If you love casino games, you’re not alone. It’s not a new hobby, either. Casinos in gambling destinations like Las Vegas and Macau are big business.
But online casinos are becoming an even bigger business.
And with good reason.
People love gambling because of the uncertainty of it. Get lucky, and you could go home with a huge wad of cash in your pocket. If your luck turns, you could be broke in minutes. This is the kind of drama that can’t be duplicated easily or enjoyed vicariously.
Now with online casinos, you can get that same kind of excitement from your desktop computer, your laptop computer, your mobile phone, or your tablet.
With this post, I’ve tried to write a complete online casinos guide.
It should contain an introduction to all the little details that seem like common sense to people who’ve been gambling online for years already.
But even if you’re an old pro, I think this guide offers some tips and strategies that might help you get more action for your money.
If I’ve left anything out of this guide to online casinos, please let me know in the comments.
I’ll expand the post accordingly.
Table of Contents
Here’s a list of the topics covered on this page. Click on any of these to go straight to that section:
- Where Should I Play if I Want to Get Started Right Now?
- What’s the Difference between Online Casinos and Traditional Casinos?
- What’s Up with All these Online Casino Rankings and Lists I Keep Seeing on the Web?
- How Can I Get the Most for My Money When Playing at Online Casinos?
Also, here’s a video Dave made — he’s an expert regarding online casinos, too.
Where Should I Play if I Want to Get Started Right Now?
If you’re just looking for recommendations for online casinos, I can recommend my post listing the top gambling sites of 2020. If you don’t even want to go to that much trouble, here’s a list of online casinos I think will suit your needs fine:
- Miami Club
- Ruby Slots
- Slot Madness
I always recommend these because of the big signup bonuses, excellent customer service, and huge selection of casino games. If you’re looking for a place where you can also play poker with other players, I recommend Ignition Casino or Bovada. And if you also need sports betting, Bovada is probably your best bet.
You can also check my list in my post on the best offshore gambling sites for more sportsbook recommendations.
How Much Can I Trust an Online Casino?
All the casinos have been thoroughly vetted for integrity and trustworthiness. You can stop doing research right now, because I’ve already done the homework for you. These are the best online casinos at which to play.
Of course, this site is aimed mostly at United States citizens, so if you live somewhere else, your list of options might be different. I’ll possibly write some posts aimed at residents of other countries at some point in the future.
What’s the Difference between Online Casinos and Traditional Casinos?
The differences between online casinos and traditional casinos are smaller than you might think. In fact, when it comes to gambling machines–slots and video poker–the difference is essentially nonexistent. The same random number generator technology powers these games both on your computer and in a traditional casino.
That random number generator program is probably the biggest difference for the rest of the games, though. But even that isn’t as big a difference as you might think.
With table games like blackjack, craps, and roulette, a traditional casino uses playing cards, dice, and spinning wheels to generate outcomes. At most online casinos, these games are just animated simulations. They generate their results using a random number generator (RNG).
The potential for abuse seems clear enough.
What’s to prevent an online casino from adjusting the odds a little more in their favor?
Legitimate online casinos are audited and licensed. Part of their licensing requirement is that the RNG running their games must duplicate the probability you’d see if you were using actual cards, dice, or spinning wheels.
Online casinos have little incentive to cheat and stack the odds in their favor. These games already carry with them an unassailable mathematical edge. Making that edge higher is just overkill.
Live Dealer Casinos and Webcam Casino Games
Some online casinos now use webcams and actual playing cards, dice, and roulette wheels, though. These are called “live dealer casinos,” and such properties blur the lines between online casinos and traditional casinos even further.
Another difference between an online casino and a traditional casino is the process you go through to buy chips. At a traditional casino, you insert cash into the machine you’re playing. Or you buy chips at the chipcage or from the dealer. These transactions are instant.
But at an online casino, you must get the money to a company that’s probably not even in the same country as you. Getting the cash there usually isn’t hard, You can charge a credit card, set up a bank wire or electronic check, or even use a cash transfer service like Moneygram or Western Union.
Cashing out takes more time, though. At most online casinos, there’s a processing time involved with cashing out. Depending on which withdrawal method you’re using, their might be more processing time on the part of the banking method, too. Most legitimate casinos can get you your winnings within a week or so, though.
What’s Up with All these Online Casino Rankings and Lists I Keep Seeing on the Web?
You’ll find countless gambling information sites with lists of online casino rankings and “best of” lists. The truth is that most of these rankings are nothing more than promotional tools. Online casinos pay big money to advertisers to be included on those lists. Often, the rankings have more to do with how much money they’re paying the site’s webmaster than they have to do with the quality of the casino.
This is a generalization, though. Some sites do put a lot of time and effort into evaluating and ranking online casinos. Casinomeister, for example, offers lists of both “accredited” casinos and “rogue” casinos. The man behind the site makes his name and contact information easily accessible from his site. This adds a ring of truth to his information that you won’t hear on many other sites.
You’ll have to decide for yourself which online casino rankings you do and don’t trust.
Tips for Reading Online Casino Rankings Lists
I can offer you a few tips about evaluating the veracity of these lists, though:
The first tip is simple. How well do you know the person running the site?
I understand that it’s unlikely you’ll be personally acquainted with every gambling webmaster. But a red flag should appear when a site seems to be written by an army of freelancers without bylines. A nameless corporation is likelier to be evil than a site run by an individual.
