Real money online casinos allow you to experience the thrills of Vegas from the comfort of your home. They offer generous bonuses and amazing games, such as slots, blackjack, roulette, and video poker. They also allow you play those games at a pace that’s impossible to achieve in a brick-and-mortar setting, which can have a significant impact on your bankroll. The goal of this article is to provide you with a fair overview of the most popular online casino games, along with a guide to selecting the best real money casino and minimizing your losses.
How to select an online casino
Start by determining which casinos are available in your jurisdiction and verify their trustworthiness. The easiest way to do that is to check whether they have the right paperwork. Most legitimate international casinos are licensed in tax havens, such as Isle of Man, Malta, and Gibraltar – the global iGaming market is so competitive that operators that are forced to pay higher taxes are locked to local markets regardless of the quality of their services. If local gambling laws prevent you from accessing international sites, stick to platforms that have been approved by the government. For example, if you live in New Jersey, you should join a casino that has been verified by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJDoG).
Unfortunately, some players have no option but to join an offshore site. This applies to US-based casino enthusiasts who reside in states that haven’t launched their own iGaming markets, as well as people who live in countries that are very tough on casino operators while simultaneously being lenient towards players, such as Australia. If you find yourself in this position, stick to operators with a stellar track record, such as Bovada or BetOnline. Remember that safety should always come first – an amazing bonus won’t do you any good if your casino puts your cash-out request on permanent hold for no valid reason.
Your next step is to check whether the casino games you’re looking to play are available at the sites that passed the legitimacy check. If you’re interested in slots, this won’t be an issue because all reputable casinos offer dozens or hundreds of them. If you’re looking for niche games, such as Pai Gow poker or Baccarat, you should remove casinos that don’t offer them from your list before moving on to the next step.
In most cases, the size of your bonus will depend on the size of your first real-money deposit. Most casinos will give you a 100% match on your payment, which means that if you deposit $100, you’ll get $100 in bonus cash. In some cases, you should disregard the size of the bonus and focus on wagering requirements instead, which must be met before you’ll be allowed to withdraw your bonus or any winnings.
“Appearances can be misleading” should be your motto here, because many casinos offer bonuses that look generous at a first glance, but which require you to complete a long playthrough that’s very likely to grind your deposit reward down to zero. This playthrough requirement is usually expressed as a multiplier applied to your initial deposit.
For example, a 20x playthrough means that if you deposit $100, you’ll have to wager 20x $100 = $2,000 before you’ll be allowed to cash out. Sometimes this requirement applies to both your deposit and bonus money combined. In our example, this would mean that you’d have to wager $4,000 instead of $2,000.
The more demanding the wagering requirement, the more likely the house edge is to obliterate your bankroll before you’ve even managed to clear your bonus.
If you’re planning to play video poker or tables games, you should also check your casino’s rules for wagering contributions towards clearing the bonus. Usually, such games contribute only 10%-25% of your bets because they give the house a very small edge. High-house edge games, such as slots or keno, almost always contribute 100%.
The majority of reputable online casinos offer VIP programs, also known as cashback or loyalty programs. VIP programs allow players to earn various rewards and cashback. Generally speaking, the more you wager and the longer you play, the better your rewards become. Incentives include a return of a percentage of your total wagers, free trips and dining, and bonus cash.
If you’re a recreational gambler, VIP programs probably won’t make much of a difference to you. However, for more active players, it pays to consider the value of the VIP program offered by an online casino. In particular, note if there’s any cashback offered and what it is for the particular games you plan to play – for example, slots typically offer better cashback than Blackjack.
Many online casinos offer recurring bonuses to existing players, which typically include re-deposit bonuses and free VIP/loyalty points. Although the value of individual recurring bonuses is usually significantly lower than that of a welcome bonus, the former come in far greater numbers and will, over the long run, provide significantly more bang for your buck. Consider if your casino offers recurring bonuses on the games you plan to play.
Mobile app availability
Most online casino lobbies can be accessed from a browser-based app, which are usually responsive and re-size to fit any modern smartphone’s screen. However, playing on a dedicated mobile casino app is a significantly better experience, which is why you should always check if your casino offers one if you plan on gambling from your smartphone. The majority of legit internet casinos offer dedicated apps for iOS and Android devices.
