The Not So Beginners Guide to Online Gambling for Geeks

Sep 6, 2018


So, you like a gamble but you’re a bit of a mathematics boffin and can see that most games just want to rip off unsuspecting players. Fortunately, there are loads of opportunities to increase your chances of winning at the slots or the tables. You don’t need to be some walking super computer or Rain Man-type character either. Follow these few simple pointers to up the odds in your favor.

Stick to Low House Edge Games

Casinos make their money through what’s referred to as a “house edge.” When people say the house always wins, they’re right. Casinos rely on the higher than average likelihood of punters losing at their games since the odds are weighted in their favor. Some would call this an outright scam. However, the casinos do advertise their house edges. Online, it’s usually in some tiny text in the terms and conditions somewhere almost hidden. On real-world slot machines, it’s often printed small on the machine itself.

A basic example of house edge can be seen by observing the roulette wheel. If you put £1 on black or red, you are paid your £1 back plus another £1 for winning. Since roughly half the numbers are black and half are red, this seems fair, right? Well, no, not exactly.

The house edge on a roulette wheel is achieved using the green zero positions on the wheel. There are 37 numbers on a European wheel. Of these, 18 are black and 18 are red. The 37th number? It’s green. By wagering on black or red, it’s obviously impossible to win if the green comes up. This makes it slightly less than half the time you’ll be correct with your bet. By the laws of probability, if you were to place a £1 bet on roulette 37 times, you should win your bet 18 times and lose it 19 times. This means after your 37 spins, the casino would be £1 up.

Of course, it probably wouldn’t happen like this if you did this experiment once. However, if you repeated it many hundreds or thousands of times (like what happens at an online casino every single day), the numbers would eventually coalesce at the above figures.

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Different games carry different house edges. If you want to maximize your chances of winning, play the following:

  • Video poker.
  • Blackjack
  • High “return-to-player” slots such as Goblin’s Cave (Playtech), Ooh Aah Dracula (Barcrest), and Nemo’s Voyage (WMS).

Games you should avoid are:

  • Roulette.
  • Craps.
  • Low “return-to-player” slots.

 Play Perfect Strategy

Now that you know a little more about house edge, it’s important to realise that not all games are the same in terms of user input. With a very basic slot machine, you will always be paid out at the same rate. However, with the likes of blackjack and video poker, there are decisions you can make during the game that will impact the overall house edge. These games have a mathematically arrived at way to play them correctly. This is called “perfect strategy.”

Some basic examples for blackjack that improve your edge versus the house include:

  • Never splitting a pair of tens.
  • Standing with anything above a 12 versus a dealer 6.
  • Doubling your bet versus a dealer’s 5 when holding an Ace or King.

Some basic examples that improve your edge when playing video poker include:

  • Picking the right games (you want to be playing “Jacks or Better”, ideally).
  • Hold low pairs (expect for in certain circumstances).

You can check out a perfect strategy guide for blackjack and Jacks or Better video poker for more information.

Casinos make money either way whenever you play blackjack or video poker. However, they make far less when you play perfect strategy!

Play with No Deposit Bonuses

Most online casinos offer new players no deposit cash or free spin bonuses. These are ideal to test our a casino, see what games they have and see if you get that warm feeling before making a real money deposit. Guides such as are always adding these types of bonuses, so finding one for a casino you want to try is pretty simple.

Play Games Against Other People

If the idea of being guaranteed of losing money versus the casino repulses you but you still want to gamble, why not gamble against other people? Poker is by far the best way to do this.

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If you learn the game well, you can improve your odds of winning to such a high degree that you can consistently make money doing it. It’s no coincidence that the final table at the World Series of Poker often features the same faces. These professional players are experts at reading their opposition and working out odds to chase hands versus when to let them go.

Poker is a wonderfully deep game and your success at it will depend largely on the quality of your opposition. Just because you routinely win your Friday night home game doesn’t mean you’re going to take it to the professionals in a massive cash game!

Here are some tips to help you get to grips with the concepts needed to become a true card shark:

  • Learn a starting hand chart. Poker is a game of positional play. You can play much crappier cards if you’re one of the last to act than you can if you’re first to play. A starting hand chart will help you to beat some low stakes cash games and micro stake tournaments online.
  • Learn bankroll management. If you have $100 to play with, don’t enter a $100 tournament. It would be much better to enter 100 $1 tournaments. This is a basic example of bankroll management.
  • Read a book on poker. I recommend The Fundamental Theorem of Poker by the legendary poker theorist David Sklansky. It won’t all make sense at first but it’s a great way to get you beating tougher games.
  • Use tracking software. When playing poker online, it’s all about getting as many hands played as you possibly can, as optimally as possible. Remember what you learned about house edges only realising themselves after multiple reruns of the same scenario? The same applies to poker too.
  • Join an online forum. Two Plus Two is a great source of knowledge.

Using these tips and tricks, you can consistently perform better in both online and real-world casinos. They’re not hard to learn and who knows, you might even win a bit – some of the time!

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