For all the different names, themes, decor and the like, modern day land-based casinos are mostly all the same. The same holds true for online casinos as well.
Every casino has slot machines. In fact, slot machines take up most of the space in the average casino. There’s also almost always a selection of video poker machines in among those slots. Plus, every casino has table games. A few might offer unique versions of the games, or something new every once in a while. However, the classics like Blackjack and Roulette are always there. You’ll usually find a Craps game, and often see Baccarat as well. The more gambling expands across the United States, the more it stays the same.
Your favorite casino may feature a bingo parlor, keno lounge, or a poker room that makes it slightly different from all the rest. But no matter what casino you frequent the most, whether it’s online or off, it likely has a lot more similarities to its competitors than it does differences.
How to play free casino games
Many online casinos offer access to their games for free. You can play them for fun, or as a way to find out which games you like before playing for real money.
At many online casinos, you’ll need to register an account before you can play. The brands you can access depends on your location.
Elsewhere, sweepstakes casinos let you play free games using free “gold chips” or “gold coins.” Some casinos will let you browse their games, then enjoy the action for free in demo mode.
Once you register an account, the challenge will be choosing which of hundreds of slots and table games to try.
Most casinos will give you a list of featured games when you log in. You can then navigate via tabs for slots, keno, video poker, table games and so on.
Live dealer table games are not usually available for free, though you can view them to get an idea of how they work.
When you find a game you like, click on it to have it load in your browser.
Switching from free play to real money
Being able to switch from free play to real money depends on the individual casino. Some outfits, for example, 888 Casino, handle this via a slider, which lets you switch from real money (the default if you have a funded account) to free play.
Some casinos may do this differently or may require you to log out and then choose the demo versions from their listings of free-play and real-money gaming. You select an option before the game loads.
How to get free money
You can enjoy real-money casino games for free by way of welcome bonuses.
Welcome bonuses are available at most state-regulated casinos, with sweepstakes casinos also offering a range of $10 to $30 in free cash.
Simply register at your chosen casino to claim this money that you will need to wager on the games. Usually, table games require a lot more playthrough than slots, reflecting their lower house edge. You might also find a cap on the amount you can win with this promotional money.
With a lot of competition between the state-regulated casinos, it can pay to shop around for the best offers. Make sure that you read through the terms and conditions of each deal before you jump in.
Once you have enjoyed your free real-money play, then matched bonuses are a great way to enjoy more promo cash — these work by matching your first deposit, usually at 100%.
For example, if you deposit $100, you’ll get $200 for play. Again, these offers are common, though the details in the terms and conditions vary a lot. Make sure the playthrough requirement is as small as possible before you choose a deal.
Can I play free casino games on my phone?
Mobile casino gaming is the norm these days.
You can access all sites via your Android or Apple smartphones, and enjoy both free-play and real-money casino gaming.
Casino websites will see your screen size and adjust their display to fit. Note that not all games work well on the smallest screens. While all will work, sometimes the graphics or chips are too small to make the games enjoyable.
A way around this is to download the dedicated apps. These feature only the games which are optimized for mobile phone screens. You will find the cashier (and bonuses) available via these apps.
In many cases, the overall selection of games is smaller than if you go via the websites. You will be able to play the games for free or for real money on your phone.
If you use an iPhone, then the apps are available via the Apple app store. For Android users, restrictions by Google Play on gambling apps mean you’ll need to download these from the websites of the individual casinos instead.
What about progressive jackpots?
While you can’t win a jackpot if you are playing a completely free game, many slots with progressive jackpots are available to try out.
Some slots have life-changing progressive jackpots. To date, the biggest prize won in a New Jersey online casino is more than $300,000 on the Divine Fortune slot.
If you are playing with free bonus money, you need to check the terms and conditions of your casino. Some allow progressives to be won with your free play, while others exclude this.
In addition to the headline-worthy progressives, there are a lot of slots with smaller (though still worthwhile) progressive prizes in the $5,000 to $50,000 range.
Top 10 free casino games to play
Here is a list of 10 games to enjoy for free at state-licensed online casinos.
While not every casino will have the same list of games, there is considerable overlap. The titles include many favorites from live casinos as well as innovative new titles.
