How did the largest and most reputable online casinos in the world build their brands?
By providing the best real money gambling games found on the internet, that’s how.
Sites like 888 Casino, Ignition Casino, and Las Vegas USA Casino offer play money versions of classic games like blackjack, roulette, and poker.
But their bread and butter is real money play.
And of course, while the play money tables are perfectly fine for the sake of practice, almost every online casino enthusiast eventually wants to try their hand with actual money on the line.
We know we did when we first hit the virtual felt way back when. And even though the play money games helped us get acquainted with a site’s interface and functionality, we were usually ready to hit the real money section right off the bat.
The pool of players just now discovering online gambling is growing like never before. The online casino marketplace is expanding by the day.
And several states want to join: Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware all want in with offering regulated real money play to residents and visitors,
That means plenty of veteran gamblers who know their way around the brick and mortar casino floor are entering the entirely different dynamic of an online casino for the first time.
Is that you?
If so, we hope to serve as your humble guide to the world of online casino gambling for real money.
This page provides a thorough primer on both the basics:
- How to locate reputable sites
- How to register for an account
- How to begin playing
It also provides more advanced lessons:
- How to take advantage of bonuses and promotions
- How to avoid the “sucker” games
- How to use the virtual currency known as Bitcoin to fund your real money gambling accounts
By the time you’re finished here, you should be much more prepared to tackle your first real money gambling session online.
What Games Can I Play for Real Money?
Practically any casino game or gambling activity can be played for real money online. If you’ve placed a bet on it live, you can probably place a bet on it on the Internet. Below, we’ve listed some examples:
You can play any number of card games for real money online, including:
Baccarat – If you’ve ever seen a James Bond movie where he was gambling in a casino, you’ve seen someone playing baccarat. It is indeed a perennial hit with high rollers. But it’s also a game with reasonably good odds that requires no skill on the part of the players. It’s available in video game versions and with live dealers at casinos which offer webcam gambling.
Blackjack – This is probably the most popular gambling game, and it offers the best odds. What’s great about playing blackjack online is that the odds are even better than you’ll find at most casinos. Finding a version of internet blackjack with a house edge of less than 0.5% is easy. Live dealer versions are more authentic, but not every casino offers them. You’ll also find almost every exotic version of the game imaginable, too—including Double Exposure, Pontoon, and Spanish 21 (among others).
Caribbean Hold’em and Caribbean Stud – These are both house-banked versions of poker where you get paid out based on the final value of your hand. How many cards you get are determined by whether you’re playing the hold’em or stud version.
Casino Hold’em – This is a house-banked version of Texas holdem. It has more in common with video poker than it does with Texas hold’em, because you get a payout based on the final value of your hand. It does feature a live dealer and other players at the table, but you’re only playing against the dealer.
Omaha – This is a more interesting game than Texas hold’em, but for some reason it doesn’t hold the same place in the hierarchy here in the USA that hold’em does. It can be played in some version at almost any reputable online cardroom.
Pai Gow Poker – This house-banked casino game combines the Asian dominoes game of Pai Gow with seven card stud. It’s a lot of fun, slow-paced, and relaxing. It also offers a reasonably low house edge when you consider how few hands per hour you’re playing.
Texas Holdem – This is the most popular poker game in the world. You’ll find it at any site offering an online cardroom. There’s a difference between Casino Hold’em and Texas hold’em, though. The former is a house-banked game where you play against the dealer. The latter is played against other players.
Three Card Poker – This is one of many house-banked casino games loosely based on poker. It’s available in multiple versions with multiple payouts and different names. The original version is a trademark of Shufflemaster, and that’s the version you see in brick-and-mortar casinos. The versions online are almost identical in terms of game-play, but the payouts often differ.
Dice games don’t hold the same popularity that they once had, but there are still multiple dice games you can play online, including:
Craps – The most popular and exciting dice game you can play for real money. It loses some of its luster when played at an online casino, because you don’t have the other players with you. It can be played in a live dealer version at some casinos, too.
Sic Bo – This one has fallen out of favor over the last couple of decades, but it’s still available at some online casinos in both live dealer versions and in random number generator powered versions.
Gambling machines are the most natural games to play online for money. These can be roughly categorized as follows:
Roulette – Some people wouldn’t categorize roulette as a gambling machine, because it doesn’t involve electronics. But a spinning wheel is a type of rudimentary machine. Both American and European roulette are available at every online casino you can think of. But you should never play the American version online, because the house edge is almost twice as high compared to the European version.
