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Games of Chance


Disciplines > Game Design > Types of Game > Games of Chance

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



Games of chance are those in which events are not fully deterministic. This means a skilled player using a sound strategy may still lose.

A game of pure chance has no skill at all and any player has an equal likelihood of winning or losing. A game of zero chance is a pure game of skill. Many games have a balance of both chance and skill.

Forms of chance include:

  • Where the player has apparent control but where events are still random, such as the roll of a die or the turn of card.
  • External forces that affect results, such as how the wind affects the flight of a ball.
  • Random events within the game of which the player can take advantage based on their skill, belongings, etc.
  • Events based on the skill of others, such as horse racing or football matches.
  • Mistakes or other actions made by competitors may give the player a lucky advantage (or unfortunate disadvantage).


Casino games using dice have a high level of chance, but as the player throws the dice they often think they have some degree of control.

Skilled poker players reduce chance by counting cards and clever bluffing of opponents.

In games where the player collects items, such as Monopoly, they can be lucky or not as items they need turn up.

Chess players can get lucky when their opponents make a silly move or miss a mistaken move.


We have a basic need to control the world around us and many games of chance are designed to give the illusion that players are able to somehow know random probabilities or control random events. This is a part of the Gambler's Fallacy and is something that game designers can deliberately encourage. The Hot Hand Phenomenon, where players think they are in 'winning streak' is another issue gamblers face.

Overall, people are largely poor at estimating probabilities and statistics, leading to many decision errors. Even statisticians can be taken in by some of these, especially when they have good face validity.

Chance leads to another basic need: arousal. As we hope for good luck our senses are heightened and we become excited when we think we may win. This is a key reason why we play many games and is particularly characteristic of gambling.

Games of chance often gain a certain mystique, with legends building up around them of ways to win and people who managed to beat the odds. This serves to encourage certain gamblers but bending of random chance has yet to be scientifically proven.

Of course we cannot change what is inherently random and there really is no such thing as luck. We talk about 'bad luck' to console ourselves when things do not turn out well for us, whether it is due to chance or lack of skill. We also tend to think other people are lucky when they succeed, even if it is due to their skill.

See also

Games of Skill, Attribution Theory, Theories about decision errors


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