- Roulette: There is no need to be patriotic when it comes to choosing a roulette wheel. European (or French, if available) wheels have better odds. You can play the European roulette from software provider NetEnt at many state-regulated casinos. Jazzy music, smooth graphics and a large betting surface on the bottom half of your screen will appear. You can drag and drop free-play chips, then hit the spin button to start the wheel.
- Wheel of Fortune slots: Generations of slot fans have enjoyed these classic IGT titles in live casinos and you can enjoy them online, too. Titles including Triple Extreme Spin and Ultra 5 Reels, which are available in free-play mode. These join many other classic casino slot titles. Expect multiple bonus games, as well as the classic wheel spin features.
- Quick Hit slots: This is a popular range of live casino titles you can now play online. The Quick Hits are from Bally Technologies. Load up one of these titles on your phone or desktop browser, and you could be enjoying the free games, instant wins from the special Quick Hit scatters and enjoying the lively music that comes with your bonus features.
- Casino blackjack: While you can play blackjack for fun at online casinos, you can also use the demo games to perfect your strategy. There are different variations available, including multi-hand blackjack games. If you want to improve, then I recommend finding a strategy card, which fits the number of decks and rules in use. You’ll be hitting, splitting and doubling down like a pro in no time.
- Jacks or better video poker: There are a lot of video poker titles available to play for free online. These include classics like deuces wild and jacks or better, along with bonus poker variations. You can find Game King titles, IGT video poker and multi-hand games. Also, you can even create keyboard shortcuts to speed up play.
- Divine Fortune slots: This title is not available in live casinos. It has a massive progressive jackpot, making it one of the most popular slots at state-licensed online casinos. The theme is based on Greek myths, making for an atmospheric game. There is plenty to keep you engaged, including falling wilds, free spins and (if you play for real money), that progressive mega jackpot.
- Empire Action bingo: While the best online bingo games come under the “Slingo” brand, these are not available for demo aka free play. If you like to relax with online bingo or keno, Empire Action is a great example. This game lets you pick from different cards, each with color-coded numbers and patterns to keep things varied. Once you select your cards, click the big “play” button, sit back and enjoy the action.
- Virtual racing: If you are a fan of horse racing, motorsports or soccer, then you don’t need to wait for a real match to enjoy some free-play gambling action. Virtual sports have their listing at many online casinos. You can bet on sports, which appear in very realistic videos above the bet slip. You’ll be cheering on your virtual horses before you know it.
- 88 Fortunes slot: This ShuffleMaster title is one of the most popular Asian-themed slots. It has been duplicated by about every (live) slot studio around. You can enjoy the demo game online for free. There is a free spins bonus with multipliers, plus the jackpot picks game. While the prize will be in play money if you play for free, there is plenty to enjoy about the gameplay of this classic slot.
- StarBurst slots: Most of the slots covered, so far, are popular, live games that have been bought online. StarBurst, by NetEnt, is a hugely popular mobile slot. The gems-based format is simple and clear, with special wilds leading to respins to line up more gems. You can enjoy this game for free, though it is a popular game for promotions, too, so look out for the chance of winning some real money.
Slot machines, also known as slots, pokies, or even one-armed bandits, have been around casinos practically since casinos have been around.
Modern versions of the machines are basically computers using random number generators to determine the outcome of every wager. Most only require the push of a button to spin the reels. However, some still have the arms on the side like the old analog machines. That’s where the name one-armed bandit comes from. The old school slot machines required a pull on the arm to get the revolving mechanical reels spinning.
Video, electronic, or mechanical, the idea has always been the same with slot machines: Spin the reels and hope you’re lucky enough that the game’s highest-paying symbols line up.
These days, there are massive progressive slots linking machines across the country. There are also video slots with bonus games all based on pop culture icons from the world of TV, movies, and music. There are even a few classic machines in the mix at most casinos, for players with a taste for nostalgia.
But whether a casino is online or land-based, there’s a very good chance that slot machines make up a lot of its offering. The games are easy to learn to play, offering the opportunity for some huge paydays. Perhaps that is why they quickly became the most popular games in the casino. In fact, slot machines make up for 70 percent of the average casino’s revenue.