Slot Machines – Online slots are as popular on the internet as they are offline. Every imaginable version of a slot machine you can play in a brick and mortar casino can also be played online. They offer progressive jackpot games, multi-reel and multi-payline games, and even the new 243 ways slots. The payback percentages online are often better than in land-based casinos because of the lower overhead.
Video Poker – Our favorite gambling machines are video poker games. Unlike slots, you know exactly what you get when you’re playing video poker. The pay tables tell you how much each hand pays out. And anyone who’s ever played poker has at least a vague, general idea of how likely it is to get each hand. Video poker is available in a bewildering number of versions, including some that are unique to the internet.
Is Real Money Gambling Online Legal and Safe?
Are you wondering whether online gambling is legal?
That’s only natural; the industry has existed in a state of quasi legality since it began more than two decades ago.
Operating an online gambling website is prohibited in the United States.
The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 also states that the law “prohibits gambling businesses from knowingly accepting payments in connection with the participation of another person in a bet or wager that involves the use of the Internet and that is unlawful under any federal or state law.”
But playing at an online gambling website is not prohibited.
The laws focus on the businesses providing the service, not the customers taking advantage of that service.
In 2006, when Congress passed UIGEA, major online gambling enterprises–including online poker rooms, casinos, and sportsbooks that were offering real money player–were forced to withdraw from the U.S. market.
That left American players in the proverbial lurch, lacking access to any regulated online gambling platforms.
They could still play, of course, and do so completely within the boundaries of the law as an individual.
But in order to play, Americans were forced to take a bigger gamble – by using unregulated sites that aren’t bound by any domestic laws or ethical guidelines.
A few major sites did stick around. PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker exploited PartyPoker’s absence to corner the online poker room market, for example
But those sites eventually drew the ire of federal prosecutors.
On April 15th, 2011 the details of a federal indictment against executives from PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and a payment processor called Cereus – combined in a case known as United States v. Scheinberg, 10 Cr. 336 – were unsealed.
That same day, dubbed “Black Friday” within the industry, the domains for each site were seized and American players woke up to the shocking news that online gambling in their country was now shuttered for the foreseeable future.
The objective of the UIGEA was reviving anti-gambling statutes found within a 1961 law known as the Federal Wire Act. The Wire Act prohibits “use of a wire communication facility for the transmission in interstate or foreign commerce of bets or wagers or information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers on any sporting event or contest.”
In plain English, the Wire Act was written to forbid the use of telephones for placing sports bets across state or international borders. The law obviously never envisioned the internet.
But the UIGEA’s crafters hoped to apply that long-standing ban on “telephonic” wagering to encompass online betting as well.
When the states of New York and Illinois tried to create online versions of their local lottery programs after the UIGEA was passed, the plans were scuttled as violations of the new law. Those rebuffs prompted the states’ attorneys general to file suit with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), seeking a clarification on how the Wire Act should be interpreted.
Fortunately for the millions of online gamblers living stateside, on September 20th of 2011, the DOJ issued a memorandum opinion in response to New York and Illinois.
In that opinion, the DOJ stated unequivocally that “interstate transmissions of wire communications that do not relate to a ‘sporting event or contest’ fall outside the reach of the Wire Act. Because the proposed New York and Illinois lottery proposals do not involve wagering on sporting events or contests, the Wire Act does not prohibit them.”
Instantaneously, the Wire Act was now reinterpreted to cover sports betting only, putting online sportsbooks in violation – but not online casinos or poker rooms.
That DOJ decision effectively nullified the federal government’s ability to apply either the Wire Act or UIGEA to individual states seeking to create online casino or poker room industries within their borders. The ball was rolling at that point. By June of 2012, the state of Delaware became the first to approve legalization and regulation of online gambling.
Nevada and New Jersey soon followed, making three states in total where online casinos and poker rooms can be accessed completely legally. The success of these statewide industries has convinced regional neighbors like California, New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and several others to float their own “iGaming” legislation. Barring any unforeseen shifts in the legal winds, the American map will soon become a patchwork with several states maintaining their own online gambling industries.
Additionally, lobbying groups like the American Gaming Association (AGA) are making headway in their efforts to overturn the current federal ban on sports betting, both live and online. That milestone may still be a few years off, but the legalization of live sports betting on the federal level would likely lead to online sportsbooks becoming regulated as well.
