So, what is it? Fire away!
Well, the trick is, you can’t beat online casinos. And the reason it is exclusive, is because it effectively excludes the possibility that such a trick even exists.
Easy now. This is the short answer, of course, so there is no need to throw rotten onions at us. There is no magic pill that lets you win all the time. After all, online casinos are a big business, so if such a pill existed, it could break everything all at once. Do you think they would let it happen? Besides that, gambling at its core, is about estimating probability, and trying to cheat probability is about as helpful as giving God the finger. (Plus, it’s really just about having a bit of fun, right?)
So instead of ‘how to beat online casinos’ you should probably ask yourself ‘how to extend my bankroll and make my gaming experience more enjoyable?’ That is quite achievable; you do not need to go against the house rules, and you can always use the laws of probability to your benefit. There are several things to keep in mind, however, which we are going to discuss in this article.
Terms and Conditions
The first important thing to note is that not all casinos act like soft fluffy kittens, jumping on your lap to purr the moment you take a seat. Worse still, there are those that actually do, at first, and once you’ve made yourself comfortable, they sink their claws in you and turn your gaming experience into a bloody mess. Hence, the first rule – before choosing a place to play, check it for consistency: find the casino’s license, ask customer support a few tricky questions, and read the Terms & Conditions section, or T&C.
A gaming license is proof that the venue is fair and trustworthy. The regulators that issue these licenses take it upon themselves to ensure that. Think of them as parents of large families, who make sure all their children behave, and push them to resolve conflicts with other kids ethically, should they arise. The regulators’ ability to tend to problematic issues is probably the most reliable measure of their credibility.
There are five ‘leagues’ of regulators:
- United Kingdom (UKGC) and Malta (MGA) – role models with an outstanding reputation; great record of dealing with customer issues, whether directly (MGA) or through licensed partners (UKGC);
- Alderney and the Isle of Man (IMGSC) – regulators from the British territories; a step lower than the top tier, but still very good;
- Gibraltar (GGC) and Kahnawake – a mixed company: GGC got kicked out by its British cousins for the Spanish accent and a major screw-up of their licensee; conversely, Kahnawake is a weaker regulator that’s gained rep through excellent customer service.
- Curacao eGaming – same story as Kahnawake, but not quite there yet; aspiring newer venues put it on their sites with a ‘see, daddy, I saved up for my first license’ look.
- Antigua and Barbadua and Cyprus – unreliable and altogether lousy; very few decent casinos use them;
- Costa Rica and Montenegro – the shite de la shite; operating with these is the same as flying a Jolly Roger over your ship;
Most casinos put license badges on the front page, closer to the footer. Additional information about licensing can be found in the T&C section.
T&Cs are typically looooong sheets of text that contain loads of what looks like useless nonsense, but there are a few specific things you should look up: welcome bonuses, banking options, and withdrawal requirements.
The Welcome bonus is a good litmus test of the casino’s overall decency. Compare the bonus offer on the front page to what’s written in the T&C section. The house usually keeps an ace or two up its sleeve – but is this ace enough to make a blackjack? Want to know how to beat an online casino – first figure out how to avoid getting beaten.
Let’s say the casino offers a 100% (or even 200%) bonus on the first deposit, up to $300. Good. The 35x wagering requirement (WR) looks okay… Watch out for the first tripwire! “35x WHAT,” you should ask, “bonus or bonus-plus-deposit?” That little detail might trip you up a little bit if you don’t notice it.
“35 times the bonus amount,” you read with a sigh of relief. Ok, now find how many games actually contribute to your WR. Even some of the most reputable venues have this pitfall: some of their slots (not to mention table games) contribute 50% or less to the WR progress, which means the bonus will eat at least twice as much on your favorite games. Also, take a look at the bet cap on the active bonus: usually it is around $5, but some venues tighten it to a mere $1; it may even depend on the e-wallet you’re using.
Finally, inspect the bonus mechanism, or as we call it, feeding behavior. It includes an algorithm used for wagering, calculating winnings, and making payouts. Typically, the bonus will have your deposit for the first course and your bonus amount for the second. Once the WRs are met, the bonus amount that’s left, along with all your winnings, will be transferred to your player’s account, where it can be withdrawn.
Some bonuses, however, are never content with WRs alone. They’re known as ‘sticky’, or phantom bonuses. Immediately after the transfer, they will bite off a chunk of your winnings the exactly size of the bonus. Thus, a $150 sticky bonus will gobble up exactly $150 from your account when it resolves, regardless of how much of it is left before the transfer. These little guys can be identified by phrases such as ‘for gaming purposes only’ or ‘cannot be withdrawn’. Some ‘experimental’ platforms use sticky mechanics to produce mutant bonuses that consume your entire winnings before spinning the bonus amount. So keep an eye on the account depletion order, too.
WR and banking options usually come in one section. First, check if you’re okay with the venue’s currencies and payment systems. Then look at the minimum and maximum withdrawal amounts, especially if you aim for games with progressive jackpots: some platforms may have trouble paying out large winnings. (Meaning, they unnecessarily regulate your winnings to monthly installments or, even worse, allow you to take out a lump sum but slice a percentage off your winnings.)
You should also remember that most casinos would need a copy of your ID once you withdraw a certain amount, usually somewhere around $2000. Yes, this is a regular security procedure, and no, they are not sending the secret service after you – not yet, at least. Some may require an ID right away, at your first cashout. Treat this as a good sign: it means that the venue takes safety seriously.
