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Investing resources for hoped rewards based on a non-certain outcome of an event.

This pattern is a still a stub.

Betting is the act of risking resources for the chance of winning more resources than was used. The proportions between what is gained and what is risked is linked to the perceived probability of winning, but in the case where Betting is done by players this does not have to be close to the real probability.


Examples of Betting are easy to find among Gambling Games, e.g. Guts, Poker, and Roulette. While these typically make use of real world money as the resource being betted, other games, e.g. Liar's Dice, show that other types of resources can be used which either only have value within the game or primarily have other values than monetary. Roulette shows an example where the probability for each outcome is static and knowable to players, and the relation between a bet and it's rewards is set in advance. In contrast, a challenge in Poker and it's many offsprings is to be able to estimate one's probabilities of winning based on the actions of the other players (and reveals of cards in some variants). Further, in these games the relation between bets and rewards depend upon all players actions.

Using the pattern

Betting can be initiated by people using game resources as Rewards for winning a bet regardless of game rules. That is, the possibility of engaging in Betting can make people set up Self-Facilitated Games that are Meta Games which cause Extra-Game Consequences for the game whose resources are used. These Extra-Game Consequences are typically also Committed Goals. While if can be difficult designing a game against people engaging in these types of Betting, the presence of Game Element Trading or Heterogeneous Game Element Ownership can make this more likely since players can already be engaged in exchanging game elements. That Betting can occur on the outcomes of games make it further difficult to avoid the possibility of Betting Meta Games, and the participants of the Betting do not need to be the participants of the game, i.e. they can be Spectators.

Regardless if Betting is done as a Meta Games or inherent in the game itself, it relies on that players have Ownership of Resources usable in the Betting. Typically, players need to have Gain Ownership goals as well but these do not need to relate to the same types of Resources as used in the Betting, and the Betting can be for other things not necessarily perceived as Resources normally, e.g. determining turn order in games with Turn Taking (use of First Player Tokens show how turn order can be blurred into being more of a Resource). While Betting as Meta Games are open in the sense that players bring in Resources from outside "the game", the economy of the Rewards can open or closed also. In this fashion, closed means that the only Resources provided as Rewards are those provided by the Betting. Open in contrast means that Resources are added by the system. Betting in games where there is a "house" (i.e., a Dedicated Game Facilitators) this can be an amount based on what the players bet to increase the rewards available, typically be a simply multiple (i.e. an Arithmetic Progression) or a set value but other functions are possible. In games with NPCs without their own game states, Dedicated Game Facilitators can provide the illusions of these having their own Resources that have been added to those bet by the players.

Another requirement for Betting to function in a game is that there is an Uncertainty of Outcome, at least for some players. This uncertainty can be caused or modulated by Imperfect Information that players can have, as well as Strategic Knowledge. When the amount of Rewards are known to players in advance this gives players a certain level of Predictable Consequences even if they may not know who gets what Reward. Similiarly, Predictable Consequences arise from Betting where there is an Arithmetic Progression for the Rewards provided based upon the bet placed.

Having the Rewards offered be of the same type as those used to place bets is a straightforward approach to implementing Betting in a game, but other types of Rewards can be offer. This makes the Betting function as a form of Converters. While Betting is typically about increasing Resources it could theoretically be about minimizing losses. One way of doing this would be to have an automatic loss of a Resources directly after the consequences of the Betting are concluding, meaning that players that have won would have minimized a loss rather than have a gain.

Betting in itself can typically be handled rather quickly, making it typically be a basis for Quick Games, a rather distinct activity within a game, and an activity (or game) suitable for basing Tournaments around.


Betting is action which offers Rewards based on the risk of losing Investments, and as such is a typical example of Risk/Reward. As long as the bet isn't immediately resolved, the pattern supports Anticipation and Tension due to Delayed Effects and Hovering Closures.

The decision on how to bet, and what to bet when several choices exist, can be seen as a form of Resource Management, and since the outcome of Betting interactions redistribute Resources its use is also a form of Transfer of Control. Further, the use of Betting provides a Freedom of Choice in games given that Betting is about making choices. When it is optional to place a bet, this further advances the presence of Freedom of Choice but also allows players to select to have Gain Ownership goals, i.e. Betting also can support Player-Defined Goals.

When Betting is done against others, it is a form of Conflict but it can also indirectly be related to Conflict if one is Betting on others failing or suffering negative consequences.

Can Instantiate

Bluffing, Closed Economies, Converters, Emotional Engrossment, Gameplay Mastery, Luck, Push Your Luck, Randomness, Social Skills,

Can Modulate



Can Instantiate

Anticipation, Bluffing, Closed Economies, Conflict, Delayed Effects, Emotional Engrossment, Extra-Game Consequences, Freedom of Choice, Gameplay Mastery, Hovering Closures, Investments, Luck, Player-Defined Goals, Push Your Luck, Randomness, Resource Management, Rewards, Risk/Reward, Self-Facilitated Games, Social Skills, Tension, Transfer of Control,

with Extra-Game Consequences

Committed Goals

with Self-Facilitated Games

Meta Games

Can Modulate

Bidding, Gain Ownership, Resources

Can Be Instantiated By

Gain Ownership, Game Element Trading, Heterogeneous Game Element Ownership, Ownership, Spectators, Uncertainty of Outcome

Can Be Modulated By

Arithmetic Progression, Dedicated Game Facilitators, Imperfect Information, Quick Games, Predictable Consequences, Strategic Knowledge, Tournaments,

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With



An updated version of the pattern Betting that was part of the original collection in the book Patterns in Game Design[1].


  1. Björk, S. & Holopainen, J. (2004) Patterns in Game Design. Charles River Media. ISBN1-58450-354-8.