies, even if you live in the United States. The companies accepting those bets can get in a lot of trouble if they get caught. You’re pretty safe, legally, though.
Betting on sports can be one of the most profitable betting games for the skilled bettor.
9- Pitching Quarters
They don’t have to be quarters. In fact, the Wikipedia article calls it “pitching pennies.” The concept is the same, though:
You throw a coin at the wall. So do your competitors. The person whose coin lands closest to the wall wins the coins.
It’s an ancient game. I’ve never thought of it when I wrote about lists of gambling games before, though.
I doubt there’s a lot of action in the quarter pitching market segment anymore. I do remember seeing The Purple Rose of Cairo, and Danny Aiello’s character was pitching pennies in that movie.
10- Lottery Games
Lotteries have become ubiquitous in the United States. I think only 2 or 3 states have no lottery at the time of this writing.
Even when lotteries weren’t commonplace, private individuals ran lottery style games. These are the gangsters you hear about in the movies who are “running numbers.”
A number running game might work like this:
You pick 3 numbers between 0 and 9. The next day, the last 3 digits of the Dow Jones Industrial Average determine the winner. The individual running the numbers keeps a cut, of course.
But probably not as big a cut as the states who are running the lotteries keep. The mathematical expectation for these games is 50 cents on the dollar.
If you started with $1 million, bought a million lottery tickets with the money, and kept reinvesting your winnings, you’d go broke much faster than you think:
- $1 million
You’d go broke in 3 weeks.
My best advice about gambling?
Skip the lottery altogether–even the seemingly-harmless scratch-off tickets.
I don’t usually think of a raffle as a gambling game. But I guess it qualifies.
A raffle is when an organization wants to raise some money for some purpose. They offer some kind of prize, and they sell tickets for a drawing to win that prize.
Raffles resemble lotteries, but they’re privately held. Depending where you live, a raffle might be illegal.
Bingo resembles keno, lottery, and raffle games. The difference is the shape and makeup of the card. In the United States, a bingo card is a 5X5 grid. The word “BINGO” is printed across the top. The numbers are in the 25 squares.
Depending on the game, you win money based on getting a straight line or some other shape.
Bingo is the most socially accepted type of gambling in the world. Churches often host bingo games on a regular basis. People play bingo in elementary schools and nursing homes, although the prizes might not be cash.
But bingo isn’t legal in every jurisdiction, either.
13- Games of Skill
I discussed this category earlier. These are personal games of skill, like darts or billiards. I played in a weekly shuffleboard tournament at my local bar for 10 years. You paid $10 to play. You drew your partner at random.
The winners got the prize pool, and 2nd place got to play in the next week’s tournament free.
And if you don’t think shuffleboard is a game of skill, let me tell you this:
I didn’t win a tournament, no matter how strong a partner I had, for the 1st 9 years I participated.
14- Cultural Games
The California site mentions Native American stick games and Mahjong as examples. I know that in some Middle Eastern countries, it’s common to bet on kite fighting. Participants create kites with blades on them and try to take out their opponents’ kites.
This is an odd category. It seems like all gambling games are cultural games for someone.
These are just examples of the types of gambling games you might consider playing. I used 2 different websites’ opinions about how they should be categorized. But I had problems with both their categorization schemes.
I could create lists of games where your decisions matter versus games where your decisions don’t matter. I could also list games that use spinning wheels, like roulette or Wheel of Fortune. (Don’t confuse that 2nd one with the popular TV game show.)
I’ve done some work on a previous post that hopes to eventually be the most complete list of casino games on the internet. I’ll probably return to that post soon to update it. I doubt it will ever be finished, though. Gambling game creators are hard at work looking for new and exciting ways to separate you from your money all the time.
Casino dice games are popular with gamblers all over the globe. The 6-sided cube dice we use today were born in China roughly 2600 years ago. Back then, dice were used strictly for fortune telling, but somewhere along the way that shifted. Dice began being used as entertainment, and dice games were created.
I’m going to cover some of these gambling dice games. The next time you walk into a casino, you’ll have a better understanding of these interesting games.
These games can be terrifying to the newbie or novice player, but you don’t have to let fear keep you away.
Sure, these games are fast-paced and have a crowd surrounding the table yelling and throwing out all sorts of phrases you’re unfamiliar with. Don’t fret, many players (including me) felt the same way before they took some time to learn. Knowing these dice games will give you the confidence to walk straight up to the table and place your bet.
1 – Craps
Craps is the king of dice games, no doubt. If you’re looking for a fun time and some true comradery hit the craps table.
Standing around the table, slinging around high-fives, laying bets and throwing dice combine to assemble my favorite casino nights. Craps may be the most complex table game at the casino, but it doesn’t have to be scary.
Let’s cover some basics and you’ll be right at home rubbing elbows with the avid players:
To pass or not to pass?
One mistake craps players make is to ignore the side bets for the moment and focus on the main game. This consists of the “Pass Line” or “Don’t Pass” line. Pass line bets are on the shooter to win.
So, if the shooter rolls a 7 or 11 on the come-out roll, the pass line bet wins. But if the come out-roll is a 2, 3, or 12, the pass line bet loses. If the come-out is any other number that becomes the point.