Online Casino Games
Internet casino games have only one thing in common: the house always has an edge. Other than that, they share very few characteristics, which allows them to appeal to a wide audience. Below you’ll learn more about the most popular online casinos games that you can play for real money.
Online 3-Card Poker
Three-card poker combines the excitement of poker with the speed of online casino games. It delivers fast-paced action while still requiring the player to make correct betting decisions. The typical house edge for 3-card poker is 3.37%. 3-card poker is a high-RTP table game and as such contributes only 10%-25% towards bonus clearing at most online casinos. Although 3-card poker games tend to generate plenty of revenue, most casinos offer only one variant of the game. Quick tip: Always avoid PairPlus bets and fold hands weaker than Q-6-4 to maximize your odds of winnings.
To learn how to play and win at three-card-poker, plus the best 3-card-poker sites, see our guide to real money 3-card poker games.
Live baccarat is considered a high-roller game, but anyone can enjoy it online. The rules are very similar to Macau, so anyone should be able to pick up this high-RTP card game. The house edge in baccarat depends on the type of bet you make.
Here are the values for the standard, 8-deck version of the game:
- Player bet: 1.06%
- Banker bet: 1.24%
- Tie: 14.36%
Baccarat is a high-RTP table game, so your bets will probably contribute between 10% and 25% towards bonus clearing, depending on your casino. Baccarat is a niche game, so most casino operators offer only one or two variants of this game. Quick tip: Avoid unorthodox versions of baccarat, such as Super 6, as their rules give the house a higher edge. Don’t bother checking whether your casino pays 9 to 1 or 8 to 1 on a tie because in both cases it’s better to bet on the banker.
Learn more about playing and winning at online baccarat, and the best online casinos for baccarat in our real money online baccarat guide.
Your goal in blackjack is to draw the right cards and score a better hand than the dealer. Follow optimal strategy to keep house edge to a minimum. All variants of Blackjack have a high return-to-player, and in some cases, the house edge can be lower than 1% if you follow the optimal strategy. Consequently, it usually contributes 10%-25% towards bonus clearing. At most casinos, blackjack contributes 10%-25% towards bonus clearing.
Blackjack is one of the most popular table games around, so most high-profile developers have released at least one variant of this game. You can exploit this fact by picking the version with the most advantageous rules. Quick tip: The most advantageous blackjack games require the dealer to stand on soft 17 and don’t have any restrictions on doubling down and splitting aces.
Find out more about playing online blackjack for money, including tips for choosing the best online blackjack casinos and valuable blackjack strategy advice in our real money blackjack guide.
Craps is a niche dice game with a rich history. It allows you to place a wide range of ridiculous bets, but the most important ones come with a very low house edge. The best craps bet is the Don’t Pass bet where the house edge is just 1.36%.
Craps is a high-RTP game that’s been abused by bonus hunters in the past, so it contributes 5%-25% towards bonus clearing at most online casinos. Some casinos have rules in place designed to stop craps players from clearing bonuses by betting on both Pass and Don’t Pass simultaneously. Most internet casinos aren’t keen on craps, so they offer only one variant of the game. Quick tip: Don’t bother with simplified craps variants, as they give the house a significantly bigger edge. Always stick to standard craps.
See our online craps guide for tips for playing real money craps online and the best craps casinos.
Keno is very similar to lottery games. Unfortunately, this also extends to RTP, which is why it enjoys a horrible reputation. Keno is notorious for giving the house a massive edge. In some cases, the return-to-player can be as low as 50%. Keno is a low-RTP game and usually contributes 100% towards bonus clearing. Keno enjoys a terrible reputation among online casino aficionados, so most sites offer very few variants of this game. Quick tip: The odds of correctly guessing 20 numbers in Keno are 1 in 3,535,316,142,212,173,800. Don’t focus on the highest-paying combinations.
Check out our page about playing online Keno for real money to find out which casinos offer the best games and bonuses for Keno games.
