Wagering on Real-Money Games

Updated: 9th of November, 2014.

If you're going to risk this pile of money, you need to learn about the best games and strategies.I created Gaming the Odds to teach you how to bet on sports and play casino games while risking real cash. Merely covering the basics was never in my intentions – no, I wanted to show you how to play these games optimally, by either winning the maximum or losing the minimum in any given situation.

Most casino players only know the rules of the games they invest real dollars in; when it comes to knowing which of those games are financially the most beneficial to play, or about how you can optimally play those games, they're lost (even worse, many have superstitions that direct them towards the most unprofitable games).

Our Top-Ranked USA Online Casinos

Similarly, most sports bettors invest in games they happen to like but have done little research on (certainly less than the sportsbook). They may get lucky a few times but the sportsbooks will clean their profits out (and then some) in the long run. Without knowing how sportsbooks set the odds, how to find the best betting opportunities and how to do research, they are like fish on dry land.

On Improving Your Chances of Winning

"You can even gain an edge over the casino in games like blackjack and video poker if you play the right variations with optimal strategy. The point being: knowing more about casino games pays off big-time."

Pay attention to the bottom line if you're gambling risking your hard-earned money.Here's an example: playing the wrong slot machine games can cost you 5 times as much as playing the right games at the right online casino, and the same can be said of blackjack games, although the absolute amount you'll stand to lose at blackjack games is significantly less in general (suggesting you have some sense and stay away from side bets and 6:5 games).

Winning is difficult (and frankly, inprobable) when playing most casino games but you can still improve your chances of winning at pretty much any casino game and lose significantly less money in the long run by picking your spots and playing the right way. Heck, you can even gain an edge over the casino in games like blackjack and video poker if you play the right variations with optimal strategy. The point being: knowing more about casino games pays off big-time.

My goal is to teach you how to get more bang for your back in real gambling games. Whether you're looking to become a long-term winner or just save money (a dollar saved is a dollar earned) on your next casino session, I can help you do those things. Besides, casinos have such an edge in most games anyway that there's little reason to "donate" them more money than you absolutely have to.

Maximize winnings, or at the very least, minimize losses.

Types of Games You Can Play for Real Cash

The purpose of this section of the site is to help you to maximize the amount of fun and minimize your losses when you’re gambling for real money. Like most other endeavors, gambling is more fun when you understand what’s going on, so the first order of business is to understand how the various games and bets work.

By just knowing the rules and a few details about the odds and probability behind these bets you’ll be light years ahead of most other gamblers. (Most people aren’t cut out to be professional gamblers, but that’s not impossible, either.)

This section of the page is organized by the major gambling activities that are available. It includes links to other pages about the various activities and how they work when you’re playing for real dollars. I’ve also included a section about the pros and cons of playing for real money in various situations where you might have the opportunity to “play for fun” or “play for free”.

Bingo

I chose to write about bingo first, because it’s possibly the most popular gambling game in the world. Bingo goes by other names in some countries. It’s often called “housie” in Australia for example.

All bingo games work in a similar manner. Players get cards with a row of letters at the top (usually spelling “B-I-N-G-O). Beneath each of those letters is a column of numbers. Combined, these letters and numbers create a grid.

A caller randomly selects letter-number combinations, and if they match a square on a player’s grid, the player can cover up that square. When a certain pattern of squares on the card is covered up, the player wins.

In Las Vegas, bingo is one of the best games to play, especially at the casinos. Since the casinos are using the game as a loss-leader in order to attract players to their slot machines, they offer better payout percentages on bingo. Bingo halls, on the other hand, often have wildly different payout percentages.

Casino Games

Real money casino games include the various table games and gaming machines available inside any standard casino. In the United States, gaming machines (slots and video poker) make up over 75% of the revenue at most casinos. In Europe and other countries, table games (like card games, craps, and roulette) are more popular than they are in the USA, but the table games still make up a minority of most casinos’ revenue. And slot machines are becoming ever-more-popular throughout the world.

Your personality type helps determine which casino games you’ll enjoy the most. For example, if you like a relatively elegant card game where you don’t have to make any decisions, baccarat might be just the thing. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something more fast-paced and where your decisions matter to the outcome, you might prefer blackjack.

Another slow-paced casino game that requires no decision making is roulette. Some people deride roulette because of its relatively high house edge, but you place correspondingly fewer bets per hour at the roulette table than you would at most other casino games. Since the amount you can expect to lose is a function of both the number of bets you make per hour and the house edge, the entertainment value of roulette compares to that of other games with a lower house edge.

Adrenaline junkies tend to love craps, which is the most exciting game in any casino. I’ve never visited a casino where the craps table was surrounded by happy dice players rooting for (or against) a shooter. The game seems complicated, but with just a little bit of study, you can figure out how to play craps like a champ in just a few minutes.

Slot machines are better suited to the gambler who wants to avoid socializing with other players and also avoid making decisions. You can put a lot of money into action per hour at the right kind of slot machine, and the features are so vibrant and robust now that almost anyone could be entertained by these games. The days of a single payline and three spinning reels are buried in the distant past.

Video poker, on the other hand, offers some of the best odds in the casino. These games provide the same kind of solitary enjoyment that you’ll find in a bank of slot machines, but the odds are inevitably far better than at any of the slot machines. This holds true for even the video poker games with the worst odds. With a little bit of study, you can learn to recognize and play the video poker games with the best odds.

