Online casinos offer players a wealth of great games at a range of stakes. You can play slots for 1p, roulette for £500, or load up a quick scratchcard for an instant win.
The choice at Internet casinos is bewildering, and without a little homework it's easy to pick the wrong games. Luckily, with a bit of knowledge on the rules and some grounding on jackpots and house advantages, you can come out the other side a winning player.
Picking The Right Games
In a land-based casino you are generally restricted to maybe 50-100 slot machines and a dozen table games. You might have one version of roulette and blackjack, or video slots terminals from just one developer.
Online players have no such worries. They can pick and choose from thousands of slots (often at stakes far lower than at a land-based casino), and interesting table games and variants you won't find offline. You can also select a massive progressive jackpot with million-dollar prizes if you bet the biggest stakes.
Each game has a house edge. This is the statistical, long-term advantage that the house has over players. After all, the casino always weights games in their favour. However, some games are more disadvantaged towards players than others. The key is to pick the games and bets that nullify the house edge as much as possible.
Let's take a look at what casino games you should be picking.
Upside: Some bets carry very low house advantages; even-money bets available
Downside: Games aren't always eligible towards a casino bonus
The popular table game lets you place bets on one of 37 (European Roulette) or 38 (American Roulette) numbers at stakes to fit your budget.
The payouts vary depending on your bet, so an 'outside' bet like Red, Black, Odd or Even pays 1/1. A column of 12 numbers, meanwhile, pays 2/1, and inside numbers pay 35/1. You can also mix up your wagers with a small stake on a number, or group of numbers, and a large bet on Red or Black. This lets you cover your numbers.
It's important to find the right version. European Roulette has one green zero slot, which disadvantages anyone betting on Red or Black. Because of this skew, the house edge in European Roulette is 2.7%. This means that on average, the casino will keep $2.70 for every $100 wagered.
Now compare this to American Roulette, available at most online casinos. American Roulette has an added double-zero slot, which can also scupper any Red/Black or Odd/Even wagers. Because of the added spot the house edge also increases - to 5.26%.
Tip: Bet the most on even-money bets and stick to European Roulette with its lower house edge.
Upside: RTPs can be high; jackpots can be huge
Downside: Slots can be more volatile than table games
Casino players can pick from hundreds of slots on a single gambling site. Depending on the developers available, you'll be able to select from classic 3-reel slots, 5-reel games with bonus features, or progressive jackpots offering multi-million dollar prizes.
No other casino game can offer a prize worth $10 million+, not even progressive roulette. But you'll often have to gamble the largest stakes to access these jackpots, and the volatility can be big.
Slots have house edges too. An online slot with a RTP (Return to Player percentage) of 95% will have a 5% house edge. That means that for every $100 gambled on a game over the long term, $95 is paid back to players. Of course, slots gamblers can still go on hot or cold runs.
Tip: Read the paytable first to discover the jackpots and top payers. Find out the RTP of the slot first.
Upside: Very low house edge when playing optimal strategy; lots of variants
Downside: Biggest payouts are quite low compared to other games
Blackjack is an easy-to-play table game played between the dealer and players. The aim is to get as close to a total of 21 without going bust (over 21). Beat the dealer and you'll be paid even-money (1/1). Get dealt Blackjack straight away and you'll win 3/2, as long as the dealer also doesn't have blackjack.
There are extra bets available in blackjack, like splitting pairs and taking an insurance bet on the dealer having Blackjack. But if you play sensible strategy, like standing on the right totals, the house edge in blackjack can be as low as 0.5%.
There are several blackjack variants available online. Some have interesting side bets which reduce or increase the house edge but can provide bigger jackpots.
Tip: Print out a 'cheat sheet' before you play. This will tell you what the optimum moves are depending on the player's and dealer's cards.
