Learn A New Skill

Poker isn’t the only game on the web. Now you can win money playing your favourite action, puzzle, and strategy games.
SLUMPED BEFORE A blank spreadsheet and a clock that won’t budge? You’re not alone. Britain’s bored office workers traditionally turn to the web to kill time when a slow afternoon begins to bite. Along with email and eBay, cute browser-based games are a savvy shirker’s favourite distraction – with seasoned slackers ratcheting up several hours of practice a week. But it needn’t all go to waste. Now, for the first time, jaded time-wasters can salvage something from their skiving – a growing number of websites offer you the chance to win real money by playing fun point-and-click puzzlers. Thanks to a new ‘skill game’ phenomenon, you can battle real-life opponents – and revel in the thrill of winning real-life money.
Skill games are gaining in popularity because of their ‘pick me up’ appeal: with no software to download you can be tackling other players in little more than the time it takes to type in a URL. Plus, as the name of the genre suggests. skill gaming isn’t gambling because win or lose, there’s little luck involved. Most skill games are versions of household games that you’re likely to be already familiar with. And if you aren’t, it won’t take long to learn.
There are scores of different skill games to try, most of which fall into three categories. Arcade games like 8 Ball Pool and Golf require quick thinking and even quicker fingers. Puzzles like Jong and Four-m­a-Row tax your logical abilities, requiring you to solve puzzles whilst a clock counts down. And board games like backgammon, the sport of kings, let you take on opponents in traditional parlour games.
You can play for stakes ranging from 50p to £500. Most sites pit you directly against the other player, but it’s not all head-to-head action. GameAccount. corn runs regular SuperCash tournaments – events where hordes of players compete in a knock-out tournament. And other sites are following suit. launching structured tournaments where you can play your way to big cash prizes.
Skill gaming is a new industry providing thousands of players with hours of fun and some top prizes. For gaming operators, the biggest challenge is preventing cheats from prospering. Where money and games mix, some people will always try and take advantage. There are computer programs freely available that can play the perfect game – that can never be beaten by a human being. Backgammon is one good example. But anyone thinking of trying to get rich quick by having a computer play for them will be detected and banned. “Our systems run all the major backgammon strategy software – like Jellyfish and Snowie. If you try to play with those we’ll be able to detect it because our pattern analysis will flag it up for concern” says Dermot Smurfit, Marketing Director at GameAccount.com. Another challenge involved in skill gaming is addressing the simple fact that some players are better than others. “If you play a game of skill for money and play somebody who is better than you, chances are that they’ll beat you. That’s no fun” says Dermot. “That’s why we offer knockout tournaments, because there there’s a fundamental element of chance in who you play against. That’s sort of why poker works – you don’t know who you’re playing against”.
However, that isn’t the only way of doing it. GameAccount.com has devised a ranking system that makes sure players always tackle somebody of a similar ability to their own. “It means rookie players get to play other rookie players” says Dermot. “One perception we’re fighting is that you’re always going to be playing against people who are better than you. and that you’re going to get thrashed. Our player ratings are very important. If you’re any good, you’ll be forced to play against opponents of a similar skill level”. Each time you win, you accumulate points. And each time you lose, you shed them. Thus, the site has a healthy eco-system of players who are free to take each other on without getting burnt through a series of unfair bouts.
It sounds like a great idea – but getting the system of rating and rankings to work took months. “They way we calculate rankings is dynamic, so if you shoot up through the levels and find it too tough you’ll be moved back down – you won’t be stuck playing the ninjas for the rest of your skill gaming career!
A lot of it was based on something called the FIBS rating, which was used by the first internet backgammon server. It gives players a number out of 1,500, and that goes down or up depending on how well the player does.” The system is intelligent enough to consider the strength of your opponent when deciding how the result of a game will affect your ranking.
“if you take on a grand master and lose, your points will only be nudged downwards slightly – it picks up who you’re playing against”. The team spent a long time devising a way to prevent abuse, too. “The ranking system is volume sensitive, so you can’t just go in and lose against opponents for 50p to drive down your rating in order to get into the games against the rookies.”
However well the ranking system works, GameAccount is soon to begin another method of pairing up opponents: odds. “If you’re a bad player, I can tell that from your score. Normally, you wouldn’t want to play against a good player like me.
But what I might do is sit down and offer to bet £5 against your £25. So whilst I’m more likely to win, it’s still worth your while to play.” Another initiative it’s launching this autumn is a blackjack tournament with a difference. “It’s skill-based Blackjack.
Each player starts with $10,000 in chips -but the twist is that each player gets dealt exactly the same cards.
So they have to be smart about how they bet, because they’re no longer trying to beat the dealer, they’re just trying to finish ahead of their opponent.” Whilst the bread and butter games on GameAccount.com remain penny-stakes games, there are also some high rollers willing to put serious cash on their ability to whoop ass. “There is some serious money changing hands on the site” says Dermot. “You can play Pyramid Solitaire for up to £500 – and we’ve got players doing that right now. They’re literally willing to bet £500 on a game. It’s fascinating to sit down and watch some of the games and think of the money that’s being staked.
Here are a list of games which you can try:
1. 8 Ball Pool
2. Pyramid Panic
3. Tournament Blackjack
4. Gin Rummy
5. Backgammon
6. Mah Jong
7. Four-In-A-Row