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Casino Games Guide: Best Online Casino Games For Real Money Or Free

casino games blackjack hand

While some argue that bonuses are the most important part of the online casino experience, we disagree. If there were no casino games to play, what would there be to do? Whether you're playing for free or real money, casino games are inarguably the central part of the casino experience, with many casinos offering thousands of slot machines and table games to enjoy.

What casino games can you expect to find at an online casino, and what are the differences between playing for free and real money?

Your Guide to Online Casino Games

There are tons of casino games that are available to play online, though not every gambling site will have every game. The majority of online casinos should have at least one version of the majority of the following games.

Baccarat

casino games play area for baccarat

Baccarat is a classic card game that can be traced as far back as the 1400s, and allegedly was around long before even then. The variant of baccarat that is played at online casinos is known as Punto Banco. Players bet on whether the player's hand or the dealer's hand will have the higher value, or if there will be a tie.

The goal of baccarat is to get closer to nine than your opponent, with only the ones digit being counted – tens and face cards have no value ("baccara" is Italian for zero in some dialects). Similar casino games to baccarat include blackjack and Sic Bo poker.

Blackjack

casino games blackjack table

Anyone who wants to play casino games online can't go wrong with Blackjack, a game we all know and love. A dealer deals a two-card hand for themselves and the player, and the goal is to beat the value of the dealer's hand without exceeding 21.

Players can choose to take an additional card, take no additional cards, double their bet and take one additional card, split their hand into two hands if they have two cards that are the same value, or surrender and forfeit half their bet. Once the player locks in their hand, the dealer hits until they have a total of at least 17. Winners and losers are individually identified based on the final value of the dealer's hand, though if they bust, all players win.

Caribbean Stud

casino games Caribbean stud table

Based on five-card stud poker, Caribbean stud poker is unique in that it is only played against the house. It is also one of the few online casino games to offer a progressive jackpot.

Players ante up, and then they and the dealer receive five cards face-down. The dealer reveals one of their cards, at which point the player can look at their hand and decide if they'd like to play. Players that choose to play need to raise, submitting a bet double that of their initial ante wager. The dealer then reveals their face-down cards, and the game only continues if the dealer's hand has an ace, a king, or has a pair or anything better. The hand is compared against the hands of other players, with individual winners and losers being decided and payments made accordingly.

Craps

craps casino games table

Craps is a thrilling dice game that is a favorite at many casinos. It may seem complicated due to its fast pace, high number of betting options and complex terminology. However, if you take the time to learn to play, you may find it's your new favorite game.

Players take turns rolling two dice – the player currently throwing the dice is known as the "shooter" – and bets are made based on what a player believes the value of the dice will be. The two primary wagers are "pass" and "don't pass", which are bets on the result of a round. On a shooter's first throw, the "come-out" throw, a dice value of 2, 3 or 12 is called "craps" and anyone with a "pass" wager loses. "Pass" wagers win only on 7 and 11; otherwise, the number rolled establishes the "point". To win the round, the point number must be rolled again before a 7.

Keno

keno is one of the most popular casino games

Keno is one of the most popular online casino games, with at least one version of it appearing at many online casinos. Its exact history is unknown, but it was allegedly invented in China. In the 1800s, Chinese immigrants brought keno to the United States, where it became widely popular by the mid-1860s.

Similar to a lottery, players select up to 20 numbers on a card that typically features 1 through 80, and a random number generator selects the winning numbers. The amount a player wins depends on the amount of numbers initially chosen, the number of matches and the wager.

In many ways, keno is an inverted version of bingo. Instead of reacting to the numbers that are selected, players proactively choose them.

Pai Gow Poker

pai gow pokers casino games table

While the traditional version of Pai Gow is played with dominoes, it was adapted in 1985 to make use of playing cards.

In Pai Gow Poker, players are given seven cards, with the goal of creating both a five-card hand and a two-card hand to beat the hands created by the banker. The only two-card hands in poker are one pair and high cards, while the five-card hand follows normal poker hand rankings. In order to win, the player must win both hands; winning only one hand counts as a tie. A tie between two hands favors the banker, so they have a small advantage.

