Casino games are designed to give the house has a small advantage, so a typical player loses money over time. Through strategies like card counting, a player can gain a small advantage at a brick & mortar casino. Many online casinos offer sign-up bonuses and other promotions that give the player a much larger edge. Bonuses can be used to shift the house edge in your favor and win over time or to simply reduce your losses without having to change your game choices or style of play.
Online Casinos vs Brick & Mortar Casinos
Online casinos allow you to play casino games for real money on your computer. The larger software groups offer a similar game selection to what you would find in a brick and mortar casino -- blackjack, roulette, craps, video poker, slots, etc. However, there are some important differences.
Some online casinos offer live dealers via webcam, but for the most part game outcomes are determined via a computer dealer and random number generator, rather than live dealers. This generally makes play faster. With some online casino softwares, it is possible to play more than 1000 hands of blackjack per hour. Some casinos offer automated hand selection with optimal strategy or automated play. Previous play is usually available for review. Fairness is a concern for some players, as you must trust the behind the scenes random number generator. The larger casinos regularly hire an outside auditor to test their games and review win/loss results to verify random play. These audit results are usually available to the public.
Deposits and withdrawals differ significantly between online and B&M casinos. At a B&M casino, it is fairly easy to purchase or cash in chips. At an online casino, you may need to use a 3rd party eWallet system to transfer money. Withdrawals usually are not instant. It typically takes a few days for a withdrawal to be received in your eWallet account. The two most common reasons for this delay are security/fraud checks and a reverse-withdrawal period (period in which you can cancel your withdrawal).
Bonuses and comps also differ between online and B&M casinos. Online casinos do not comp you for meals or room upgrades. Instead they give financial bonuses. Bonuses usually require wagering a certain amount before they can be cashed in. All wagers are tracked as you play.
A casino is more than just games. Online casinos do not offer the same atmosphere as a brick and mortar casino. You won't see and hear others hitting jackpots; there will not be friends cheering you on; there will not be live music/events; and there will not be amazing physical structures, like at Vegas. Online casinos will never replace live casinos; but they do offer a convenient, fun, and potentially profitable way to play at home.
Types of Bonuses
There are many types of casino bonuses. The simplest is a cashable bonus with a wagering requirement. For example, a casino might offer a $200 sign-up bonus with a 25x bonus wagering requirement. The total wagering requirement is $200x25 = $5000. This $5000 wagering requirement can be done in 5000 $1 bets, 500 $10 bets, 50 $100 bets, or any other combination. A player is expected to lose an average of ~0.5% of their wager playing blackjack, so expected loss over the $5000 wagering is $5000x0.5% = $25. This leaves $175 of the $200 bonus as cashable profit. The blackjack page goes into more detail about game strategy and selecting an appropriate bet size.
A "sticky" bonus also has a wagering requirement. However, unlike cashable bonuses, a sticky bonus can never be withdrawn. It can only be used to place wagers. You generally play your cash balance first. If your cash balance drops to zero, you can continue playing using the sticky bonus.
Most Microgaming casinos use a variation of the "Clearplay" bonus system. Under traditional implementation, you can play all casino games and withdraw your winnings at any time, whether you have met the wagering requirements on the bonus or not. Wagering requirements are increased for blackjack, so there are different strategies and recommended games than with typical cashable bonuses. See the Clearplay bonus page for more detailed information.
Free Play & Free Spins bonuses are available with a few softwares. After signing up at the casino, you are given money to play the casino games without making a deposit. Your free play winnings are credited as a bonus with your first deposit.
I recommend starting with the First Five Casinos List. This list goes into more detail about playing five of the highest ranked bonuses.