In terms of player safety, legal and regulated sites serving players within the states of Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware offer the utmost in terms of protection and integrity. These states took their own gamble on the online gambling industry. Strict licensing procedures, financial accounting, and technological safeguards are built into their laws as a failsafe.
Nobody benefits if a state entering the online gambling era invites less than reputable operators to their market. So far, all three states have played things close to the vest.
Where Should I Play?
The major unifying factor in all three states where online gambling is legal is 888 Casino, which can be found on our list of the best online casinos of 2017.
As one of the world’s leading operators since 1997, 888 Holdings has created cutting edge online casinos, poker rooms, and sportsbooks that serve players all over the planet. When you join an online casino powered by 888 software, you can rest assured that the industry leading graphics and interface are also augmented by stringent security and a genuine regard for player satisfaction.
For players who aren’t bound by American restrictions, the world really is your oyster. Sites like Club World Casino, Ignition Casino, Mr. Green Casino, and of course, 888 Casino, are open to players from hundreds of countries around the globe.
We recommend heading to our Best Online Casinos of 2017 page for a deeper dive into the details for each of these top performers.
Be sure to check the right hand side of the page for a list of reviews covering individual brands too.
How Do I Sign Up?
Now that we’ve covered the background, let’s get down to the nitty gritty.
Signing up for an online casino account is generally a seamless process. The process closely follows the registration system used for other online services like shopping or banking.
You’ll begin by creating a unique user name, which will serve as your screen name on the tables. Pick something clever and cool, or a generic string of random letters and numbers. It’s up to you.
From there, the site will ask you for pertinent personal details, such as your physical and mailing addresses, an email address, a phone number, and the like. And of course, the site will need to verify your age to prevent underage gambling. Be prepared to provide your Social Security number (for Americans), or a similar identification number that can be used to verify your date of birth.
On that note, most online casinos now also ask that you send a scanned copy of your driver’s license. Don’t be surprised if that happens. In many cases, you can even use your cell phone to snap a photograph and email that to the site’s security department.
Once your registration application has been processed and verified – which usually happens in a matter of minutes – you’ll have full access to the site’s Lobby, Games Menu, and other features.
At this point, we’d advise firing up a few play money tables in your game of choice, just to get the lay of the land. If you’re older (like we are), or just don’t have a ton of computer experience, learning to handle the virtual chips, betting areas, and other functions can take some tinkering around.
But for the most part, you’ll be using simple point and click mechanics to open new games, place your wagers, and conduct banking activity. The interface should become intuitive in no time.
Once you’ve had your fill of play money gambling, it’s time to fund your account with real money and take things to the next level.
What Banking Method Do I Use to Fund My Account?
Because the leading online gambling providers today offer a full spectrum of banking services, this decision is really up to personal preference.
For the most part, we use our debit card to fund online gambling sessions. This follows the same basic procedures as we would when making a simple Amazon purchase or paying a utility bill online. That means we enter our card number for a valid Visa or MasterCard, along with expiration date and the three-digit security code on the back. From there, we set our deposit amount, click the appropriate button, and our funds are transferred almost instantaneously.
That process works the same for credit cards too. We don’t like gambling on credit, but many players prefer that payment method.
In some cases, your banking institution may flag an online gambling deposit as a potential fraud risk. This can be based on the site’s unusual name or base of business. For some reason, American banks scrutinize European purchases closely. Another reason banks flag online gambling transactions is out of adherence to the outdated provisions of the Wire Act and the UIGEA.
Believing online gambling to be banned under the law, especially strict banks will preclude you from using debit or credit cards altogether.
In many cases, a simple phone call to your bank’s customer service department is required to unlock the transaction. Once you verify that the flagged purchase is actually legitimate, most banks will ensure that your next try goes through without a hitch.
But in some instances, the bank will hold their ground and disallow any transactions with online gambling enterprises.
When this happens, the go-to method for online gamblers is to purchase a prepaid Visa or MasterCard at your local convenience store. These cards can be loaded with cash right there in person. And the unique code provided to the user isn’t connected with a traditional bank in any way. This allows you to run through the same debit or credit card deposit steps as described above, all without running afoul of your financial institution’s fraud department.
Online gamblers also use eWallets like Skrill, PayPall, and NetTeller to fund their accounts. These online financial service providers work like banks, but they provide much more freedom to users by becoming the middleman.
Just sign up for an account with a major eWallet, deposit from your bank to the eWallet, and then deposit from the eWallet to your favorite site.