While the structure of the game is the same, there may be regional variants depending on which casino you're playing at. Some casinos may offer players the opportunity to make an additional bet to play with the "dragon hand", a separate set of cards, effectively allowing them to play twice.

Red Dog

red dog casino games play space

While it's not as popular at land-based casinos as it used to be, Red Dog is one of the most interesting online casino games. Two cards are dealt, and players bet whether the rank of a third card will be between the ranks of the two dealt cards.

If the two dealt cards are sequential, such as a 3 and a 4, player wagers are returned. If the two cards have the same value, a third card is dealt; if it also has the same value, the payout is 11:1. Otherwise, the wager is returned.

Normally, though, a "spread" is announced of the values between the two dealt cards. If the value of the third card falls between them, the payout is dictated by the size of the spread. Smaller spreads have higher payouts.

Roulette

casino games take many different forms, like this roulette wheel

Roulette means "little wheel" in French. First created in France in the 1700s, it is a classic game where a ball is rolled onto a spinning wheel, and bets are placed as to where the ball will stop. Players can bet on individual numbers or various result groups, such as whether the ball will land on a red or black space. How many spaces the wheel has depends on which variant you're playing, with European roulette featuring 37 pockets and American roulette having 38.

Similar to craps, the sheer number of potential bets may make roulette seem imposing to some. However, roulette is much more straightforward to play, given that you only need to be concerned with one outcome: where the ball stops.

Sic Bo

sic bo is one of the oldest casino games

Like keno and Pai Gow, Sic Bo is Chinese in origin, its name meaning "precious dice".

Similar to the only other dice-based casino game, craps, Sic Bo has a number of betting options, though the game is easier to follow. Players place wagers out of numerous options on the table depending on what they think the result of the dice roll will be, and the dealer shakes the box containing the three dice before revealing them to the table.

The most common bets are "Big" (the dice rolling any value between 11 and 17) and "Small" (any value between 4 and 10). Players can also bet on what they think the specific value of the rolled dice will be, as well as which numbers appear on the dice. The most unlikely outcome – rolling three fours, fives or sixes – pays the largest amount in the game, 180:1.

Slots

slots are among the most varied casino games

When you think of a casino, there's a good chance that you think of slot machines. There are dozens of suppliers producing thousands of different slots every year, and that's equally true in the realm of online casino games. The majority of any online casino is dedicated to its slots selection, and it's not hard to see why.

Slot machines are simple games – make your bet, maybe choose your number of pay lines, and pull the lever or push the button – but they offer a surprising amount of depth and variety. There are three-reel slots, five-reel slots and progressive jackpot slots. They have self-contained bonus features, like free spins and bet multipliers. They also offer countless themes, going all the way from traditional casino iconography to science fiction and fantasy. Cutting-edge slots also feature animations, soundtracks and 3D graphics. Slots are also one of the best online casino games for real money, typically offering returns over 90 percent.

They may not be everyone's cup of tea, but there's no denying that slots are one of the most important casino games.

Texas Hold’em

there are many different poker casino games, like Texas Hold'em

Texas Hold'Em is an incredibly popular poker variant, making it one of the most sought-after online casino games. Every player is dealt two "hole" cards, and over three stages, five community cards are dealt face-up. The goal of Texas Hold'Em is to create the best five-card poker hand from the seven available cards.

Four betting options are available to players: check (not betting or raising), call (match a bet), raise (increase the size of a bet) and fold (forfeit). Whichever player has the best hand without folding by the end of betting wins the entire pot, though the pot can be split in the event of a tie.

Video Poker

video poker casino games screen 

Video Poker is closely linked with the development of consumer technology, with the first version appearing around the same time as the first personal computer. Its popularity exploded in the 1980s, and that popularity continues today, with many online casinos offering some version of video poker.

Video poker is a single-player experience that is similar to a slot machine. As opposed to playing five-card draw poker against other people, you play it against the machine. Players are given five cards and the opportunity to discard any of them in exchange for different cards. Afterwards, if the hand matches one of the winning combinations, the machine pays out.

