Can you play chess online for real money?

July 9, 2013 Posted in FAQs by No Comments
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Short Answer:

Real money chess doesn’t work well online because of the difficulty in enforcing the rules of the game. Even inexpensive chess programs can be used to simulate expert levels of play. All one has to do is load up a copy of any decent chess simulator and input the opponent’s moves into that program. This basically leaves the opponent playing against an expert-level computer.

But, you can play chess online for free with relatively little trouble. There are plenty of chess sites that host tournaments and keep track of your rankings online. No real money is involved, but these sites do offer a lot in the way of practice, training material, socializing and competition for bragging rights.

These are the three most popular multiplayer chess sites, ranked in order of their popularity and prestige:

There are a lot of other chess sites on the internet, but these are generally recognized as the best for serious students of the game. If you do a little research, you’ll see that most chess aficionados respect these sites the most.

Long Answer:

Chess is one of my longtime favorite games. The strategy implications are so deep that you can spend a lifetime mastering the game. In chess, there is no hidden information other than the intentions of your opponent. There are no hidden cards, chance outcomes based on dice or anything of that nature. Everything you need sits before you on the board in plain sight.

People do play chess for real money. It is inevitable that a game as competitive as chess will involve money to some degree. Chess tournaments around the world give out significant prizes to the winners. Private games often involve wagers on the outcome.

But unfortunately, real money chess does not translate well to the internet. The biggest problem with online chess is that it is too easy to get help with outside programs. There is no easy way around this so there is not a single place on the internet where you can play chess for any significant money.

Cheating at Online Chess

You know how above I said that all the information you need in chess is available right in front of you on the board? Well, that is the game’s greatest downfall when it comes to the internet. Computer programmers have already solved the game of chess.

Even simple games like Chessmaster are capable of playing at extremely high levels. Set Chessmaster to the highest difficulty level and you’ll have a digital opponent who can beat all but the most elite chess players.

This makes it all too easy to cheat at chess online. All you have to do is fire up a second computer, turn on Chessmaster, set it to the hardest difficulty setting and then input all of your opponent’s moves to the game. The computer will respond with the most strategically correct move and you can then mimic those moves when playing against other people online.

Right now, we have no solution for that problem. Some websites in the past have required you to install software that prevents outside programs from running on your computer. The problem with that is you can just use a different computer to run a chess program.

The only way you can play chess with other people and know for sure that they aren’t cheating is to play those people in person. Cheating isn’t much of a problem at free chess sites because most of the people there are serious students of the game. But if you add money to the mix, the incentive to cheat suddenly becomes powerful.

So for now, it’s not realistic to play chess online for real money. does have real money games and a section devoted to chess, but I wouldn’t recommend going that route. The only possible method of detecting cheaters is to watch for players who make strategically perfect decisions every time. In that case, you are relying on the site’s security department to keep everything on the up-and-up.

Personally, I stay away from real money chess online. The risks of cheating are too real to make it worthwhile. And even if the risk of cheating doesn’t concern you, it surely concerns enough other people that you’ll have a hard time finding matches and making any decent money.

The Alternative

If you have an interest in real money online chess, you might want to try poker instead. Poker is a deeply strategic game and you can play online for as much or as little money as you want. Skilled players do make a lot of money playing online.

Cheating isn’t nearly as problematic for poker because there is enough hidden information that computers cannot effectively solve the game. Every person plays poker differently + you play against multiple opponents at a time. I’ve heard of people setting up bots to play poker, but those bots are ineffective in comparison to just learning how to play a smart game.

Poker does have an element of chance in the short run, but it is still a skill-based game. The best poker players consistently make money with poker. I can tell you this from firsthand experience. I played poker all through college and made enough money to pay off my student loans and live comfortably.

Give poker a shot. There is enough strategy in this game that you can spend a lifetime improving your skills. Some of the best poker players in the world earn millions of dollars a year at the tables. Sure, you’ll have bad days where the cards seem to always fall in favor of your opponents but over the long run, skilled players win.

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