Look at Vegas Click, for example. It’s clear that the man running the site, Michael Bluejay, is a real person with little to hide. Heck, he even includes his picture on the front page of his website.
Something else interesting to note about his site. It doesn’t contain online casino rankings or lists at all. He’s chosen one casino to promote because he’s confident they offer everything the average gambler would need. Could he make more money promoting multiple online casinos? Almost certainly. But I think Michael is more interested in creating value for the end-user than he is with milking every last dollar from every last visitor to his site.
And that’s probably why his site performs better than most sites in the search engines. That kind of sincerity is the best public relations strategy a company could have.
How Can I Get the Most for My Money When Playing at Online Casinos?
The one fact to always keep in mind when playing casino games, online or off, is that they provide the house with a mathematical edge. In fact, casinos are experts at estimating how much money they’ll generate from a casino game. Their formula is simple, too:
The house edge X the average bet size X the number of bets per hour = Expected hourly loss
The house edge is the percentage of each bet that the casino expects to keep in winnings for every bet you make. If a casino game has a house edge of 5.26%, they expect to win an average of $5.26 every time someone bets $100 on that game. Keep in mind, this is a long term average. In the short run, you’ll win some and lose some. Sometimes you’ll even walk away a winner.
The average bet size is the amount you’re wagering per bet. If you’re betting $100 every time the croupier spins the roulette wheel, then your average bet size is $100. Many gamblers flat bet. This means they make the same size bet every time. Others raise and lower their bets. In that case, the math for coming up with the average is trickier, but not hard. You just look at the total dollar amount wagered per hour divided by the number of bets placed per hour.
The number of bets per hour varies by game. It also varies based on how many players are at the table. Many casino gamblers underestimate the effect that speed of play has on their expected hourly loss.
Your Goal as an Educated Online Casino Gambler
Your goal is to get the most fun out of your money as possible. You do this by playing games with the lowest possible house edge, minimizing the amount you bet, and minimizing the number of bets you make per hour.
Example Hourly Loss Rates for Various Casino Games
Here are some example hourly loss rates for common casino games:
Blackjack has a house edge of 0.5% if you play with perfect basic strategy. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a casino game with a lower house edge, in fact. If you play for $5 a hand, which is the minimum at many casinos, online or off, you need to know how many hands per hour to calculate your hourly loss rate. My best guess is that an online casino gambler will probably play 200 hands of blackjack per hour. You don’t have to wait for other players or for the dealer to shuffle the cards.
0.5% X $5 X 200 bets/hour = $5/hour
If you like blackjack, $5/hour in expected loss isn’t a bad deal.
Blackjack’s the Best, Now for the Rest
Craps has a house edge of 1.41% with the most common and easiest bet at the table–the pass line bet. Like blackjack, online craps plays fast on the internet. I’ll assume 200 bets per hour on this game, too, although it might even be a little more than that. After all, with craps, you never have to think about whether to hit or stand. Assuming you’re betting $5 per roll, your expected hourly loss looks like this:
1.41% X $5 X 200 bets/hour = $14/hour
Compared to blackjack, craps isn’t such a great deal. But it requires no skill to achieve this payback percentage. If you don’t know correct basic strategy in blackjack, you might be facing a house edge of between 2% and 4% because of the mistakes you’ll be making.
Roulette is commonly available online with a single zero wheel. The house edge for that version of the game is 2.70%. (Skip the American wheel with its 0 and 00.) As an online game, roulette plays pretty fast, too. You can easily get in 200 bets per hour at the roulette wheel online, when in real life, you might only be able to see 50 spins per hour.
At $5/bet, you’re looking at an expected loss of:
2.70% X $5 X 200 bets/hour = $27/hour
That’s almost twice as much as you’d lose at the craps table. A smart player will stick with blackjack or craps.
Gambling Machine Average Hourly Loss Rates
Slot machines are the games which will drain your bankroll faster than any other. They’re the fastest game in the casino. An average player might see 600 spins per hour, but if you’re faster than average, you might get in 900 spins per hour. The house edge for most slot machine games is at least 6%, but it could be higher than that, too. You don’t know the house edge for a slot machine game, because the game doesn’t give you enough data to calculate it.
So these are all wild estimates, but let’s look at how much you’d lose betting $5 per spin on an average slot machine:
6% X$5 X 600 bets/hour = $180/hour!
Even if you scaled the size of your bet down to $1.25 per spin, you’re looking at an expected loss of $45/hour.
Video poker, though, can sometimes have an even lower house edge than blackjack. If you can play 9/6 Jacks or Better with close to perfect strategy, the house edge is only 0.46%. This creates an average hourly loss that’s higher than blackjack, still, because video poker plays faster. An average video poker player gets in 600 hands/hour.
Here’s the math:
0.46% X $5 per hand X 600 hands/hour = $13.80/hour
Online casinos are a mixed bag, but if you want to play online casino games, you have more options now than ever before.
For the most part, you’ll find fair odds and fun games. The technology running these games has never been more advanced.
Also, you can find plenty of online casinos using webcams to run live dealer games with real people.
The only trick is quitting while you’re ahead.
Also, you want to be careful of the online casinos’ reputations. Some casinos don’t pay out winnings in a timely manner, which is a drag.