Experienced players may wish to skip to the Best Bonus List, which ranks what I consider to be the best ~100 casino sign-up bonuses according to a variety of measures, including expected gain. The best bonus list is available in 3 currencies -- $, €, and £. The $ list converts bonus values to Dollars and mentions restrictions for players from Australia, Canada, and the United States in the notes column. Most casinos restrict players from the United States, so the notes column lists when USA players are allowed, rather than restricted. The € list converts bonus values to Euros and mentions restrictions for players from Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden in the notes column. The £ list converts bonus values to Pounds and does not include bonuses that restrict players from the United Kingdom. The lists are updated on a regular basis, as available bonuses change. Each bonus list is sortable. To identify the best blackjack bonuses, click "Game." The bonuses will be sorted by available game. To identify cashable blackjack bonuses, click "Type" after clicking "Game."
For a more complete list of bonuses, see the "All" Bonus List. This list includes sign-up bonuses at over 400 casinos. The list includes quality bonuses, as well as poor bonuses.
See the Monthly Bonus List for information about monthly bonuses and reload bonuses.
Frequently Asked Questions
Before Signing Up
Before taking a bonus, I recommend reading the full terms & conditions (T&C) associated with that bonus. If you cannot find a link to the terms on the casino's webpage, ask a support rep for assistance. While reading the T&C, confirm the terms of the bonus; confirm that your country is not banned from playing at the casino and does not have increased wagering requirements from the default; and if you are under 21, confirm that the casino allows players who are 18-20.
Deposits and Withdrawals
There are many money transfer options including credit cards, direct transfers to your bank account, and eWallets. I recommend getting a 3rd party eWallet to simplify transactions and reduce withdrawal delays. For non-USA residents, the three main options are Neteller, MoneyBookers, and Click2Pay. They all have their own strengths and weaknesses. Neteller seems to be the most common choice.
The clear majority of casinos listed on this site are fair and reputable. Game outcomes are selected through a random number generator, and the casinos will pay winnings within a reasonable time frame. The known problem casinos are marked with warnings. You may wonder why list the problem casinos on the site at all. Rather than pretend these casinos don't exist, I choose to provide information about the potential hazards, so readers can make an informed decision. Some may feel that the bonus or other benefit is worth the additional risk, and some readers may be disagree with the warning.
Gambling Addiction / Problem Gambling
Gambling can be addictive. If you have a problem with gambling, the convenience of playing at home may make your situation worse. You may wish to have a set of personal rules to minimize risks such as only depositing in EV+ situations, never chasing losses, contacting a casino to immediately flush out wins greater than $####, avoiding two-tier strategies that involve larger bets and a larger risk of loss, or whatever is appropriate for your specific situation. If you are unable to follow your personal rules, then I recommend quitting altogether. Additional information and resources for help are at The National Council on Problem Gambling & GamCare. GamBlock can be used to block access to online gambling sites.
On Site Resources
This site has hundreds of pages. A partial list of useful on site resources is below:
Discussion Forums -- The discussion forums are one of the most popular sections of the site. It's a great place to ask questions.
Game Pages -- The Casino Games pulldown links to pages for all common casino games. The pages include a rules description, strategy information, and house edge & variance information. When strategy is complicated, the pages may have links to strategy calculators.
Software Pages -- The Casino Softwares pulldown links to pages for all common casino softwares. The pages include a games list with house edge information and a bonus list for casinos using the software.
Casino Bonuses -- The Casino Bonuses pulldown links to bonus lists (see Bonus Lists section above), pages describing bonus types, and pages describing strategies.
Sportsbook Bonuses -- The Sportsbook Bonuses pulldown links to pages relating to online sportsbooks bonuses (distinct from online casino bonuses).
Calculators -- The Calculators pulldown links to many useful calculators and simulators including:
Blackjack Strategy Calculator -- The Blackjack Strategy Calculator provides strategy and house edge for all common blackjack variations.
Return & Variance Calculator -- The Return & Variance Calculator estimates average gain and range of return with a selected bet size and game.
Return & Variance Simulator -- The Return & Variance Simulator estimates average gain and range of return using simulation, rather than calculation.
Site Map -- The site map lists many additional pages, not mentioned above.
Off Site Resources
Wizard of Odds -- Strategies and odds for casino games
Casinomeister -- Quality forum, resources for player complaints, and list of accredited & rogue casinos
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