Upside: Low house edge on Banker and Player bets
Downside: Not available everywhere; house edge is huge on the Tie bet
Baccarat is a classic card game that takes seconds to learn. The Banker and Player get dealt a hand each. Bets are made on which hand totals as close to 9 (with picture cards counting as zero). Bets can also be made on the hands tying.
In some cases, a third card may be drawn to get to 9. However, because the Banker goes second, he has information before him. A bet on the Banker is more sensible, therefore, but pays an odds-on 19/20. A successful Player bet pays 1/1, with the tie paying 8/1.
The house edge is low in baccarat as there is only one advantage to the house - the 5% commission they take on a Banker win. However, with good bankroll management you can make the game pay.
Tip: Bet on the Banker. They always go second and have added information to go on. Never go for the Tie bet - its house edge is just too high.
Upside: Fast and furious, with lots of bets possible
Downside: Not available at all casinos
Craps is a fast and fun dice game played in many US casinos. Some online sites will have one Craps table, and best of all there's no pushing to get a place at the table.
There are dozens of bets possible in Craps, so it's vital to understand what you're betting on before you start. Print out a cheat sheet, or read our dedicated Craps rules page to get a feel.
A game of Craps starts with a 'Come Out' roll which sets the 'Point'. Bets are then made on what number will come next: lower or higher than, or equal to, the Point. Bets can also be made on doubles coming up or the two dice totalling a chosen number.
Tip: Stick to even-money bets like Come/Don't Come. These are better for long-term profits.
The Importance Of Free-Play Games
Whatever you choose to play, it's good to make full use of the casino's free-play games. Online casinos tend to offer practice-money versions of slots or table games. Of course, you won't win real money, but they give players a feel for the gameplay and rules and save you a tonne of cash in the process.
Finding Top Bonuses To Win More Cash
Casino bonuses give players the chance to increase their winning margin. Bonuses tend to have wagering requirements attached.
For instance, let's say you deposit $500 in pursuit of a 100% match bonus. That means if you play enough games you'll earn $500 back from the casino. But the casino advertises its bonus wagering amount as 40x - that means you'll have to gamble 500 x 40, or $20,000, claim the money.
Some games are more eligible than others. Slots tend to be 100%, but table games can be lower. It's important, therefore, to pick the right casino games before opting into a bonus.
Typical Online Casino Bonus Eligibility:
Video Slots: 100%
Roulette (all kinds): 20%
Blackjack (variants): 10%
Video Poker (all kinds): 5%
Progressive Slots: 0%
Eligibility usually relates to the house edge. Therefore, the higher the house edge (like in online slots), the more your play will contribute towards a bonus. However, with some clever research you can find 100%-eligible online slots that are a little more generous with their jackpots than others.
Best Online Casino Games FAQs
What Are The Best Games To Play At An Online Casino?
Some games have higher payouts than others. Progressive slots can pay out massive jackpots but require a large bankroll. Players with low budgets can enjoy table games like roulette cheaply and stick to even-money bets.
What Is The House Edge?
The house edge is the casino advantage over players. Each game is different depending on how the action moves. It's vital to pick games with a low house edge, and concentrate on low-volatility bets over the long term.
What Games Have The Lowest House Edge?
Baccarat and blackjack tend to have the lowest house edge. Blackjack can be as low as 0.5% because there is so much choice for the player in the moves they can make. European Roulette has a 2.7% edge compared to the 5.26% edge you'll find in American Roulette.
Can I Try Games For Free First?
Yes. You might not get to play enough games to work out if a game is volatile or not but free games are great for learning the ropes.
What Games Have The Biggest Jackpots?
Online progressive slots have the largest payouts. It's possible to win prizes worth millions if you hit the big bonus feature. However, even regular slots jackpots can sit around 10,000 coins or 100,000+ if you trigger a free spins bonus.
How Can I Use A Bonus To Make Money?
Yes. All online casinos offer bonuses which give you the chance to increase winnings. Most games are eligible, but some contribute more than others. You'll need to check that your favourite slots or table games are eligible before trying to claim a bonus.