The shooter then tries to roll that point number again before rolling a 7. If the player rolls a 7 before hitting the point, they “seven out,” and the bet loses. The “don’t pass” bet essentially works juxtaposed to a “pass line” bet.
In other words, it’s a bet AGAINST the shooter. “Don’t pass” bets win if the come-out roll is 2 or 3. The bet is a push if 12 is rolled. A come-out of 7 or 11 is a loser.
If any other number is rolled it establishes the point and if a 7 is rolled before the point is hit the bet pays.
This is an abridged overview of craps, but it gives you a basis for how the game works. You’ll surely pick up the rest at the table.Whatever you do remember this:
Never say the word seven at the table.
And when you’re throwing the dice, please make sure the dice hit the back wall.
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2 – Hazard
Before we had craps, we had hazard.
Hazard dates to at least 14th century England, and some suggest it goes as far back as the 12th century. Thought to be of Arabic origins; the word hazard derives from the Arabic al-zahr (“die”).
The game drew large crowds in high stakes gambling rooms throughout medieval Europe before waning in popularity. Craps got its name from “crabs”, a roll of 1-1 or 1-2 in hazard. The name isn’t the only thing craps stole from hazard; the gameplay and rules are largely the same.
Hazard takes place with two dice by any number of players. The shooter (or caster) begins by throwing the dice to establish the main point — any number from 5 to 9. This may take more than 1 throw.
After the main is established, the other players may make their wagers, betting on whether the caster will win or lose, after which he throws the dice again.
If a player throws in, or nicks, he wins. Five is nicked by 5, 6 by 6 or 12, 7 by 7 or 11, 8 by 8 or 12, and 9 by 9.
The caster loses when throwing aces or deuce-ace (crabs, or craps) or when throwing 11 or 12 to a main of 5 or 9, 11 to 6 or 8, and 12 to 7.
The player continues throwing until she wins or loses. The dice then pass to the next shooter. While the popularity of hazard has greatly diminished, you might still be able to find it in some casinos.
3 – Chuck A Luck
Chuck-A-Luck comes to us from Australia. Chuck-A-Luck is an exciting dice game where 3 dice tumble in a spinning cage and you wager on how many dice will come up with the number you chose. In the beginning, players would throw the dice in a horn shaped chute rather than using a cage.
The extreme simplicity of the game makes it hugely popular with the novice casino gamblers. The game pays 1:1 for a single up to 30:1 for a jackpot bet of 3 of a kind.
Chuck-A-Luck is a great introduction for players into gambling dice games. Stop by a table and enjoy the elementary fun.
4 – Klondike
Klondike is a gambling dice game that was popular in frontier America. The game is played with 5 dice that are 6-sided and is like poker dice. The objective in Klondike is to roll a better hand or combination than the banker to win. Gameplay begins with the banker rolling first to establish the benchmark.
The players then take turns rolling to try to best the banker. The 1 is like an ace and is the highest-ranking number. Then the numbers rank 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 from highest to lowest.
If the player rolls the same combination as the banker, she loses. To win at craps, you have to roll a better combination than the banker. Klondike is that simple.
5 – Banka Francesca
Banka Francesca is an extremely fast paced dice game. While it might not be familiar to U.S. gamblers, Banks Francesca is one of the most popular games at Portuguese casinos.
The game is played with 3 dice.
There are three possible bets:
- “Big” – the sum of all three dice is 14, 15 of 16
- “Small” – the sum of the dice is 5, 6 or 7
- “Aces” – the sum of the dice is 3; so, 3 ones.
The dealer will continue to roll the dice rapidly until one of these results comes up.
Bets of “Big” or “Small” pay 1:1 and “Aces” pays 60:1.
6 – Sic Bo
Sic bo is a popular gambling dice game around Asia and is played with 3 dice on a table where players make their bets.
“Sic bo” in Chinese means, “dice pair”. Despite its popularity in Asia, the game didn’t reach the casinos in the U.S. until sometime in the 1980s.
Sic bo has many variants, and Chuck-A-Luck may be the most familiar. The game table resembles the popular craps table with a multitude of side bets.
The most popular bets are “small” and “big”. The small bet is betting that the sum of the 3 dice are 4 to 10 and a big get pays on 11 to 17.
7 – Simplified Craps
There are dozens of variations of standard craps. This is a testament to the love affair gamblers have with the game. This variant, , is a wonderful game to start with for the beginner gambler. In this game a player simply wins if she throws 2, 3, 4, 10, 11 or 12 and loses if they roll 5, 6, 7, 8 or 9.
So, if you want to wade into the waters of casino dice gaming and aren’t sure where to start. I suggest trying simplified craps to gain your confidence.
You’re sure to have a great time.
Gambling dice games don’t have to be intimidating. They are, in fact, some of the most exciting tables in any casino or online casino site. The evolution of the die has certainly been interesting, and there’s little doubt that new and exciting gambling dice games will be coming to a casino near you for years to come.
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Hopefully, with a little bit of understanding and Lady Luck on your side you’ll be able to make your next casino trip a success.