The Betting Scene: Online Casino Play

Sportsbooks worldwide are offering up casino bonuses and free rolls in the absence of sports betting, but players need to get some facts before anteing up.

A sports bettor's look at online casino games

For the foreseeable future, it's pretty obvious that there will be no sports and thus no sports betting. So online sportsbooks worldwide are pivoting and promoting their casino games in a big way. It doesn't matter if the online gambling operation is in Costa Rica, England or New Jersey, the gambling houses are asking sports bettors to shift from fact-based betting to games that are at the mercy of a Random Number Generator (RNG). Before players switch from betting the LA Kings to betting the Kong Kingdom slot machine, there are a few things that need to be cleared up.

Almost every gambler at some point has walked into a land-based casino and played blackjack, roulette, slots or even the big money wheel. People generally take a finite amount of money, plan to stay for a certain period of time and win or lose, generally have a good 'night out'.

Note that the things in the above sentence do not apply to playing online casino games from the comfort of your own home. There is no set time to play, the amount of money invested can be based solely on the limits on your credit card and in today's period of stay-at-home orders, there is no night out. Basically, the experience is different in just about every level. The same thing can be said for the games being played in an online casino.

The RNG difference

An RNG or random number generator is built into the software that all online casino games use. The software determines the outcome of a hand or roll or spin by generating random strings of numbers. The RNG has no knowledge of the results from the previous hand or spin and is pre-programmed based on the house edge for a particular game (blackjack has a house edge of .5%). The games are constantly drawing random numbers, even when not played. Thus, the random numbers chosen at the moment the button is pressed to spin the reels or deal the hand determine where the reels stop or what cards are dealt, thus determining whether the player wins or loses. 

online casino games betting tipsWhat this all means is that the games that players are used to in a land-based casino are different from their online counterparts. The Random Number Generator controls the deal of the cards, the spin of a roulette wheel or the roll of the dice. The only game that is similar, is Slots. There is no such thing as a hot deck, lucky dealer or magic run. Eventually, the RNG will even everything out. But, the RNG is programmed over thousands of hand or spins to achieve the correct house edge, so a good player can still win. Played correctly, there is a good entertainment value and there are ways to win and cash out.

Tips for online casino play

Learn about the math and strategies of the games

Knowing the basic strategy to each game is the key to winning. Basic strategy is a gambling term meaning the ability to make the correct mathematical decision in every situation and it is no different online vs. land-based. It's like understanding what a parlay is and the difference between a moneyline and a side. For blackjack, knowing when to hit, stand, split, and double down is the only way to win, especially against a computer program.

Know the details of the game

For starters, the decks in card games get shuffled after each hand, so card counting is just not a possibility. Know how may decks you are playing with. Does the dealer hit a soft 17? Does Blackjack pay 3:2 or 6:5?  For roulette, is it a zero or 00 game? Do the slots pay out left-to-right and right-to-left? 

There are dozens of variants in each game and without knowing exactly how the game works, it's like betting a baseball game without knowing the pitchers or betting a five-team parlay without knowing the payout.

Know When to Quit

With an endless amount of time to play, bettors MUST know when to just walk away from their device and the game. If players only sit for a short time, at most a couple of hours, they often walk away with a winning session. The casinos are well aware of this and it's why there are no clocks in land-based casinos. But playing online, at home, there is no real 'walking away' and length of play is the biggest downfall of most players. Years ago we tested the theory and found that most times when we were up on an online casino, we stood a better chance of cashing out with four 30 minute sessions, rather than one, two hour session.

Don't Chase

The Random Number Generator is not going to employ a weak dealer or suddenly hiccup letting everyone win. The computer will do what it is programmed to do - over time achieve a .5% hold in blackjack, for example. Remember, each spin or card is independent of the last one, so the 'hot streak' that sometimes comes at the tables, is much harder to find online. 

Don't think the casino is cheating

We get complaints about online casinos cheating players, usually via unfair games. Yes, certain software packages and some online casinos can and do crank the odds for winning down a percentage point or two, but the casinos rely on volume and thus cheating players is flat-out bad business. Instead, almost every claim we have ever investigated is from poor play and/or not understanding the game or the nature of RNG.

Casinos generally hold 0.5% on blackjack and poor play can increase that by 1.5% or more, simply by not applying basic strategy. For a $5 per hand player this can take losses from $20-$30 per hour to well over $100, simply because of bad decision making. Casinos really don't need to juice their games, as the majority of players don't apply basic strategy, miss opportunities that change outcomes (ex. doubling down) and chase. In fact, the house edge at an online casino may be lower than it's land-based counterpart because the overhead is very low. We have seen blackjack games where the house advantage is only 0.2% or 0.1%.

Solid Entertainment Value

Casino games, played correctly online, provide a good entertainment value and players do win and cash out. With hundreds of online casinos and a multitude of software packages available, there is literally a game for every type of player. If you are planning to continue to wager a few of the sports betting dollars sitting idle in your account, look for a top-rated online casino to play at and use some of the tips above to win . . . until sports betting returns.

Check back every week for The Betting Scene as we will highlight new items of interest in the world of online sports betting.

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