The gambling industry is forever changing. Sites and brands are becoming more diverse than ever in order to cater to a much wider range of people and keep their customers interested.
It has become increasingly common over the last 20 years to see bookmakers adding a casino business to their operations. Whilst there is little doubt that the likes of William Hill, BetVictor, Ladbrokes and other household names are predominantly sportsbooks, they now also offer a plethora of other gambling products including integrated online casinos.
What’s been exciting to see from a punters point of view is the amount of investment that bookmakers have put into these products, making them much more than an additional extra and giving established casino brands a bit of a kick up the backside.
And for good reason too. Casino generally brings in more money that sports betting, and the switch to online (and specifically mobile) gambling has seen this trend increase massively. To put the figures into perspective, the Gross Gambling Yield (GGY) for casino from 2017 to 2018 was £2.9bn, whilst sports betting was just over £2bn for the same period. These numbers are continuing to rise but casino is climbing at a faster rate.
The crossover from sports betting to casino is also more common than the other way around. For example, someone who is interested in sports betting is much more likely to try a casino game than a casino player is to have a punt on the horses.
How do Online Casino Games Work?
There’s some confusion surrounding exactly how online casinos function. Many people think that the games work in a similar way to their manual counterparts and that they can be tampered with. This is not the case.
These casino games use what is known as a Random Number Generator (RNG). It’s this RNG that ensures totally random patterns of cards/spins for each game that you play using extremely complicated algorithms. The timing of your click or spin will determine where the RNG stops, which in turn decides the outcome of the hand. When the game is open, the RNG is constantly running in the background until you tell it to stop.
To demonstrate, let’s say that you were playing blackjack with a single deck of cards. Think of that whole deck of cards spread out on a Wheel of Fortune type wheel. Now imagine that this wheel is spinning at an unbelievably fast pace. So fast that it spins the whole way though several times per second.
It’s moving too fast to make out any individual card so there is no way that you could ever know which card is where or know when to click stop. Once you do click stop, the wheel instantly ceases spinning and this is the card that will be dealt to you. Random, fair, impossible to manipulate.
This is over simplified, but it demonstrates how all online casino games work.
Fairness and Rigging
Another point that is definitely worth noting is that the RNG has absolutely no memory. It doesn’t record or remember what has happened previously, nor does this influence what happens next. It cycles through many possible outcomes every second, and each one is completely individual. This is why it’s known as random.
It’s also the reason why it can throw up some pretty crazy results. An example of this could be the ball landing on zero 3 times in a row playing roulette, or the dealer getting blackjack on 5 consecutive hands. Whilst mathematically improbable, it is random so still completely possible.
This is often where people get confused about the inner workings of online games and claim that they are rigged. All games have a house edge, that much is true – this is how the casino makes its money – but the games aren’t rigged. In fact, there are governing bodies, such as the UK Gambling Commission, that makes sure that each and every single game that ends up online is thoroughly tested for fairness.
Live Casino Alternative to RNG
It’s understandable if you are still sceptical about RNG’s and the evidence backing up the way in which they work. Even though it can be explained by people like us, it’s hard to believe for some people.
This is fine, and actually, there are other online alternatives to the games that use RNG’s. These games come in the form of live casino.
Live casino is just like playing in a real casino but you can do it from the comfort of your own home. The games are manually operated by real life dealers and you can watch a live stream of the action as it happens. There are various different camera angles, the dealer can respond to your comments so you know it is live, and you can actually see them spin the ball or turn over the cards.
What’s more, there are more of these live games than ever before, and the quality of the feeds is superb. You can even chat with other players which adds another dimension and a social element to your gameplay.
Although these games are all taking place on what is effectively a television set as opposed to a public casino, you wouldn’t spot the difference. These buildings are licensed and operate in the exact same way a regular casino would, it’s just that their customers aren’t in the same room. It’s actually advantageous for the punter too because they can operate extra games like Money Wheel that wouldn’t work so well in a physical casino, and they can get through each hand or round at twice the pace too.