Online Pai Gow Poker
Pai Gow poker is a slow-paced game with plenty of pushes. The live version is widely considered a social game, while its internet counterpart is more of a strategic experience. Assuming proper play, the house edge in Pai Gow poker is close to 1.5%. Pai Gow poker is a slow-paced high-RTP table game and usually contributes only 10%-25% towards clearing bonuses. Pai Gow poker isn’t very popular, so most sites offer only one or two variants of this game. Quick tip: If you’re used to standard poker, give yourself some time to adjust to new winning combinations – for example, the A2345 straight is the second highest straight in Pai Gow.
To learn how to play Pai Gow Poker online, including the best casinos for Pai Gow Poker players and tips to help you win more, visit our real money Pai Gow Poker guide.
Roulette is a timeless casino classic, and online operators maintain the odds offered by land-based gambling establishments. Spin the wheel, place your bet, and hope that fortune smiles your way. You can increase your odds of winning by sticking exclusively to the European variant of the game.
In American roulette, the house has a 5.26% edge. European roulette has only one zero cell, reducing the house edge to 2.70%.
The house has a relatively high edge in roulette, but since it’s classified as a table game, it contributes only 10%-25% towards bonus clearing at most casinos. Many sites have rules that prevent players from clearing bonuses by placing safe roulette bets, such as betting on both odd and even or both red and black.
Roulette is very popular and many high-profile developers have released their own versions of the game, which gives you a lot of choice in terms of visuals and sound effects.
Some casinos give you access to Atlantic City roulette, which features a lower house edge than both versions of standard roulette.
Slots account for the vast majority of action at online casinos, so you’re guaranteed to enjoy a good selection regardless of the platform you choose. In terms of gameplay, the online games aren’t any different from the video slots you’d expect to find in a land-based casino.
The specifics depend on the game, but in most cases, the house edge falls in the 4%-15% range.
Slots are low-RTP games and make it very easy for players to fall prey to the grind, so they always contribute 100% towards bonus clearing.
If you’re looking for quality slots, focus on games released by NetEnt, Microgaming, Playtech, and IGT.
Don’t focus on the impact progressive jackpots have on the house edge, as you’re infinitely more likely to go bust chasing them than to nail that massive payout. Try to pick games that have high RTP because of their pay tables. Don’t be afraid to place large bets.
Online Video poker
Video poker is a card game that makes it possible to turn a long-term profit with cashback and optimal strategy. However, every bet and call you make matters, so you have to follow the optimal betting strategy.
In games like Jacks or Better, the house edge can be as low as 0.46%.
When it comes to clearing bonuses, video poker is often grouped together with other table games, which means that it contributes only 10%-25% of your wagers.
Video poker is fairly popular – most popular casinos spread up to a dozen variants. When choosing your game, pay attention to the pay tables, particularly the payouts on a full house and flush.
If you want to turn a profit, stick to video poker variants with the best paytables, such as Deuces Wild, Jacks or Better, and Bonus Poker Deluxe. Take maximum advantage of cashback and reload bonuses.
Glossary of general casino terms
Betting system: a codified way of betting which is supposed to give you an advantage over the house. Betting systems don’t change the game odds, so they won’t impact your long-term results.
Expected value: an abstract parameter that expresses the average value of a particular bet or action. Bets and actions that benefit the player are referred to as EV-positive, while bets and actions that benefit the house are referred to as EV-negative. All bets in casino games are EV-negative.
Gambler’s fallacy: the false belief that there is a statistical link between the outcomes of causally unrelated events.
The grind: the effect of the house edge slowly eroding your bankroll to nothing during long gambling sessions.
RTP (return-to-player): the percentage of wagered money mathematically expected to be returned to the player over a long series of bets.
Play money: virtual currency used when testing out an online casino’s games for free.
Playthrough: a set of requirements that must be met to clear bonus funds for withdrawal. Typically involves wagering a certain amount of money.
Wagering contribution: the percentage of your bet that contributes towards bonus clearing. At most online casinos, slots and Keno contribute 100% towards completing the playthrough, while table games contribute only 10%-25%.
Welcome bonus: free money awarded to players by the casino, typically for registering a new account or making a first deposit. Cannot be withdrawn until certain requirements are met.
Recurring bonuses: free money awarded to regular players and frequent depositors.
Cashback program: a tiered system offered by most casinos. It rewards active gamblers by returning them a small percentage of their total wagers or losses.
House edge: the casino’s advantage over the player. For example, playing a game with a 1% house edge means you can expect to lose $1 for every $100 wagered at that game.
