Casino games have been enjoyed as a form of entertainment for centuries. Casino games today are for everyone; not only have land-based venues relaxed their dress and membership rules, but online casino games have made this form of entertainment accessible to anyone who has access to a reliable internet connection.
In this article, we'll provide you with a complete introduction to online casino games so that you can start playing with confidence. We'll take a look at the types of casino games that are most popular with players, explain the difference between luck-based and skill-based games, and tell you what house advantage is all about. We'll also give you a handy glossary of essential terms and plenty of tips on how to enjoy online casino games in a safe and responsible manner.
For those of you who want to start exploring online casinos straight away, here are some of the venues that offer the best games for NZ players. If you want to know what makes a great casino game, all will be revealed later on.
There are more online casino games in the world than anyone will ever have time to play, so discussing every available title is pretty much impossible. What we can do, however, is highlight the most popular types of online casino games. This will give you a quick overview of the gaming scene as a whole, and you can then explore games of a particular type for yourself.
Also known as slots in most countries, pokies are games that require no skill to play. They come in many different themes, but all online pokies involve spinning reels that carry a variety of symbols. If symbols of the same type line up on the same pay line when the reels stop spinning, you win a prize.
These are pokies that offer particularly large jackpot prizes. Many jackpots are progressive, which means that they grow with every coin that players spend on the game until someone eventually wins the entire jackpot. Some progressive jackpot games have paid out six, seven or even eight figures to the lucky winners, so the prize potential they offer can be huge.
Video poker games provide all the fun of a poker game without you having to face any real human opponents. Your cards will be dealt on the screen and you’ll be given the chance to hold or discard as few or as many of those as you want. New cards will be dealt to replace discarded ones, and if this final hand ranks as a winner, you’ll be paid accordingly.
These are games that are played at a table when visiting a land-based casino. Your options here are numerous and include Blackjack, Baccarat, Roulette, Three Card Poker, Craps and Sic Bo, to name just six. The usual rules will apply when playing the standard online versions of these games, but there are many more varieties online that you won’t find at land-based venues.
We’ve all purchased scratch cards from convenience stores and service stations at some point, and online scratch cards work in much the same way. You’ll use your mouse to scratch panels with a virtual coin, and symbols will be revealed underneath as you do so. If you find a winning combination of symbols, you’ll win a corresponding cash prize.
Lotteries, Bingo and Keno
All of these games are based on their offline cousins, so they need little introduction. Lotteries and Keno are very similar and involve picking a selection of numbers and matching as many as you can with those that are drawn at random. The more numbers you match, the more you can win. Bingo assigns a card with numbers already selected so that you can mark them off as they are called. Winning here requires you to mark a particular pattern or quantity of numbers before anyone else.
This isn’t an online casino game, as such, but many online casinos also offer sports betting facilities and many players like to take advantage of them. Here you need to make a prediction about a sporting event, such as which team will win a certain soccer match, and bet that it will happen. If your prediction is correct, your bet will win.
Most online casino games are luck-based, which means that their outcomes are determined by a Random Number Generator or RNG. There is nothing that you can ever do to influence the result in a luck-based game, so you simply place your bet and hope that Lady Luck takes a shine to you. Some examples of luck-based games include pokies (including jackpots), roulette, lotteries, keno, bingo and craps.
A few games differ from this norm because your chances of winning can be influenced by how you play. These are known as skill-based games. While luck still plays a very big role in these games, the more skill you bring to the table, the more likely you will be to win. Some examples of skill-based games include blackjack, certain types of video poker and sports betting.
Whether you should play luck-based or skill-based casino games depends on a couple of things, including how well you know a game and how much you want to rely on luck to help you win.
If you're a complete beginner then you would do well to focus on luck-based games. Because the outcome of these can't be influenced, you can't really make a mistake when playing. Of course, it's still a very good idea to learn the rules of any game you play, but luck-based games tend to have relatively few rules and they will generally play themselves once you have placed your bet. When you have learned more about the games and their rules, you might want to start bringing some of your skills into play.
For example, if you have learned the rules of blackjack and you understand Basic Strategy, you can start playing according to that strategy and enjoy a decent chance of winning. Similarly, if you know a lot about sports then you can use your knowledge and prediction skills to help you win at sports betting.
All online casino games are designed to help the casino make a profit over the long term. They do this by paying out slightly less money than they take in from bets, and the percentage of money retained by the casino is referred to as the house advantage or house edge.
For example, if you bet on a single number in a game of European Roulette, your chance of winning will be 1 in 37. However, the casino will only pay odds of 35 to 1 if you succeed, and this will give the house an advantage of 2.7%.
The house advantage varies from game to game, and sometimes also from bet to bet. Blackjack, for example, generally has a very low house advantage, but if you take Insurance when it is offered, the house advantage increases massively. That's why you should never take Insurance, and why it's vital to know the rules when playing skill-based games.
It is worth noting that pokies will tell you their Return to Player (RTP) figures rather than the house advantage. To calculate the house advantage of a pokie, you need to deduct the RTP from 100. A pokie with an RTP of 96% would therefore have a house advantage of 4%, while a pokie with an RTP of 98% would have a house advantage of 2%.
Generally speaking, if you want to maximize your chances of winning, you should focus on games and bets with the lowest house advantage.
At many casinos, you will see a category labelled Live Casino or Live Dealer. In that category, you will find casino games that aren't driven by computer software. Instead, the games are operated by human dealers in a purpose-built studio that is dressed to look like a genuine land-based casino. You will get to see those games unfold in real-time by video streamed directly to your screen.
