A Guide to Playing Casino Games Online for Free
Do you play the free games online casinos offer?
You should. We’ll explain all the benefits free games give you later on in this guide.
One of biggest benefits is the ability to check out a casino before you sign up and make a real money deposit. You can make sure you like the casino’s software, games, support and banking options before you make a commitment with your wallet.
…and before you get locked into a deposit bonus for five-figure rollover. Which can become a nightmare if you decide you don’t like that casino and want to take your bankroll elsewhere.
So, even though we highly recommend the following casinos – all of which offer killer games, which you can play for no money out of pocket – it might make sense for you to try them out before making a real money deposit.
Online casinos are sort of like shoes. It makes sense to try them on first. Walk around, see how they fit. Online casinos are no different.
Once you test a couple of them out, compare your notes to find the one you like most. Then whip out the plastic and start playing for real money.
Now, before we talk about all the other benefits to playing free casino games, let’s first talk about why online casinos let you play for no money in the first place.
Why Do Casinos Let You Play Real Games?
There’s one core reason why online casinos let you play their games for free.
It gets you in the door.
Most casinos will have you create an account before you’re allowed to play. This means, at the very least, you’ll have given them your name and email. And you have to give them a good email because the casino will ask you to confirm it.
Other casinos ask for even more information. They might get your physical address. Maybe even your social security number (for tax purposes).
They can use this information (minus your SSN) to market to you. To entice you with offers such as deposit bonuses, free spins, free cash and huge progressive jackpots. You can have them all, but only if you make a (real money) deposit first.
Online casinos will market to you both through email and physical (snail) mail. Their success rate doesn’t need to be all that high either.
How Online Casinos Are Able to Offer Free Games
You won’t ever see a brick and mortar offer free games except for maybe when they’re slow, and only when they’re teaching you how to play.
But don’t expect the casino to deal you hundreds of games without you ever laying down some cash. It won’t happen.
Offline casinos are limited. They have only so much space to spare for their tables, machines and so on. Which means they’re limited on how many real money players they can cram into their casino.
Online casinos don’t share the same restrictions. For one thing, monthly software maintenance and server costs pale in comparison to the bare minimum it takes to keep a brick and mortar casino’s doors open.
But not only that, it’s far easier to increase their server bandwidth so they can accept more customers. B/M casinos can’t do that without tons of money, permits and construction.
(Though, if you’ve spent time in Las Vegas, you know they have no problem with any of that. It seems as if they’re always building a new casino, hotel or stadium.)
So, between ease and costs of running their casino, and that their marketing will convert a small percentage of free money players to real money customers, it makes sense for online casinos to offer ‘no cost’ casino games.
And Some Casinos (Will) Make Money from Free Games
Not all gambling companies wait until you’re ready to play for real money to make you a customer.
PokerStars – the largest online poker room in the world – lets you play their poker games for free. But they only give you so many chips. If you lose them you can reload them, but only once every 4-6 hours.
PokerStars lets you buy their play money chips. You can spend as little as $1.99 to get hundreds of thousands of chips. They have free money packages well past the $100 range.
All for free money chips. Which you cannot use for games that offer real money prizes.
One reason we think they started charging for play money chips, which they didn’t always do, is to monetize the large American player base they had post-Black Friday. This gives them the opportunity to turn players who can’t play for real money due to legal reasons, into real money customers.
We haven’t seen online casinos offer this. Not yet. But there’s no reason why they couldn’t. Don’t be surprised if you see this offered by casinos, especially in states where online gambling isn’t legal yet.
What Types of Games Can You Play for Free?
This isn’t going to be a helpful answer, but …you can play any casino game you can think of for free.
This includes well-known and popular options like:
- Video poker
…and table games like:
- Pai gow poker
- Sic bo
- 3-card poker
- Caribbean stud poker
…and miscellaneous games like:
- Scratch tickets
…and slot variations that include:
- 3D software
- Classic slots
- 3 and 5 reel slots
- Video slots
- Fruit slots
- Progressive slots
- Slots with features including nudges, bonuses, multipliers, scatters, wilds, cascading wilds, sticky wilds and more.
The one type of game you’ll have a hard time finding for free play are live dealer games. These fall under the brick and mortar category in that, because they’re live, they only have so much space for real money players. They also have more overhead to cover than online casinos.
Some live dealer casinos do let you play for free, though. You just have to find them.
How Do You Play Free Money Casino Games?
It’s no different than playing for real money.
Once you have an account – assuming you even need one, because many casinos don’t require you to – you’ll choose the game you want to play. Many casinos will ask if you want to play for real money or if you want to play the demo, practice or free money version.
From here the free games are identical to the real money games except you’ll start with a fixed number of credits. They’ll give you 500, 1,000 or 5,000 credits. Just enough where you can bet the table max if you wanted. You can even bet the side bets.
(Just remember you won’t win real money if any of those side or progressive bets hit.)
Then you play the game like normal. And the free money games will have the rules and payouts listed if you have any questions, just like their real money games do. This includes info about how their features, options and bonus rounds work.
The Technology’s the Same Too
Accessing free money games is just as easy as real money games. You can download the casino’s software, play in their instant play (browser) casino, or play games on your mobile device.
We recommend their instant play casino if you’re just checking them out. Especially since some casinos don’t even require you to make an account first. This is a fast and easy way to get in, play their games, and get out (if you want to).