Live dealer games: an online casino game that’s played against a real casino dealer visible through an internet camera.
Pay table: a table listing the payouts for various outcomes of a casino game.
Casino lobby: the main interface of an internet casino. This is where you can access all available games and account management features.
Whale / high-roller: a casino player known for placing very large bets.
How to beat online casino games
Albert Einstein famously stated that no one can win at roulette unless he steals from the table while the croupier isn’t looking. While this statement is true in mathematical terms, turning a profit over short gambling sessions is entirely within the realm of possibility. This is due to casino games’ inherent volatility.
The average return-to-player rate is always lower than 100%, but that doesn’t mean that the probability of scoring a lucky streak is 0%. In fact, if you keep your gambling sessions short, that probability can be relatively high. For example, if you have $100 at your disposal and you go all-in betting the banker in baccarat, you have a 45.86% chance of coming out $95 ahead. That’s fairly close to a coin flip.
Read our casino game guides to find out which games are easiest to exploit in the short term.
Many inexperienced casino enthusiasts have a tendency to keep their bets small because they’re afraid of putting their entire deposit at risk. This protects them from going bust over a single bet, while simultaneously guaranteeing that they will lose their entire bankroll over the long haul. This is because the longer you play, the more likely your results are to reflect the true house edge. An infinitely long gambling session will reduce your bankroll to nothing regardless of any success you may have had in the short term.
This slow erosion of players’ funds over prolonged gambling sessions is known as the grind. The grind is also the reason why bold players are more successful: if you’re playing an EV-negative game, a single $100 bet is always preferable to one hundred one-dollar bets.
Betting systems are often advertised as a surefire method to overcome the house edge, but achieving this goal is impossible because modifying your betting pattern can’t influence the odds built into the game. Simply put, the coin doesn’t care whether you’ve wagered $10 on heads or $50 on tails. You can maximize your odds by limiting the grind and placing optimal wagers, but you can never go outside the mathematical constraints imposed by the game rules.
Most betting systems are based on gambler’s fallacy, which is the false assumption that the outcome of a random event can influence the outcome of a different, unrelated random event. Someone who believes in gambler’s fallacy would say that if you flip tails four times in a row, the result of the next coin flip is more likely to be heads. In reality, the odds are always 50/50 for any individual flip regardless of the outcome of previous flips. The same holds true for casino games – the odds are never 50/50 (the house always has an edge), but the general principle applies.
Tips for playing online casino games
The information provided above can be distilled down to a few easy-to-follow tips that are guaranteed to improve your casino experience.
Don’t bet more than you can afford to lose
Never deposit money to an online casino unless you’re willing to lose it. This applies to all casino games, from blackjack to slots. If you feel that you’re spending too much money on online gambling, you can always ask your casino to set up a weekly or monthly limit on your deposits or wagers.
Stay calm and enjoy yourself
Since you’re paying for entertainment, there’s no reason to get angry if you don’t win. After all, you’re making EV-negative bets and you know it. If you manage to beat the odds and win, even better.
Also, make sure the game you’re playing is actually entertaining. Elements such as the game’s soundtrack, motif, backdrop, and animations all have a significant impact on your enjoyment of the game. Even a serious losing streak becomes somewhat tolerable when you’re enjoying the action.
Read up on the games you’re going to play
Casino games can’t be turned into a steady source of income, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do everything in your power to maximize your returns. Learn optimal strategies and place proper bets – our game-specific guides will equip you with all the knowledge you need.
Don’t trust any betting systems – they don’t work
Betting systems can’t influence the odds and thus provide you with no advantage over the house. In many games, picking the wrong betting system can decrease your chances of turning a profit by exposing your bankroll to excessive grind. In all but the rarest of situations, a bold play is guaranteed to generate better results than following a system like the Martingale.
Don’t be shy about leaving the game once you’ve won big
If you’re satisfied with your winnings and are not in it for entertainment, stop playing. There is no shame in walking away from the table once you’ve won big. This is especially true for jackpots – if you’ve beaten the odds and claimed the main prize, continuing to play is guaranteed to rob you of your money, sooner or later.
