Is UNO a Game of Luck or Skill (or Both)?

Deck of Uno game cards scattered all over on a table
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“Uno is a game of pure luck”. This is a comment that was recently hurled at me. I must admit that it made my ears ring. “Luck?” I wanted to scream this, over and over again! How can that be? Surely not! I personally feel that my wins are attributed to a considerable amount of skill.

Over the many years that I have been playing Uno, I have heard people argue over whether the game is one based on luck or skill. Of course, there are good arguments on both ends of the scale, even if I do say so myself. Let’s take a closer look at the question…

Is Uno a game of luck or skill (or both)? Uno is a family card game that is based substantially on luck, but also on a certain amount of skill, strategy, and common sense too. One cannot win at Uno by luck alone. If no skill, strategy, or common sense is applied, one would not win by “luck” so to speak, but rather by chance. 

Many people, to my dismay, believe that winning a game of Uno comes down to nothing more than luck. I strongly disagree and have disagreed for years. I find that a lot of strategy and common sense comes into play, making the game far more than just one of luck.

What makes me think that there is more than luck at play? Well, over the years, I have managed to learn a few tricks and strategies that have increased my chances of winning. Some of these tricks and strategies have guaranteed a win for me. I believe that there are many people that would like to know a bit more about my argument before supporting it.

If you would like to delve a little deeper into whether Uno is a game of luck or skill, read on below. 

First Things First; what is UNO?

Before we leap into what is required to play Uno, I thought we should go over a brief summary of what Uno really is.

box of Uno card game and cards on white background closeup
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So, what is Uno? Uno is a family card game that was invented in 1971 by Merle Robbins. The game was invented in order to solve an argument between Merle Robbins and his son over the rules of Crazy Eights. The first deck of Uno cards was actually created and made on the Robbins’ family dining room table, and from there, its popularity grew in great leaps and bounds.

The game is designed for players of 3 years and older and for groups of 2 to 4 players (or more). Usually, each player is dealt 7 cards and is tasked with getting rid of his/her entire hand first. It is a race to get down to the final card and play it before anyone else has the opportunity to do so themselves. Players are meant to hinder other players’ from getting rid of their hands of cards at the same time, by playing cards that change the color of the card, reverse direction, or require the next player to pick up a certain amount of additional cards. 

While you are probably aware of the gameplay of Uno, hopefully, this has refreshed your memory. Now let’s take a look at what is required to play the game; luck or skill? Or is a game that involves both luck and skill?

The “UNO is a Game of Luck” Argument

Of course, there is a lot of luck involved in the game of Uno – there is no point in denying it. Where does this luck come in? 

Well, players are dealt 7 cards to start the game. This means that they do not get to choose their cards and the other player’s cards are also not known to them. One has to be somewhat lucky to get a good first hand of cards. I have had my fair share of these lucky situations. Unfortunately, I have also been the unlucky one getting what I like to call a “shoddy” starting hand.

One is considered even luckier in the game if other players are unable to thwart your progress in getting rid of your cards. While I do agree that luck is involved, I strongly disagree that the game is solely based on luck. I have experienced it first hand, and I find that luck is only one element of winning a game of Uno.

Young cool man crossing fingers for having luck
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Many can argue that Uno is a game of luck because the game is designed in such a way that your choices are limited, and the limited choices given to you do not influence the rest of the game in any significant way.

I have found that there are two other main elements that bring luck into the game of Uno. The first are the cards that you collect from the draw pile – you have no way of controlling what cards are collected, meaning that a good draw comes down to pure luck. Another is what card is on the top of the discard pile when your turn comes around. The card that the previous player places on that pile is not something that you can control, so this also comes down to luck.

That being said, it is interesting to note that the player before you could play a card to specifically hinder your play, which means that the game is now one of strategy for that particular player. If it was luck, there would be no option to play a card to specifically hinder another player’s progress.

The Argument that Winning at UNO Requires Skill

I firmly believe that winning a game of Uno requires a certain amount of skill because I have applied such skill myself in the past and reaped the rewards (a win!).

If I just randomly played cards from my hand with no forethought or strategic thinking involved, then I would agree that the game does not involve any particular skill. However, that is never the case when playing Uno. I often find myself holding a card and not playing it (rather collecting a card) because I know it will be of more value to me if I play it later on. 

Man hand holding UNO cards
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Much the same, I often save certain cards (the Wild Card) to play as my very last card, as I know that they will ensure a win. I often set to work getting rid of certain cards, so that my hand has more of an impact when I play. And, on top of all of this, I pay close attention to the cards being played by others, so that I can ascertain what cards are possibly left in the round.

If I had not developed any skills that are specific to the game of Uno, I would not be the regular winner that I am. In fact, I can safely call myself the family Uno champion (shh, do not tell my family members that I said that)!

The only way that Uno is not a game of skill is if players had to play their cards in the same order they are dealt. And we all know that is not the case.

Winning at UNO Requires a Certain Amount of Common Sense

Now, let’s talk about common sense and its role in the game. Common sense is a big thing in a game of Uno – or so I have found. Many have argued with me that it is not, and I have had to merely accept their opinion without agreeing. 

The very definition of the term “common sense” according to the Oxford English Dictionary is:

 “good sense and sound judgment in practical matters”.

Lexico (Powered by Oxford)
Uno game box, popular card game
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When you are playing a game of Uno, the cards that you are faced with must be carefully considered. Before you play a card, sound judgment has to ensue. You have to adopt a “what if I play this card?” and a “what if I play that card?” approach. This type of thinking allows for common sense to prevail. When forethought goes into something, you are calling on common sense. This means that the way one must think in a game of Uno is the very definition of common sense. 

Last Word

The argument of whether or not Uno is about luck or skill is probably one that will rage on for many years to come yet. If you think that playing and winning a game of Uno requires no skill, I would love to play a round or two with you to prove you wrong.

I strongly recommend researching some tips, tricks, and strategies for improving your chances of winning a game of Uno and then applying them to your gameplay. I guarantee that you will experience an increase in the frequency of your wins! Perhaps you, too, can become a self-proclaimed Uno champion just like me! Then again, perhaps Uno is really just a game of fun; no luck or skill required – you decide.