You’ll find several other payment methods offered by the big time online gambling sites, as shown here by the full list of deposit options found on 888 Casino:
*** (Can Also Receive Withdrawals) ***
- VISA credit card
- and Debit cards
- MasterCard (withdrawals via BACS for UK issued cards only)
- Local Debit Cards
- EntroPay Virtual Visa Card
- Wire Transfer
- Qiwi VISA Virtual
*** (Can Not Receive Withdrawals) ***
- Bank Transfer
- Diners credit card
- Przelewy 24
- Sofortuberweisung /Sofortbanking
- Transferencia Bancaria
- Instant Banking powered by Citadel
- Visa QIWI Wallet
- AstroPay Card
Once you’ve deposited for the first time, the site should save your essential information to make future activity seamless and efficient.
Keep in mind that most of these traditional banking methods will come with fees attached, usually at 5 percent or less, so a $100 deposit will charge $105 to your account.
One final note about depositing concerns the “cryptocurrency” known as Bitcoin, which you’ll see advertised as an option by the leading sites. Bitcoin can be hard to explain, but basically, this is a virtual currency that can be purchased through exchanges for regular dollars (or another fiat currency). Once you have a reserve of Bitcoin, they can then be spent online through a number of outlets, including online casinos and poker rooms in recent years.
Bitcoin transactions are completely removed from banks and other third parties, so you’ll never face a flagged deposit, and the option almost always comes free of charge with no fees attached. We can’t claim to be avid Bitcoin users, but we do recognize that this method of payment is perfect for online gambling. We’ve started a Bitcoin wallet and bought some of the virtual currency just for that purpose.
Which Games Can I Play?
Any major online casino will offer the usual cast of classics, including blackjack, baccarat, craps, and roulette. This “big four” family of casino table games is then segmented further by the various variants formed by rule changes and the like.
Blackjack players can find games using Atlantic City or Vegas Strip rules, single deck games, and a whole host of offshoot games like Spanish 21, Exchange Blackjack, and Double Exposure Blackjack.
To give you an idea of the sheer scope of online casino game menus, take a look at the 38 different blackjack variants on offer at venues powered by Microgaming software:
- Atlantic City Blackjack
- Atlantic City Gold Blackjack
- Big Five Blackjack Gold
- Big Five Multi Hand Blackjack Gold
- Double Exposure Multi Hand Blackjack
- Double Exposure Multi Hand Blackjack Gold
- Double Exposure Single Hand Blackjack Gold
- European Blackjack
- European Multi Hand Blackjack
- European Multi Hand Blackjack Gold
- European Single Hand Blackjack Gold
- Hi Lo 13 European Single Hand Blackjack Gold
- High Streak Blackjack Gold
- Microgaming Classic Blackjack
- Microgaming Multi Hand Blackjack
- Microgaming Multi Hand Bonus Blackjack
- Microgaming Single Hand Bonus Blackjack
- Multi Hand Atlantic City Blackjack
- Multi Hand Bonus Blackjack Gold
- Multi Hand Classic Blackjack Gold
- Multi Hand Vegas Strip Blackjack
- Perfect Pairs European Multi Hand Blackjack Gold
- Pontoon Multi Hand Blackjack Gold
- Pontoon Single Hand Blackjack Gold
- Single Hand Bonus Blackjack Gold
- Single Hand Classic Blackjack Gold
- Spanish Blackjack
- Spanish Multi Hand Blackjack
- Spanish Multi Hand Blackjack Gold
- Spanish Single Hand Blackjack Gold
- Triple 7’s Blackjack
- Vegas Downtown Multi Hand Blackjack
- Vegas Downtown Multi Hand Blackjack Gold
- Vegas Downtown Single Hand Blackjack Gold
- Vegas Single Deck Single Hand Blackjack Gold
- Vegas Strip Blackjack
- Vegas Strip Blackjack Gold
- Vegas Strip Multi Hand Blackjack Gold
As you can tell, online gamblers never lack for variety when it comes to choosing their game for the day. And unlike live casinos where tables can close down, every one of those games listed above runs around the clock on Microgaming sites.
Roulette fans will find American style double zero wheels, the single zero wheel design favored in Europe, or creative additions like Double Ball Roulette.
Branching out from the big four, online casinos are home to ever expanding collections of the latest hybrid table games. Three Card Poker, Let It Ride, Casino War, Caribbean Stud Poker, Red Dog, and literally dozens more round out the table game lineup.
