Picture it – the final game to decide who wins the pot, a large pile of chips in the centre of the table while the last two players standing decide who’s going to walk out of the casino a champion and a newly minted millionaire. The final move comes in but rather than four aces, the last move is Rook to H1.
Casinos play host to many different games, but chess is rarely one of them – but will it one day? The world of the casino is ever-changing, until a few years ago the idea of the World Series of Poker being broadcast across the world would have been laughable, but now it’s a major television event, year-in and year-out. Will we see the same explosion in popularity of chess?
Chess in the Casino
It may be a surprise for some but chess is already played in Las Vegas as a major event, in fact the tournament that is aptly called Millionaires Chess was hosted in Las Vegas for all three iterations that have been played so far. Millionaires Chess boasted a total prize fund of $1 million which made it the largest prize fund for a chess Open in history – fitting for a tournament held in Vegas! But it’s not the only time that one of these events has been held in the City of Sin, the North American Open Chess Championship and Las Vegas International Chess Festival are both regularly held in casinos.
But the appeal of using the casino capital of the world to host events isn’t just down to the money that goes through the city – it’s because of Vegas’ unique suitability as a convention centre. As the majority of casinos are integrated into luxurious hotels, it’s easy to accommodate a large party of people and makes them ideal convention venues.
But when it comes to playing chess in the casino without a convention or event behind it? That seems a lot rarer. It’s even rarer online as despite the impressive array of games available at somewhere like https://casino.betfair.com/c/slots, chess is very rarely included as an option. And this could well be because chess is a little different from the other games.
Why it’s unlikely
Chess is, by its very nature, a game of skill and one that can be mastered. In other words, it’s the polar opposite of the games you play in the casino. While there is definitely an element of skill in games like blackjack and poker, there is always a certain amount of luck that you have to rely on. But with chess you have absolute control over how you react and respond to the person you’re playing against. If you’re a skilful player who’s good at predicting their opponent’s play-style and know what to look for, you’ll find yourself being significantly more successful than someone who’s playing blindly and doesn’t always know which way the pieces can move.
This makes the game less about blind luck and more about how well you can play – which is bad for casinos. If a Grand Master or the World Champion goes and plays chess in the casino for money, the casino will likely be out of pocket fairly rapidly. The skill element makes it a particularly dangerous choice for casinos as it will make it nearly impossible to impose a house edge without also making the game appear unwinnable.
The obvious alternative to playing chess in the casino is to treat it akin to sports betting – it’s legal to bet on the outcomes of chess as a skill-based contest and this could bring the game into the casino environment rather easily. But despite it being an option, very few casinos will have sports betting on offer (at least in brick and mortar casinos;if you’re a fan of online casinos then you’re quite likely to have an online sportsbook a few clicks away) so it still looks rather unlikely that chess will become a staple of the casino.
While it may not be likely, the growth of poker as a star attraction in casinos definitely shows that games of skill can have their place in the casino. It may even be the case that a casino somewhere will introduce chess with the rake set up in order to make their money back. But, for the moment, it looks like chess is staying largely removed from the casino scene. The World Chess Championship this year is taking place in central London, at The College, 12 games between the world chess champion and the challenger who won in the Candidates Tournament. Maybe you should find a sportsbook and place a bet?