Slot machines are programmed to pay out a percentage of the money wagered as winnings. It is usually anywhere from 80 to 98 percent and is often mandated by gaming laws.
Even at online casinos, players are likely to find more slots than just about anything else.
Blackjack, often called 21, is a game as old as gambling itself. In fact, it remains one of the most enduring and popular table games on the planet.
Ultimately, Blackjack is a game where players take on the dealer in an attempt to get 21, or as close to it, without going over. Players are dealt two cards. They can choose to draw one more at a time as long as they remain under 21. Going over 21 means forfeiting the bet. All face cards are worth ten and aces can be used as one or eleven.
Once a player hits 21, goes over, or stands, the dealer draws based on a set formula for when they should hit or stand. While other players can play at the same time, they all go up against the dealer individually.
There are several varieties of the game played at US casinos. These games vary based on various rules or payout differences. If a player hits Blackjack, or 21, on his or her first two cards, there is often a bonus payment.
The game is often dealt from a shoe of multiple decks. However, many casinos now offer electronic versions of the game, similar to that played online. These Blackjack games use a random number generator to determine the outcome of each card dealt.
The game remains one of the most popular in casinos around the world because it represents one of the smallest house edges among table games, and therefore, the best chance to beat the house.
Players often employ card-counting techniques to reduce that edge even further. Card counting is frowned upon by casinos, but difficult to track.
Stakes differ from table to table in most casinos, but most casino table game pits do feature the game quite prominently.
Roulette is a casino game that dates back to 18th century France. The name Roulette literally means little wheel in French. Of course, the game is played with a small numbered spinning wheel and a ball. Players place bets on a number, range of numbers, red or black, or high or low numbers.
The wheel contains 37 (French/European) or 38 (American) numbered pockets with varying red and black colors and a single green zero (French/European) or a green zero and green double zero (American). After the dealer spins the wheel, a small ball is sent into the wheel in the opposite direction and ultimately lands in one of the pockets. Where the ball lands determines the outcome of the spin and the various wagers.
At online casinos, this all happens with a graphic interface which mimics the wheel spin while a random number generator determines the outcome.
There are numerous versions of roulette that usually differ based on the numbers offered or wagers available. Whether a wheel has a single or a double zero can change the odds dramatically.
The game’s popularity is mostly due to how fun it can be, rather than a players ability to beat the house. Lucky roulette players do find huge payouts. That probably attributes to the game’s success as much as anything else.
It’s hard to find a casino in the United States that does not offer some version of the game. The same holds true for most online casinos as well. The game may be even more popular online because of the speed at which it can be played compared to land-based casinos.
In and among the slot machines at land-based and online casinos, gamblers will often find a variety of video poker games. In fact, many of the video poker games offered at online casinos are the same ones found inside land-based casinos.
These machines, online or off, use random number generators to determine the value of cards in a variety of different draw poker games.
Most casinos offer traditional video poker titles, including Jacks Or Better, Double Bonus Poker, and Deuces Wild. In recent years, three- and five-play versions of video poker games are growing more popular. The appeal is that these games give players the chance to play multiple hands at the same time.
Payout rates are often high on video poker machines, helping add to the game’s popularity. These payout rates are often published and easy to find. The games also feature simple rules, requiring little more than a basic understanding of poker hand rankings.
Large payouts for hitting a royal flush also keep players interested. In fact, video poker can be fun and one of the best available ways to continue playing on your initial investment while you hunt a big win at a casino, online or off.
Other popular table games
Online and land-based casinos often spread a number of other popular table games. There is probably one of these for every 100 slots, or five blackjack tables in the average casino, but they are certainly there.
Other popular table games include:
- Craps – A dice game where players wager on the outcome of each roll of a pair of dice, and whether a player can repeat the initial roll
- Sic Bo – A dice game where player bets on the outcome of a roll of a three dice, and whether that number will be high or low
- Pai Gow Poker – A card game where players set two poker-style hands and try to beat the dealer
- Baccarat – A card game of chance where players try to pick which of two hands will be close to a score of eight
- Three Card Poker – A table game based on poker where players play three-card hands against the dealer and for bonuses
- Texas Hold’em Bonus – A table game based on Texas hold’em poker where players play hands against the dealer