In each case, the games are further differentiated by stakes, with low roller and high roller tables offering wagers for as low as $0.01 and as high as $10,000.
Casinos aren’t all about table games though, and many players who frequent brick and mortar casinos never step foot into the pit. For these players, the machine games like slots and video poker are where the action is. Fortunately for them, online casinos have full-fledged slot and video poker components.
We’re consistently amazed at how leading online gambling software providers can replicate today’s modern video slots for internet based play. You can choose from thousands of online slots, running the gamut from traditional single line, three reel games to the most modern 40 payline themed titles. In many cases, popular TV shows, movies, musical acts, and other pop culture artifacts are used to create the theme for an online slot, giving the games another dimension of realism.
As for video poker, you’ll have access to all the favorites, from basic Jacks and Better to Deuces Wild, Joker Poker, and Double Double Bonus. These games play out exactly like they would on a genuine video poker machine. Diehard VP fans can save sizable sums when it comes to the cost of gasoline or drive time getting to your local gambling establishment.
The phenomenon known as online poker has been well documented. You can play Texas hold’em, Pot Limit Omaha, or even seven card stud against human opponents with real money on the line.
And in states like Nevada and New Jersey, online poker tournaments can be used to win entry into major live events like the World Series of Poker (WSOP) or World Poker Tour (WPT).
Online casinos also offer specialty games like keno and bingo. They even offer scratch style lottery games. Anything you can wager on in a brick and mortar casino has probably been adapted for online play. Part of the fun that comes with joining a good online casino is exploring the variety of games on the menu.
Take your time and be sure to try new games and variants you’re encountering for the first time.
What About These Bonus Offers?
We’ve dedicated an entire page to the topic of online casino bonus offers, so we direct readers who would like a detailed review of the subject over to our All About Online Casino Bonuses & Promotions (and How to Get Yours) page.
For a quick overview, though, online casinos usually market bonus fund offers, pledging to match first deposits at “100% up to $200” or match reload deposits at “50% up to $300.”
The idea is simple, at first glance. You make a deposit, while entering a special code received through email or on the site’s homepage. That deposit is then “matched” at the terms laid out, so your $200 deposit in the first example would create a $200 bonus match at 100 percent.
Here’s the idea:
Players start out with more money than they deposited, giving them more time to explore the site, enjoy the product, and become loyal users. From the player’s perspective, free money is always a treat.
And the casinos don’t have much to lose because their all-important house edge ensures that most money wagered will eventually be claimed by their coffers.
Sounds like a win-win for everyone involved, right?
Thanks to convoluted terms and conditions, most bonus funds are rendered useless, because players can only use them – but not withdraw them. That is, until they meet absurd “playthrough” points, meaning they’ve wagered something like 100 times the bonus amount awarded.
You can learn more about how this bait and switch tactic really works by visiting our Bonus and Promotions page.
But as a simple rule of thumb, just consider bonus offers as nothing more than fluff.
When I Win, How Do I Get Paid?
We’ve saved the best for last. Every casino player who has ever lived looks forward to one thing above all: winning.
When you do happen to overcome the house edge and collect a profit, you’ll eventually want to withdraw those funds and enjoy your real money in the real world. And more power to you, as many online gamblers become stuck in a hamster’s wheel, depositing over and over, while even winning on occasion, but never cashing out.
The cash out process for reputable online gambling sites is generally just the reverse of a deposit. You’ll head to the Cashier page, click on “Withdrawals,” and input the amount you’d like to remove.
But as mentioned in the list of banking options found in the earlier section, many deposit methods aren’t available for withdrawals. Obviously, this is a case of online casino operators trying to make it a little harder for players to claim their profits, just like land based operators station their cashier’s cages on the far end of the floor.
But rest assured, while online casinos would prefer you to keep your money in house, cash out requests are always honored by reputable, regulated platforms.
For the most part, you’ll be able to direct withdrawals back to the same debit or credit card you used to deposit. Another popular method of cashing out is to request a paper check, which will be mailed directly to your home address.
Each withdrawal method comes with its own fees and wait times, which can vary wildly from site to site, so be sure to read the Banking Methods page carefully before initiating a cash out.
Playing at real money casinos online can be intimidating the first time. You have to make sure you’re playing at a safe site, need to figure out how to move money into an out of the site, and sift through bonus offers.
The good news is you can use this complete guide to real money casinos to skip the painful learning curve. Just use what you learned above and you can start playing your favorite casino games online right away.