Live Casino games offer a much higher level of realism than regular online casino games, and they are perfect if you want to enjoy gaming with a human touch. The only downside of these games is that they can tend to be played at a slower pace than their software-driven counterparts due to them being operated physically. Some extra time also needs to be given between rounds so that all players involved can place their bets.
What Makes a Great Casino Game?
We all play online casino games for different reasons, and we all have equally different preferences. That makes it hard to pin down exactly what makes a great casino game, but there are five things that many of the most popular games tend to have in common.
The first trait we've noticed is that the most popular games are fun to play. This sounds obvious enough, and ideally, all games would have lots of entertainment value. However, the fact is that some games are a lot more fun than others, and a truly great game will have you smiling in no time.
Playing online casino games requires us to focus on our computer screens, so we prefer ones that are worth looking at. While pixelated graphics were excusable at the dawn of the internet age, these days we expect a lot more. Great games have rich visuals, smooth animations, and are generally easy on the eyes.
A Demo Mode
The best games around can usually be played in Demo Mode so that you can try them out without risking any of your own cash. If a game is truly impressive, the developer will be keen for you to see that, and allow you to take it for a Demo Mode test drive before you start playing for real money.
The best modern online casino games also offer bonus modes and features that can be triggered whilst playing the main game. These bonus modes add an extra layer of anticipation to proceedings and give you something specific to aim for. This makes playing a lot more enjoyable, especially over the long term.
As we said earlier, games with a high RTP have a low house advantage, and that makes it easier for players to enjoy a win or two. The best games keep players happy by paying out a high percentage of the money they take.
When you visit many online casinos you will find that you can play both free games and real money games. So what's the difference between these two types, and what are their advantages and disadvantages?
Free games are usually the standard titles running in Demo Mode, as discussed earlier. The main advantages are that they won't cost you anything to play and that they allow you to try a variety of games at your leisure to see how you like them. The only disadvantage is that you can't win any real money from them.
Real money games are the ones that you need to pay to play. Many people who try free games later switch to playing their favourites for real money so that they have the chance of winning some cash if they get lucky. The main disadvantage of playing real money games is that you can lose cash as well as win it.
Online gaming, like any other area of life, has its own jargon. There isn't much of it, fortunately, but here's a handy glossary of some of the main terms you're likely to come across as you explore what's available.
- Bankroll: A sum of money that a player sets aside for gambling purposes.
- Bonus: A reward given by the casino to the player for taking some kind of action. For example, signing up for a new account or making a first deposit.
- Bonus Round: A special feature that can be triggered when playing a casino game.
- Deposit: A sum of money added to a casino account by the player so that they can play real money games.
- Even Money Shot: A betting opportunity that pays $1 in profit for every $1 staked.
- Free Spins: Spins of a pokie that won't cost you anything. Free spins can be offered as a Bonus Round in a pokie game, or by a casino for promotional purposes.
- House Advantage: Also known as House Edge. The amount of money retained by the casino over the long term to cover its overheads and generate profit. Usually expressed as a percentage.
- Live Casino: Also known as Live Dealer. These are games that are operated and run by human dealers rather than computer programs.
- RNG: Random Number Generator. Used to determine the outcome of luck-based games and also to shuffle cards and so on in skill-based games.
- RTP: Return to Player. The amount of money returned to players over the long term in the form of prizes. Usually expressed as a percentage.
- Tournament: A competition between casino players. Participants earn points as they play and prizes are awarded to the players with the most points at the end of the tournament.
- Withdrawal: A sum of money taken from a casino account by the player so that they can spend their winnings elsewhere.
We will now bring our discussion to a close by sharing some useful hints that can help you get the most from playing casino games online. Heed our top tips for Kiwi players and you won't go far wrong.
Set a Spending Limit
Playing online casino games should be viewed as a form of entertainment that costs money, just like taking a trip to the cinema or dining out. It is therefore sensible to set a spending limit for yourself so that you don’t get carried away and bet with money that you can’t afford to lose.
Don’t Chase Losses
While losing can be disappointing, it’s all part of the hobby, and you should learn to take it in your stride. What you shouldn’t do is give in to the temptation to bet even more to try and win your losses back, as that usually leads to losing even more. Instead, take a deep breath, take a break, and try your luck again another day.
Have a Balanced Life
Doing anything to excess is never a good idea, and that’s especially so with online gaming. Our tip here is to try and have a balanced life in which gaming plays only a small role. Enjoy a few games now and then for entertainment purposes, by all means, but don’t allow yourself to become fixated on the hobby.
Know the Odds
It’s easy to be seduced by the idea of winning a lot of money, but your chances of doing that are slim. Spend some time educating yourself about odds and probabilities and you’ll get a good idea of how much chance you have of winning in any given scenario. You can then bet accordingly and you’re far less likely to get carried away by dreams that are unlikely to come true.
Budget Your Time
One of our previous tips was to set a spending limit, but you should also budget your time. Decide how long you want to spend on gaming on any given day, and stick to that limit like glue. Many casinos will let you set time limits so that you can’t play for longer than intended, so make use of those wherever possible.
Get Support If You Need It
Gambling can become problematic for some people, and through no fault of their own. If you are ever concerned that you’re spending too much time or money on gambling activities, or that your emotional or personal life is suffering in any way because of it, be sure to reach out for help and support. The sooner you ask for support with gambling problems, or even potential problems, the better.