The biggest difference between traditional five-card draw poker and video poker is that if a player chooses to do so, they can discard their entire hand for five new cards.

Bingo 

Often thought of as a game for retired church ladies, bingo has made its way into the world of land-based and online casino games. This lottery-style game involves numbers being drawn randomly while players match them to their cards. Whoever has a full match first is the winner and gets to yell “Bingo!” at the top of their lungs. If you are playing online bingo, it’s up to you whether or not you yell. Just don’t wake your spouse.

Who doesn't like playing Bingo? This classic game of chance can be played at many online casinos with some modern improvements, including chat with other players to foster community and add to the atmosphere, being able to play several cards at a time, and keeping track of what's been called.

In online bingo, instead of a caller, all numbers are selected by a random number generator. However, it is mechanically the same as the bingo you'd find anywhere: numbers are called and, as they are, you mark them off on your card. If you can complete a line or match every number on your card (known as a "blackout" or a "full house"), you win at least a portion of the available jackpot.

Online bingo is unique in payout structure compared to other casino games, because just like in real life, the amount up for grabs can sometimes depend on how many tickets have been sold for that particular game.

casino games roulette table

Live Dealer Casino Games

One of the most interesting developments in online gambling in recent years has been the emergence of live dealer games. Also known as live casino games, these games seek to emulate the experience of playing in a land-based casino from the comfort of your home.

Here's how they work: a dealer controls the action from a table in a studio, which is then broadcast over the internet to the participating players. Players can make bets and decisions in real time, just as they would if they were actually standing in front of the dealer.

Live dealer games may seem like a bit of a novelty, but the format also creates opportunities to play games that you wouldn't typically find at an online casino. One popular live dealer game is a version of the game show Deal or No Deal; another, Dream Catcher, is similar to Wheel of Fortune. They are also the only way that you can play most online casino games with other players, though not every game has a live dealer equivalent.

As opposed to other online casino games, live dealer games can only be played for real money. This is because every player needs to contribute to the total amount that can be won, and it wouldn't be fair if some players didn't have to. However, if only to try, it is an experience that is absolutely worth paying for.

No-Download Casinos

No-download casinos are any casino that you can play at without needing to download games or software to your computer. In the past, you may have needed to download and install large pieces of software to play casino games. However, the majority of modern casinos will allow you to play right in your internet browser, with no download needed.

Despite the convenience of not needing to download anything in order to play casino games, no-download casinos require a persistent internet connection to play at. If you're playing on mobile, or in an area with poor internet service, playing at a no-download casino may be more difficult than downloading software. That said, no-download casinos allow a wide range of customers to access casino games, and they offer the fastest way to get started.

Free Casino Games

Offering free casino games at gambling sites has become increasingly popular. While there is no real money wager, meaning that nothing can be won, there is still plenty to get out of enjoying them.

When you play casino games online for free, you get the opportunity to try out a bunch of games you may have never known about otherwise. When every game costs money to play, you're restricted in how much fun you can have, which is the reason that casino games exist in the first place – the chance to win is just a bonus.

Free titles are no-download casino games, meaning they can be played right in your browser with no need for additional software. You don't need to make an account with a casino and don't need to wait for anything to happen – just click on the game and start playing. Maybe you have a few minutes left before the game's on, or you just want to kill some time, and you can get right into the action on desktop or mobile.

Lastly, letting people experience titles for free is a good way to prepare them to play online casino games for real money. As people get more comfortable with playing games and understanding their intricacies, they may be prepared to move on to the next level: signing up for an account to play for real money.

Playing Casino Games For Free vs For Real Money

As we've said, the biggest difference between playing casino games for free and real money is that you can't win anything when there's no wager. In order to earn money from casino games, you need to contribute your share of the jackpot. Much as live dealer games can only be played for real money, progressive jackpot games also require wagers.

The biggest advantage for real money play over free play is that casino account owners are able to take advantage of the many bonuses and promotions that are on offer at the casino of their choice. In exchange for deposits, casinos hand out things like cash chips and free spins for slots to players, as a way to extend their bankrolls. While there are terms and conditions associated with accepting bonuses, they are a way to play for real money without needing to constantly top off your casino account.