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How to Play Online Casino Games & Win!

Talk about click-bait.

When you see a headline that promises to show you How to Win Big at the online casino—especially How!To! Win! Big! Every! Time!—take our advice. Turn tail and run.

There is no strategy, no bag of tricks, no skill, intuition or timing that can help you beat the house, at least not regularly.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t be a smarter, savvier online casino player. Read on to learn how you can enjoy the game without breaking the bank, and yes—hopefully, occasionally—win.

Set Your Limit—and Stick to It

You’ve heard it so often, it may go in one ear and out the other. But if you play casino games online, this one’s essential:

  • When you play online casino games, set your limit ahead of time. Know how much you’re going to spend. Make sure it’s money you can afford to lose—because you just might.
  • Are you a slot player? Budget enough money to play the denomination you like for a good long time. For pennies, have at least $100 on hand. For quarters, earmark at least $200, and probably $300 to $400 to make sure you’ll outlast your stake. Don’t sit down at a dollar game without at least $500—or more realistically, $1,000.

The Difference Between High-Volatility & Low-Volatility Slots

More and more, online casino slot games let you, the player, choose the volatility of the game.

This sometimes happens in a bonus round, for example, with a choice between 15 free spins with all jackpots doubled or only five free spins with jackpots multiplied by 10.

There are many versions of these player-choice games. They all offer the same thing: lots of smaller jackpots with great frequency—or low volatility—or winning combinations that are few and far between, but with the chance at a much larger payoff—a high-volatility game.

Know what to expect with high and low volatility. In a highly volatile game, the swings of fortune can be big. You can go from a miserable streak of nothing to a sudden huge payoff.

The least volatile games are multi-line video slots with lots of pay lines. The hit frequency is normally very high on these games. And the more entertaining bonus features that can pop up, the lower the volatility is going to be.

Make Entertainment Your Goal

Casino Entertainment

These online casino games are designed to entertain you. Bonus features, free games, multipliers—all these add to a primary game where winning combinations are hitting every other spin.

Your money will last a long time on this kind of game, and you’ll get lots of entertainment for a relatively small investment.

The penny denomination allows for a little more volatility than the older nickel multi-line video games, but the bottom line is still the same—lots of hits, lots of bonuses, and lots of play for a little bit of money.

But if you choose lower volatility, beware. While it’s true that these games are designed to entertain you, they’re also designed for you to lose. In terms of entertainment, you’ll get a lot of bang for your buck, and have a good, long session at the game without emptying your wallet. But because of the small size of the payoffs tied to all those winning combinations, eventually your credit meter will hit zero.

That’s why online casinos love these games. Players feel like they got their money’s worth in fun, but the house still wins.It’s also why lots of savvy players seek out the highly volatile games.

The Case for High-Volatility Games

High-volatility online slots are easy to spot. Just look for the classics—quarter or dollar denomination, three reels, a single payline. For a bit more fun, there are plenty of games in this style with three or five paylines on the three-reel layout. But no more than five.

This style of game gives you a shot at serious winnings. Yes, you sit through dry spells. Yes, you spend a lot more during those spells. But big winning combinations do hit, and a jackpot of $50, $100 or more can quickly turn a bad night into a great one.

Of course, this style of game comes with its own buyer-beware warning: Bring the bankroll to wait out the dry spells. If you can afford a dollar denomination and a classic reel-spinner, you’re looking at a very low house advantage. However, it’s still an advantage. You need to be able to wait out the advantage long enough to catch some short-term luck.

Because that’s when you win on a slot machine—in the short term. As has been true for as long as casinos have existed, in the long term, the house always wins.

Loose Slots, Hot Machines and Other Myths

If you play online casino slots, a lot of people think if you play long enough, you’re bound to win eventually, because the slot is “due” to hit. Untrue. Every spin is different. The game’s random number generator is just that—random. A slot machine can hit 10 times in a row and then not hit again for another week.

A lot of people go in search of slots with the “highest payback,” or the “highest return,” or the slots that are the “loosest.”

But what if you find them? What, exactly, do those terms mean?

Does finding a game with a high payback percentage mean you’re going to have fun? Does it even mean you’re going to win? Not necessarily, on both counts.

Your experience depends more on the kind of game you like than on the theoretical numbers used to determine if a game is “loose” or has a “high payback.”

But the payback percentage on a given slot is not quite as important as you may think. Here’s why: It’s a theoretical number that is reached through simulation of years of spins by a slot machine’s programmer. It’s a long-term number.That doesn’t mean it will take years and hundreds of players winning and losing for a game to match, in actual play, its payback percentage. More realistically, it will arrive at that number over several weeks of play.

However, it will not arrive at it in one session.

It is this fact that tells us how important luck is to whether or not you win—today. Even a slot with a low payback percentage can hit, and often does. Just look at the penny slots. People win huge credit amounts on these games, regularly. They’re among the most popular slot games. People win on these games. Yet, they are among the lowest payback percentage—typically below 90 percent.

The reason people win on those games is the denomination: A penny denomination allows for a lot more cracks at winning, and a lot more chances to overcome an onerous house edge. Put those same games in a quarter denomination, and people will avoid them like the plague.

The higher denominations have higher payback percentages for this precise reason—if they were giving up a 10 percent house edge, no one would be able to afford to play long enough to win. And winning is the most important factor that must be present for people to return to a slot game.

So, payback percentage does not govern whether you win or lose. But you’ll have fun, quite simply, if you play the style of game you like to play.

Use the payback numbers to pick a casino you like. If you want to give up less of a house edge, pick a higher denomination—but know that the higher house edge means you’re going to have to stick out some dry spells and wait for that big win.

Above all, pick an online casino game that you enjoy. Isn’t that the reason we play in the first place?

Quick Tip

  • Protect the win; prevent the loss. Slot machines are popular because they’re simple, but that simplicity means you can easily forget discipline—knowing when it’s time to call it a game.

You’ve won? Great. Cash out. Take a break. You beat the house edge with a victory. Want to keep playing? Fine. Cash out and re-enter your original stake. A big win can now be placed into a wallet in seconds. Use it, and walk away a winner.

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