Occasionally you’ll run across a casino that charges commission on withdrawals. Though it may seem like a real rip-off at first glance, withhold your righteous anger for a while. Most casinos like this are otherwise brilliant – that is why, even though we usually list commission as a con, here we admit that it’s also a reminder that all good things come at a price.
RNG, RTP, and WTF Does It Have to Do With Winning?
Ages before the emergence of online casinos, in the hairy times when the general public knew nothing about math and probability, gamblers who knew how to increase their odds were an endangered species. Often literally so: the crowd was very eager to shorten the ‘sorcerer of dice’ by a limb or two. Gradually, as thinking became legal and popular, people learned to measure, with some degree of precision, the probability of random events. Thus the concepts of predicting and planning shed the cloak of mysticism and became science. God bless Blaise Pascal.
But it wasn’t until the invention of computers that the scientists could actually attempt to reverse engineer randomness, creating what we know today as “random number generators,” or “RNGs.” The key word here, however, is ‘attempt’.
To get a truly random numbers, comparable to the one produced by a roll of dice, the generator still has to use input from a natural process, such as atmospheric fluctuations, thermal noise, or nuclear fission. But since measuring these processes costs a fortune, most practical applications, including online gaming platforms, use pseudorandom number generators, or pRNGs. In these generators, input is created by a mathematical algorithm. In theory, this means that the outcome can be manipulated, if you know the mechanism, and a way to hack it. And if you’re a casino, this also means that you can skew the numbers to your favor.
‘Wait, what?’ you might ask. ‘Are online casinos rigged?’
Very rarely. For a licensed venue, this would mean suicide. But since the possibility exists, casinos have their RNGs regularly monitored by third party regulators, such as TST or iTechLabs. These companies perform multiple checks and evaluations of a casino’s games, live dealers, payouts, and security systems.
That said, even licensed RNGs do not yield a perfectly fair 50/50 outcome: casinos are there to make money, remember, and no sane person would ever build their business on a coin toss. This is where the return-to-player rate, or RTP, comes in.
RTP is exactly what it sounds: a percentage of bets returned to the player. It is a basic rate to estimate your chance to win at online casinos. The opposite is called house advantage (HA). The greater the RTP (or the lower the HA), the better your chances of winning.
These two indices are an approximation. They are based on data gathered from casino players over a specific period, usually one month They do not necessarily imply that, for example, Big Six, whose mean RTP is around 85% (HA thus being 15%), will always yield less than roulette with 95% return. Conversely, a high return rate won’t guarantee that you succeed in the short term. If you spin a slot with 95% RTP for half an hour, and it gives you bubkes, don’t be quick to bring your wrath upon the poor support guys. The problem, again, is not that all online casinos are rigged (boo hoo), but that you’re just out of luck.
In land-based casinos, RTP rates start at 75-80%, but eGaming with its cutthroat competition, this rate is usually 90-95%. Even though you can measure the mean RTP of any selected gaming venue, it is more handy to look at the HA of individual games and base your wagering strategy on that. Casinos licensed by UKGC put that data on their websites. Otherwise, you’ll have to do a bit of research.
Tips and Strategies
Which brings us to the most interesting question: are there any strategies that can increase our chances to win at online casinos? Which techniques can we utilize to extend our bankroll?
In this article, we won’t list detailed hints for specific games – you will find them in our other gaming how-to manuals. Here, we’ll look at general tips that you may consider if you want know how to win at online casinos more often.
Now pay attention, we’re not going to say this twice (okay, that’s just a figure of speech, we all know you may very well read this twice).
First, plan your gaming session before you make your first bet. Practice before playing for real money, then decide which games you are going to play by considering their RTP and WR contribution. Estimate how much you want to wager, how many no-wins you would allow before you wrap it up for the day – and stick to your plan. Don’t let emotions take over, no matter how good or bad things get during the session. Take breaks once every hour. If you tend to get absorbed, set a couple of alarm clocks to pull you out of Neverland. If you need a vivid example of how NOT to act, read Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novella The Gambler.
Second, educate yourself on the topic and manage your expectations. Learn strategies, RTP rates, and be realistic in your estimates. If you choose to apply a martingale strategy, for example, you should estimate the outcomes. In the martingale strategy, you double the bet every time you hit a no-win. Though it might redeem your bets over a short term, remember that it might just as well wipe out your deposit in one unlucky streak, since bets increase exponentially. The mathematical expectation of this strategy, thus, is zero. To understand how it works, we also recommend reading about gambling biases, such as the Hot Hand, the Gambler’s Fallacy (explains why the martingale strategy fails), the House Money Effect, etc.
Third, play when you’re well-rested, fresh and sober. Avoid gambling under the effect of any intoxicant or psychoactive substance, including caffeine and alcohol. Of course, you can have an espresso or two to get you started, but that’s it. In large quantities, stimulatants such as caffeine may cause obsessive states commonly known as ‘one-track-mind.” Especially coupled with gambling and sleep deprivation. Alcohol, even in moderate doses, impairs judgment and promotes ‘wishful thinking’, which is not exactly the condition you want to be in at the gaming table. But when it goes beyond moderate… Well, if you really want to know, ask Mr. Johnston.
Now that you have come with us this far, we hope you have developed a better perspective on how to ‘beat’ online casinos. Perhaps you even discovered a couple of new things about the industry along the way, and hopefully; you had fun. After all, gaming is about fun, so we should not take it all too seriously.
What we’ve discussed today is just the tip of the iceberg. This guide is merely a short overview of how to win at online casinos and how they work. In our following articles, we’re going to cover various casino games and betting strategies in much more detail. Stay tuned – our journey to the world of online gaming is just beginning.
Updated: 25 Jun 2018