Want to play the mentioned casino games? I have some suggestions regarding where to do that:

Poker

I’ve listed poker separately from the other casino games, because true poker is played against the other players, not against the house. (All other casino games are played against the house.) When a casino or a cardroom hosts a poker game, they take a small percentage of each pot (the rake) to pay for hosting the game.

Skilled poker players can guarantee themselves a profit over the long term by avoiding situations where they’re likely to lose. They also bet more when they’re likely to win. Having this kind of control over the size of their bets is what makes professional poker play possible.

The most popular form of poker in the world is Texas hold’em, but in countries outside the United States, various forms of Omaha are also hugely popular. Stud poker retains a devoted following. Although it’s fallen out of fashion, stud poker is still far more popular than draw poker, which has been consigned to children learning how to play poker at the kitchen table.

In online games, you'll find opponents for all forms of poker with a few clicks of buttons. I've done research on the US poker market and here are some of my top lists of US poker sites:

The Lottery

Almost all jurisdictions throughout the United States host a lottery of some kind, and lotteries of various kinds are also popular throughout the world. One might think that a state-sponsored game would be required to offer a decent chance of winning to the players, but in most jurisdictions, the lottery offers some of the worst odds available. If you like to play the lottery, that’s fine. I don’t judge. But there are many more bets available which offer far better odds.

Sports Betting

Betting on sports is probably the most popular type of gambling in the world. In the United States, draconian laws like the Wire Act prevent gamblers from placing wagers online or over the phone on sporting events. But underground bookmakers and sports betting operations are plentiful. Other countries have better ideas about their citizenries’ rights to do what they want to with their money. In the United Kingdom, fully licensed and legal sports books are ubiquitous, which offers citizens of those countries an amount of legal protection that U.S. citizens don’t enjoy.

Skillful sports betting is one of only a few gambling activities where the skilled player can earn a living over time. Look at my guides about topics such as betting tips and line-shopping, and make sure to check out my sport or league specific advice, such as horse racing, NBA, NFL, soccer and UFC.

Opinion: Gambling for Real vs. Gambling for Free

I’ve never understood the attraction of gambling games played “just for fun” or “for free”. Most of the time, these games offer no prizes. If you don’t have the opportunity to win (or lose) money, what’s the point? Casino games played “just for fun” make as much sense as non-alcoholic beer.

On the other hand, new gamblers might use these free and just-for-fun games to learn how the games work before risking any actual cash when playing. This is a sensible way to learn how to play, but I still don’t understand people who sit around playing fake slot machines for hours for “play money chips”. I can’t imagine anything duller.

No matter what betting activity you decide to try, you should always maintain a separate gambling bankroll for it. When gambling for real money, you should never risk money that you might need for other purposes like rent or groceries. This applies even to very skilled players. You never know when you might run into a streak of bad luck.

Frequently Asked

Gaming the Odds has a plethora of different rankings for online casinos and sportsbooks, and I've done my fair share of research on this subject. You can find several gambling site top lists by looking at the sidebar on the right, or you could just select one of these excellent options if you want to have something to go to quickly (you can't go wrong with any of these):

For casino games, I recommend:

For sports betting, I recommend:

For poker games, I recommend:

Here's another topic that's been extensively covered on this site. If you're from the US, your primary options are credit, debit or gift cards if you have any; even though the rate of acceptance is not 100%, it's a much easier (and even better, instant) way of transferring money to gambling sites that can be played for real money. (Visa-branded cards seem to have a higher rate of acceptance -- here's a list of online credit card casinos and here's one for USA credit card poker sites.)

Non-US players have a variety of options, such as Neteller, Paypal, POLi and Skrill on top of all the credit and debit card options. If you play from outside of the USA, you will not run out of deposit or cashout options.

Poker players should take a look at US poker deposit options and poker sites with fast cashouts as well (spoiler alert: Bovada Poker has the fastest payouts), and remember that even though it requires a little more work, Western Union poker withdrawals are processed faster than check withdrawals.

Absolutely. Virtually all online gambling websites offer some sort of a deposit bonus so you'll be given the amount you deposited as a bonus after having wagered a certain amount of money at the casino. There are big differences between online casino bonuses, too, so comparing them is a good idea, but factors such as customer service, money transaction speed, game selection, software quality and track record of the casino should play a bigger part in your decision-making process. (Take a look at my lists of top online casinos and top sportsbooks – I've done all the work for you.)

As far as we know, all the online casinos and sportsbooks mentioned on this site have been audited and licensed by legitimate companies and jurisdictions. They also have great track records and constantly receive positive feedback online (I refuse to list sites with poor reputations and track records because history tends to repeat itself).

All these sites use advanced technology to protect your personal and financial information; furthermore, by using e-wallet services such as Paypal, Skrill and Neteller (only available for non-USA players), you never actually give your financial information to the online casino, which is why many choose to use those services.

I've been gambling online for over 10 years now. I've witnessed internet casinos poker rooms and sportsbooks folding left and right, and I've seen gambling sites lose and gain popularity in a short period of time, but most importantly, I've also seen how some sites stand through the test of time and, year after year, keep delivering great playing experiences. Those are the ones you should play at, and those are the ones you can find at Gaming the Odds.