Lots of people love to play free casino games online. I'm sometimes puzzled at this preference, as I tend to prefer playing casino games for real money. After all, risking losing and having a chance at winning real money is the entire point.
But I also recognize that some people, for various reasons, love to play free casino games. I've watched a tenant at one of my rent houses playing free slot machines for literally hours at a time as he watched television. I didn't know him that well, and I don't judge anyone by the size of his wallet, but it was clear that he didn't have the money to gamble with on real money games.
Other people worry about the potential legal risks involved in playing real money casino games online. Depending on where you live, that might be a valid concern (although I'm convinced that the legal risk involved with gambling for real money online is minimal.)
A more reasonable worry that some people have about online casino games is related to fairness and the risk of not being able to cash out their winnings if they do win. You'll notice a lot of recommended casinos on this site, and I'm confident none of those properties would ever make it hard for you to withdraw funds. I'm even more confident that none of these sites rig their games.
But if you're bound and determined to play free casino games, here's a list of the 7 most engaging games. After all, not every casino game is interesting to play for money. When you take money out of the equation, they become even less engaging.
It's not immediately clear why free slot machines would be so engaging. There's no skill involved in playing 99% of the slot machines in the world, including the ones you'll find online. You don't have any decisions to make.
How could a game with no skill involved and no decisions to make be engaging?
You might ask the same question about real money slot machines, but it wouldn't take you long to answer that question. These games are engaging because there's real money to be won. In fact, you might even win a life-changing jackpot on some of these slot machines.
The bottom line is that no games are more profitable for a casino than the slot machines. As a result, casinos and slot machine manufacturers have diligently been working on making their games more engaging (some might even say addictive) for decades now.
Slots manufacturers have a good feel for what sights and sounds attract players and keep the glued to the spinning reels on the screen. They also have a good feel for how often and how much they have to pay out to keep players interested.
All these design elements are in use in the free versions of these slots games online, too. It's a win-win for the casinos, too. If the games are engaging enough, free game players convert to real money players.
Blackjack is almost the exact opposite of a slot machine. Not only is skill involved, but it plays a tremendous role in the outcome of the game. A player who's mastered basic blackjack strategy faces a house edge of only 0.5% to 1%. A new player making lots of mistakes might be facing a house edge of 4% or more.
With slots, the house edge is fixed according to the PARs sheet. That's the specs used for the computer program that runs the random number generator.
So it's easy to understand why free blackjack might be engaging. Prospective blackjack experts want and need to practice. Free blackjack games enable them to do so.
Top Tip:Find free blackjack games which offer tutorials for basic strategy and card counting techniques. These are examples of free casino games that aren't just bait to lure you into opening an account at an online casino.
Many people find the aspect of learning how to play the hands well engaging enough to play blackjack for free for hours and days on end.
Video poker combines the skill of playing card games like blackjack with the sights and sounds of slot machines. Again, you get to make decisions which affect your outcome. It can be entertaining and challenging to try to get the decisions right all the time.
Like blackjack, video poker games often come in training versions where you can practice your skills. Some of these have a nominal cost up from, like $30 or $40, but then you can play the free games from that software forever after.
If you're new to video poker, you can also use the free games to get a firm grasp of how different the game is from slots. It's just as fast-paced, but the additional layer of strategy-deciding which cards to keep and which cards to throw away-keep most people engaged for a long time.
I don't know anyone who's spent any time playing free video poker who didn't eventually upgrade to the real money version. Video poker is just that much fun.
Roulette is like slots-it's entirely random, and there's no decision-making aspect to the game that will affect your outcome in any real sense. Yet people play free roulette games every day.
What's the attraction?
I think the biggest value in playing free roulette games is getting used to the game-play itself before playing real roulette in a real casino.
Also, when you're playing with free "play-money" chips, you can try out some of these hare-brained roulette systems (like the Martingale) that you see people shilling constantly on the Internet. It won't take you too many hours of play to learn what the mathematicians have been explaining for years:
But my dad explained to me a long time ago that there's a big difference between being told something and realizing something.
And I, for one, would prefer to see you learn this lesson with play-money chips instead of your hard-earned cash.
Craps is one of those games that's so intimidating to the new player that she often avoids it. That's a shame because it's the most entertaining no-skill-involved game in any casino.
The best use of free craps games is to get used to the action, where the bets go on the table, and how the game is played in general. If you take one of the casino's free classes on how to play craps and combine it with just a little bit of time practicing with one of the free games provided by an online casino, you'll feel comfortable at the craps table right away.
One thing to look for with your free craps online is how to places the "odds bet". It's the only bet in the casino with a house edge of 0. Combine that with the already low house edge on the pass an don't pass bets, and you have some of the best odds in the casino.
I don't really think of poker games like Texas holdem and Omaha as casino games because such games aren't banked by the house. They're gambling games, but they seem to belong in their own category separate from casino games.
But many players do think of Texas holdem as a casino game, so I'm adding it to the list.
What's great about free poker is that you can see an entirely different set of behaviors from poker players at the play money tables than you would at the real money tables. In fact, free players act differently from the micro-stakes players.
I have a friend who's a retired gambling webmaster, but before he was in that business, he played poker professionally. He has 2 World Series of Poker bracelets (not Main Event bracelets, but bracelets nonetheless). Last time we spoke, he had been spending time playing free poker for play money.
He was using the free games as an opportunity to demonstrate how poker skills and the math behind the game work even when the other players play badly. You'll hear complaints at low-stakes tables all the time about how smart strategy doesn't work when you're playing with a bunch of bad players.
That's not true. Smart strategy just changes.
When you have more players in the pot, speculative hands like suited connectors become more valuable.
Big hands like pocket aces and pocket kings lose value because they're more likely to go bust with lots of people in the pot.
The best thing about free poker like Texas holdem is that it's completely legal to play from the United States. You can play unimpeded just about anywhere.
Pai gow poker is one of the best games to play in the casino because of its low volatility. The number of hands you'll see per hour is lower than other card games like blackjack because the players have to make decisions about "setting" their hands. The game's rules also result in frequent pushes with the dealer, which prevents you from losing as much money per hour.
Playing free Pai gow poker online is a good way to train for the real game. But it's an interesting enough game in its own right that you might find the game engaging enough to just play for fun from time to time.
Free casino games are just like other gambling games. Some of them are more interesting and engaging than others.
I've tried to do a good job of listing the better games along with reasons why you might enjoy playing a free version of it in the post above.
Feel free to leave comments if you disagree with my assessments of these games and their playability. Better yet, if you agree, tell me I did a good job.