With the weather warming and casinos across the country beginning to flip the sign to “Open”, degen tingles are washing over gamblers looking a fix.
Yes, boys and girls, live gambling is back, only now it looks something like this:
Poker room at Seminole Hard Rock Tampa reopened 2 hours ago.
Current waiting list: 106 players
They have 18 tables in action right now pic.twitter.com/KsUx7tzgIl
— Andy Slater (@AndySlater) May 22, 2020
It’s a pretty fair bet that some of us aren’t going to be feeling the thermal heat scans, plexiglass partitions, and strict table limits. The whole point of live gambling is socialization and recreation, right? Social distancing kind of puts a damper on that.
With the casino floor just not the same, some are looking for alternative options. Sounds like a decent time to give online gambling a try. Many already have, and are discovering that they’re getting way more bang for their buck spinning virtual reels than pulling levels (no one actually does that) and pleading with underappreciated dealers for “monkeys.”
We’re all about saving money, so here are some tips on how you can safely and effectively make the transition to online.
1) Know your options
The online gambling climate here in the U.S. is absolutely absurd. There’s only a scattering of states that support legal online gambling sites, and only two that currently offer the trifecta of online gambling: casinos, sports betting, and poker. Those lucky states are New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Others have forms of online gambling, and we’ll gloss over them here. For online poker, there are legal sites in Nevada and Delaware.
Indiana, West Virginia, New Hampshire, Colorado, and Oregon have mobile sports betting apps, and you can register an account right from home. Other states like Iowa and Nevada choose to live in the stone age, by offering mobile sports betting but requiring in-person registration at an affiliated casino. Kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it guys?
And that’s about it. A couple of states, like Michigan, have legalized online gambling, but are taking their sweet time going live. Check back in late 2020 or something.
Other online gambling options for U.S. players do exist, and they exist in droves, but they’re unregulated. Your call on whether or not to risk it. We won’t give you the stink eye if you do, promise. But just know that the quality of offshore sites varies widely. The same can (unfortunately) be said for legal.
OK, that’s your primer. This is typically the part where we’d advise doing more research, but let’s face reality. Google searches aren’t going to be super useful, because the results are flooded with sites that hype up online gambling apps for their marketing partners. Some are far more honest than others, and differentiating between the good and bad takes patience. We’ll keep it transparent, and in the coming weeks and months, we’ll give you the skinny on the best options. Scout’s honor.
2) 30 is the magic number on casino deposit bonuses
New players get all googly-eyed when they see the kind of money online casinos give away to new players.
And fair enough, it used to be that these so-called “Welcome Bonuses” were really lucrative, so much so, that they spawned a legion of advantage gamblers in the early-2000s.
Those days have mostly passed. Today, greedy online casinos still offer deposit bonuses, but often set the wagering requirements so high that they’re not +EV opportunities for the average player. Instead, they’re traps to lock up your money.
In our opinion, the magic number is 30. Meaning, if a site tasks you with wagering a deposit bonus 30 times or less before it converts to cash, it’s probably worth taking advantage of, pending the bonus isn’t ridiculously low, like 100 bucks.
So let’s say a site offers a 100% deposit match up to $500 with a 30x requirement. In order to clear it, players will have to risk $500 x 30 = $15,000. We won’t explain the math here, but that works out to 3.33% cashback. So if you’re playing a slot with a return of 97% (they do exist), then your EV is 97% + 3.33% = 100.33% for the duration of the bonus. Congrats, you’re an advantage player.
If the wagering requirement is lower, even better. Here are some breakpoints for different turnover requirements and the quality of the game you’ll need to play to break even:
- 10x: 90%
- 20x: 95%
- 30x: 96.67%
- 40x: 97.5%
- 50x: 98%
- 80x: 98.75%
Keep in mind this is general advice. The more unscrupulous online casinos will throw in all sorts of caveats to further diminish the value of a welcome package. Here’s one: It’s common for video poker and table games to contribute less than 100% to the wagering requirement. 10% is a common theme here, which turns a 30x wagering requirement on slots into a 300x one on video poker and table games. 300x on a $500 bonus is $150,000, with cashback of just 0.33%. Yikes.
3) The Internet can be your friend
You know those little basic strategy cards that live casinos allow at the blackjack tables, but no one ever remembers to use? When gambling online, they’re just a couple of clicks away, and disgruntled pit bosses won’t yell at you to put your phone away.
Unless you have a game down cold, there is absolutely no good reason not to fire up Google and search for that game’s strategy. Keep it up on a second monitor, or up on your phone, whatever. Just do it.
