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If someone makes a bet on something like chess or a board game, (we’ll include some types of card games as well), does that count as gambling in Halacha?

Gambling (between Jews) is prohibited de-rabbanan, but does that only apply to chance-based gambling? Or are competition games included?

Sources appreciated

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  • First don't you have to ask, when is playing and keeping the pieces for example in marbles, equivalent to betting? Dec 4, 2023 at 11:46
  • Is there any reason it wouldn't count as gambling? Dec 4, 2023 at 18:07

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It is very likely forbidden, even more so for Sedaradim but even according to many Ashkenazi decisors.

For background (adapted from R Moishe Dovid Lebovits here)

The Mishnah in Maseches Sanhedrin 24b lists people who are disqualified from being a witness. One of them is a “mesacheik b’kubiya”, a dice player. The Gemara discusses as to why a dice player is disqualified from being a witness and brings two opinions.

One says that a winner is considered stealing from the losing party. This is called asmachta, which means doing an action under the assumption that he will never have to pay (each gambler agrees to pay but never really thinks he will lose, so when he hands over the money to the winner it is done unwillingly. This action is considered stealing on a rabbinic level.

The second says dice playing is not allowed because one does not contribute to society that way. Therefore, he is only disqualified if gambling is his only profession. If he has another profession, then he is only gambling to pass time, and does not care if he loses.

The Shulchan Aruch holds that gambling of any sort is considered stealing. This is how the Sephardim conduct themselves. The Rema permits it but with many limitations: there should be no skill involved, the gambler must not feel secure that he will win and the result must be based on luck.

Since chess, board and card games are skill-based, they would be forbidden.

In addition, R Moishe Dovid Lebovits brings many poskim who raise societal reasons to stay far away from gambling

  • The Rivash says that gambling kills people. It is disgusting, abominable, repulsive, and it is addictive.
  • The Biur Halachah says that someone who is concerned for his soul should distance himself from gambling.
  • The Aruch Hashulchan says that whoever can stop from gambling will have great reward.
  • R Moshe Feinstein said that it is a disgusting act and is like joining a gathering of scornful people

See detailed sources here as well as in this detailed overview.

And of course consult your rabbi before implementing anything you learn here.

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