All casinos will have the same stable of games more or less, but there are more variations than ever before for all of them. We talk about the base versions of all of these games below.
Before we jump in, when we mention ‘house edge’ in the below, we are talking about the average loss per bet. So, if a game had a house edge of 10%, you would on average lose 10p for every £1 staked.
The house edge is going to vary massively, you will see that even variants of the same game can have huge differences in the house edge. Whilst the numbers we mention are true and definitive, they are based on the initial wager remaining the same. For games like blackjack, you could theoretically increase your bet when the odds favour you, and in turn decrease the house edge.
Roulette is the most popular casino game outside of slots. It’s popularity comes down to the fact that it’s so simple to play. Roulette comes in many forms, including French, European, and American, as a staple, but there are also variants of each of these games with slightly different rules.
All that you are required to do is place your chips on the area of the board that you would like to bet on. This could be one of the single numbers from 0-36, black or red, odd or even, or even several individual numbers with one chip.
It’s worth noting that the house edge for roulette is one of the largest at 2.7% for a single zero game and 5.26% for a double zero game. It’s an easy game to play though, and a good one to start with if you are new to the casino.
Next up is blackjack which has loads of different variants – you will even find that some casinos have their own house rules. They differ mainly by the number of decks that they use and how the house/dealer must play their hand, such as whether they hit or stick on numbers around 16 and 17.
As a basic guide, you are looking to get a hand that is better than the dealer’s without going over 21. If you hit 21 with two cards, then this is known as ‘blackjack’ and will be paid at a higher rate than a regular winning hand.
Blackjack rules can vary widely, but the most common variation is Liberal Vegas rules. This gives the game one of the lowest house edges of any casino game at just 0.28%. As a result, the game is massively popular with players who are able to count cards, given that they are able to work out the likelihood of the next based on what has come before, and then increase bet sizes accordingly.
Baccarat is probably the casino game with the sexiest reputation. It is always portrayed in movies as being played by the high society and as a result, is often played for higher stakes.
The game has a lot going on and is one of the most interactive games to play via a live casino. You have to bet on who you think will win the hand and the house edge depends on what you pick.
Bets placed on the Banker or the Player see a low house edge of 1.06% and 1.24% respectively, but when you start betting on the Tie then the house edge rockets up to 14.36%. The Tie bet completely changes the game and is the reason casino’s love the high stakes players that it attracts.
If baccarat is the high-society casino game, then craps is for the working-classes. This is the friendly game that gets players interacting with one another and cheering each other on. The game includes a huge number of bets that you can place, which makes it seem very complex to beginners and can put them off. Like most casino games, however, it’s actually quite simple in practice.
The player bets by placing chips on the ‘Pass line’. The sequence starts and the two dice are rolled. If you’ve bet on the pass then you need a 7 or 11 for a win, and you lose with a 2, 3, or a 12. Any other number becomes the ‘point’.
If the point is hit, the shooter keeps rolling the dice until either they match that number for an even money win or a 7 is rolled and they lose the hand. There are plenty of other bets too but we would need a whole article to cover them in detail.
The house edge therefore varies massively depending on which bet you decide to place. There are even bets that include no house edge, such as odds 4 or 10, 5 or 9, and 6 or 8. The overall house edge is 1.58%.
Three Card Poker
The popularity of three card poker has exploded off the back of online poker as a whole. The game is now very familiar to most and works with the usual poker hand rankings that so many people are aware of.
It is very easy to play. You first need to make an ante bet to signify you’re in the hand, you are then dealt three cards as is the dealer, with theirs being dealt face down. You examine your cards and can then decide to either fold or raise.
If you play (raise) then you go to showdown with the dealer and the highest-ranking hand wins. The dealer must have Queen high or better to qualify and you get paid higher amounts for stronger hands, such as pair, flush, straight, three of a kind and straight flush.
The house edge for the game is 3.37%, which is quite high for casino games.