As you may already have gathered, I have well over 10 years experience now playing in online casinos and I have learned a lot in that time – good and bad!
I can’t stress enough how important the following 3 topics are if you are an inexperienced player: recognising a safe online casino, playing with bonuses and understanding the games (in particular, the nature of variance and the effect it can have on your bankroll) are the three most crucial things you will need to understand. You’ll find extra information pertinent to specific online casinos in the online casino reviews section, but this page gives you an overall guide to the basics.
Recognizing safe online casinos
Firstly, I’d like to point out that I have personally played at all of the UK casinos featured on Online Casino UK. The majority of good casinos licence their games from software developers like IGT, Novomatic, Aristocrat, Microgaming, Playtech and Realtime Gaming (RTG), and all the casinos here use one of those four platforms (if you are looking specifically for IGT & Novomatic games, see my online slots article which specifically deals with casinos that have those slot games).
A number of these casinos have a mobile casino (see my mobile casino reviews for more in-depth information). Each offers a large range of games, Microgaming being the most prolific and whether you play Blackjack, Roulette, video poker or slots, you’ll find a good range of options on all four.
However, one quick and pretty accurate way to judge a solid, safe online casino is to look at the jurisdiction in which it is licenced. The exception is for USA casinos where they have a more limited choice in regulatory matters. For UK players, the “UK Whitelist” was implemented in 2008 which recognises jurisdictional responsibilities and those that were awarded whitelist status are the ones to look out for. Online casinos licenced therefore in the UK, Gibraltar, Malta, the Isle Of Man and Alderney are good bets, and a large number of the casinos here fall into that category. These jurisdictions offer a player dispute resolution service as well as operating fairly strict guidelines as to who can and can’t operate an online casino.
Playing with bonuses
Every online casino will offer a signup bonus and the vast majority offer ongoing loyalty bonuses too. All well and good, but you need to be aware that if you choose to accept a bonus (and you don’t have to), there will be terms and conditions attached and invariably these make it harder for you to win and cashout. The biggest issue with bonuses, and the reason why I rarely accept them, is that you have to wager anything up to 100 times your deposit and bonus amount (often a lot less) before you can cashout. I don’t like that restriction: when I win, I want to cash out.
Additionally, most bonuses will exclude certain games. You’d have to go a long way to find a signup bonus that allows you to play roulette or blackjack, even video poker games. This is because of the near 50/50 winning hand options which means over the years, bonuses have been abused. Now we all have to bear the consequences of those players.
My advice: only take a signup bonus if you are prepared to lose your initial deposit, because 9 times out of 10, that will be the case. The one exception to this rule is with some online casinos that use IGT games. They award the bonus AFTER you have met the wagering requirements with your initial deposit meaning if you win on your initial deposit, before the bonus has been credited, you can cash out without restrictions.
Understanding the games & the ‘variance’ trap!
If you stick to online casinos using one of the four software platforms I mentioned in the opening paragraph, then you will find online casino games are very fair and, in general, they come with equal or better expected returns than their land-based casino equivalents, especially slot games. All of the online casinos on this website fall into that category and you can check out my best casinos section for a head start.
However, I would add that many of the games are “high variance” (higher volatility) meaning that to achieve the expected results, you may have to wait longer. This most notably applies to slot games and bonus video poker games. This is achived by awarding lots of smaller wins and the occassional biggie and is a primary reason why you hear a lot of players claiming games are rigged. They aren’t… although obviously every casino game has a “house edge” – it’s normally beacuse the players don’t understand variance and are playing games with higher bets and bankrolls that are too small for the bet size.
If you want to try a handful of the casino games that you’ll find at the online casinos listed here, check out the casino games for some free demos you can play for fun.