Obviously this doesn’t apply to slots or other games that don’t require a measure of skill. But blackjack and video poker both necessitate some serious strategies in order to realize maximum returns; strategies that you’re not going to memorize in one sitting. Even carnival games like Three Card Poker and Let It Ride task players with making strategic decisions. Crazy, we know.
It’s going to be in your best interest to learn skill games. The returns are so much better than slots, soaring well above 99%. Casinos can justify the returns on these games because hardly anyone plays them correctly. Be the minority.
Just don’t make the mistake of using the strategy for the wrong game. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen gamblers play a pair of Aces instead of two pair because the “book told them to”. They were playing Jacks or Better, and using the strategy for Double Double Bonus. Likewise, for blackjack there is a different strategy for a six-deck shoe game where the dealer stands on soft 17 than a double-deck game where hitting on soft 17 is the standard.
4) Slots: Still bad, but not as bad
Be in online or live, casinos push slots more than any other game. And why not? The rapid pace of play and piss-poor returns are a revenue wet dream.
Online slots are pretty crappy, but compared to live, you’ll be making out like a bandit.
Without going into too much detail, in places like Atlantic City, Pennsylvania, the Las Vegas Strip, and pretty much any other major casino market, players should expect to get back between 85-90 cents for each dollar they put into a penny slot.
Online, that number runs the gamut from 92-98 cents, and up to 99 cents if you’re willing to play one of those games where you can buy bonus rounds.
To understand the difference, let’s run a simple simulation using our friend April Lou.
After ensuring that there’s no one within six feet of her and resecuring her homemade filtered gas mask, April Lou puts $100 into Wheel of Fortune: EXTREME 55 TIMES QUADRUPLE WHEEL SPIN at her favorite brick and mortar casino. She wagers $1 a spin.
After 100 spins, April Lou will be down 12 bucks on average, because the game only returns 88%. Of course, it won’t be exactly 12 bucks because of volatility, but her long-run expectation is to lose 12 bucks per 100 wagered.
After getting destroyed time and time again, disgruntled April Lou discovers the same game online, only this time it’s QUINTUPLE WHEEL SPIN, and decides to give it a whirl. Unbeknownst to her, the game returns 96%, and she only loses 4 bucks per 100 wagered over time. This allows April Lou to play three times as long on the same bankroll, giving her a much better shot to win a FANTASTIC PRIZE.
Point is, slots are just better online. Because of this, recreational players will last longer and hardcore gamblers won’t get shellacked quite as badly. Better yet, just about every online slot reveals its return-to-player, or RTP, in its documentation, so players can know exactly what trouble they’re heading into, all before spinning the reels. Live, not so much.
On a side note, Live Casino games — you know the ones where you play online but are fed a stream of a real dealer who deals real cards — are pretty awful online. The deck penetration and rules for blackjack are poor, most of the roulette wheels are double zero, and Dream Catcher (aka The Frickin’ Big Wheel) is all over the place. Unless you feel an overwhelming desire to be quasi-social, or are truly not comfortable with digital games, avoid these.
5) Digital money doesn’t feel real
There’s a reason live casinos use chips instead of cash at the tables. Chips don’t feel that much like real money. Cash most certainly does.
At the same token, chips feel a hell of a lot more like real money than a 12px Arial font.
Fact is, unless you’re playing on one of those sites that only accepts Bitcoin, it’s almost too easy to get money online. eChecks, PayPal, prepaid cards: There’s numerous ways to load a regulated gaming account, and as this segment of the industry grows, it’ll get even easier and more accessible.
Limits are high, and transaction turnaround times are near-instantaneous (too bad withdrawals take days). Balances are displayed in small fonts or obstructed from view. All this is a recipe for disaster for the reckless gambler.
That’s why we highly recommend setting hard limits for yourself. You know how when you’re at a brick & mortar casino and are forced to stop chasing losses because you’ve exhausted your daily ATM limit or went over your credit card cash advance threshold? The truth is, for out-of-control gamblers, cash denial is their best possible outcome.
Online, these safeguards aren’t as stringent, unless you want them to be. See, many online casinos allow players to set their own deposit and spend limits. Take advantage, and do it before you take one spin.
If you don’t know where to find this screen, it’s usually listed under your account with the subtitle “Responsible Gaming.” If you can’t find it, contact support and ask them for an assist. If a site doesn’t feature this option, and you know you’re prone to tilt, consider playing elsewhere.