Try the games in free-play mode first
Playing in free-play mode allows you to become acquainted with the game’s interface. If you’re a new player, it will also allow you to learn the rules in a stress-free environment. Never skip this step when you’re learning a game that requires you to follow a specific strategy for optimal results, such as blackjack or Pai Gow poker.
Choose casinos with good recurring bonuses and cashback
The cashback and recurring bonuses offered by your casino will have a significant effect on your bottom line and will work to extend your bankroll’s play time. Focus on casinos that offer the best rewards on your games of choice – most venues offer different cashback on different game categories.
Online casino FAQ
Q: Can you really win money playing online casino games?
A: Yes, if you get lucky. The house has an edge, but the inherent volatility of casino games can lead to a winning streak and line your pockets before the laws of probability catch up to you.
The best way to increase your chances of turning a profit is to be as bold as possible when it comes to sizing your bets. Placing a single $100 bet is always better than placing one hundred $1 bets, because in the latter case the results will tend towards the average return-to-player, and the average RTP is always lower than 100%.
Q: Which casino games give the best odds of winning?
A: High-RTP games give better odds than high volatility, low-RTP games, such as Keno or slots. If you’re interested in potentially turning a profit, focus on video poker. Please note that clearing bonuses through high-RTP games requires more effort because they contribute only a small portion of your wagers towards completing the playthrough.
Q: How do I deposit money to an online casino?
A: All legitimate internet casinos support multiple deposit methods, but their availability depends on your area of residence. The most popular solutions include e-wallets, Visa/MasterCard, and high-profile local payment processing services.
Important: if you live in the United States, avoid credit card payments. American financial institutions are overzealous when it comes to blocking illegal gambling payments, and many customers of licensed US-based casinos see their transactions rejected. While having your transaction refused won’t carry any legal or financial consequences, using a 100% reliable method is likely to save you time and frustration.
Q: If I win, how will the casino pay me?
A: In most online casinos there is a significant overlap between the supported cash-out methods and deposit options. However, their availability usually depends on your banking history. For example, many casinos allow customers to cash out via an e-wallet service only if they’ve used it to make a deposit in the past.
If your winnings exceed the casino’s withdrawal limit, you will be paid in weekly or monthly installments. Some operators allow you to circumvent this limitation by requesting a check by courier.
Q: What happens if I get disconnected in the middle of an active game?
A: This depends on how your casino generates the results for the game you’re playing. Many casino games, such as slots, baccarat, or roulette, don’t require the player to make any decisions in the middle of an active round. If you’re playing such a game and you get disconnected, two outcomes are possible:
– Your bet isn’t transmitted to your casino. The money to cover your wager won’t be subtracted from your account – it’s as if that round never happened.
– Your bet is processed successfully. The money to cover your wager will be subtracted from your bankroll, the casino’s random numbers generator (RNG) will generate the outcome, and your payout will be transferred to your account if you win. The only downside is that you won’t be able to witness the action.
If you get disconnected while playing a game that requires you to make decisions during an active round, such as in Blackjack, your wager will most likely be forfeit.
We recommend contacting your casino to inquire about their disconnect policy.
Q: What about cryptocurrencies? Can I use Bitcoin to fund my casino account?
A: Most high-profile casinos don’t take Bitcoin payments. If you want to pay with crypto, your options will be severely limited. If you live in the United States, you can try Bovada or BetOnline. In Europe, your only viable option is Bodog.
There are casinos that deal with Bitcoin or Monero exclusively, however, the vast majority of them are new and unlicensed. We do not recommend using them as your risk of being scammed and losing your deposit is significant.
History of online casinos
It may be hard to believe, but the beginnings of online casino gaming were very humble. It all started in 1994, when Antigua and Barbuda started granting licenses to online casino operators. Microgaming provided the software, CryptoLogic provided the security, and by late 1996, 15 legitimate sites were already online.
From then on, the market exploded. By 1997, the number of active internet casinos grew to 200. By 2001, there were more than 8 million active online gamblers, and in 2002 the entire industry was valued at $4.5 billion – less than 10% of what it’s worth today.
Throughout the noughties, many countries introduced new legislation that was supposed to limit the availability of online casino games. This goal was never achieved, which led numerous governments to assume the more realistic approach of establishing fenced iGaming markets.