Though keep in mind most instant play casinos have fewer games than the download. But that’s only a problem if you’re looking for a specific (kind of) game.
You will find fewer mobile games – usually a dozen slot games, a blackjack game, table game and video poker machine. Sometimes more, often less. Which is why the instant play casino’s probably the best way for most people to go.
Are There Any Risks to Playing Free Casino Games?
Weird question, isn’t it? What can be so risky about gambling for play money?
Probably more than you think.
One risk is hitting a jackpot or great hand, like quads or a royal flush while playing video poker, and not being able to collect the winnings.
That sucks. Take our word for it. But it’s a risk you have to be willing to take on if you choose to play for fun.
But there are even bigger risks. Potentially dangerous risks.
For example, we’ve seen an interview where the interviewee said some casinos tweak their free games. They change them so they hit more often.
The problem is when people can’t separate the free money games from reality. Not only do they not make the connection that the games are possibly rigged, or at least weighted for free money players to win more often. But they also don’t consider that just because they’re winning at the free money games doesn’t mean they’ll win when they decide to play for real.
This could lead some people to create a real money account and make a deposit on false promises or results.
And who do you blame in that case?
Well, part of the blame goes to the casino for rigging their games. But also to the consumer for not educating themselves and for being naïve. But the blame doesn’t matter. What does is how dangerous it can be.
Other than that, the other risk would involve problem gamblers. Even though it’s not for real money, it doesn’t help them with their core issues (addiction). It’s even possible that free money games can act like a gateway drug to the real thing.
Speaking of gateway drugs, both kids and young adults can play these games, too. Though they can’t play for real money, these are still casinos where real money games are played. It’s a totally different environment playing these games in a casino, too, compared to in your home with family or in a video game.
Not only that, but a young person, in theory, could lie about their age, sign up and gamble for real. And we can all probably agree that’s not the best path for a young person to be on.
What Are the Benefits to Free Money Games?
Let’s now look at the positive side of free money games. Why should you consider playing them?
Here are some of our thoughts:
- Learn how to play games
- Why play games for real money when you don’t know how? It makes more sense to play for free so you can learn the mechanics and make mistakes.
- Practice strategy
- Did you find a new strategy or tip you want to try out? Then try it out on a free game. Though many strategies simply don’t work online due to how they shuffle the cards, some still do. And there’s no harm in practicing strategies like card counting, whether they work or not, just for sake of practicing.
- Play for fun
- Not everyone’s interested in playing for real money. Some people just like the games. They have no interest in gambling.
- No worries of going overboard
- No worries of going overboardIf you have a tendency to play more than you should, or to chase your losses or not adhere to a stop loss, playing for fun can be a solution. You can play as long as you want – even chase your fake losses – without any risks to your finances.
- It’s still an option for Americans
- Many Americans can’t play online due to laws and/or difficulties banking. Playing for free eliminates both hurdles.
- You can test casinos before you sign up
- We mentioned this earlier. But you can play for free to test a casino before you commit with a real money deposit. This is a risk-free way of ensuring you join the right casino. The best part is that many casinos, such as Bovada and Ignition, don’t require you to create an account before playing their free games.
- No risk
- Most casinos will let you play all their games and variations for play money. Which also includes side bets, bonus rounds and progressive jackpots. This means you can still have tons of fun – arguably as much fun as you’d have playing for real – without risking anything of value at all.
And for some people, that’s the biggest benefit of all.
The bottom line – we feel that everyone should play free casino games, so long as you don’t have any gambling problems and you join a legit casino. Because free casino games should be fair too. Think of it as a reflection of the casino and their real money games.
There’s no pressure to play for real money, either – and you can make the switch to real money games if and when you do want to. It’s as simple as making a deposit.
For that reason, we recommend you try a free casino game or two today.
Here are some questions we get about playing free money casino games and our answers.
Can you still win free money?
If you can find a freeroll – like a poker tournament or slots tournament – then maybe. Often times you can play with free money and they’ll offer a nominal prize – just a few bucks – to the top 5 or 10 or however many winners.
But just know that many casinos and poker rooms will ask that you wager the money so many times before you can cash out. And that’s IF the freeroll winnings are cashable. Otherwise you’ll only be able to use it for playing. Any money you win with that money can be cashed out.
Otherwise, no – outside of tournaments or freeroll, you won’t be able to win real money prizes playing free money games.
Are free money games the same as no deposit bonuses?
No, because when you play free money games you cannot win real money. With no deposit bonuses, the casino’s giving you a nominal cash bonus to use in their casino. When you win, you win real money. And when you win, you’ll often have terms you need to meet before you can cash out.
The bottom line – they’re not the same thing. One’s for free money and the other’s for real money.
Are there any limits to playing free games? Do casinos eventually force you to play for real money, or not at all?
Not that we’ve seen, no. You can play for no money as long as you want. It’s in the casino’s best interest to let you play considering that one day you might become a real money customer.
I’ve run out of credits. How do I get more?
This depends on the casino. Some will top you off automatically. Others will have a button or option you can choose to request more. And with others you can refresh your browser, or exit and reenter the game to reload your balance.
I don’t want to join a casino. Can you play them anywhere else?
You have a couple other options:
- Mobile Apps
- You’ll find tons of free casino apps in your app store for all major mobile smartphones and tablets. The most popular games are slots, blackjack and video poker. But we’ve seen apps for pai gow poker and sic bo, too.
- Social Networks
- You can read our social casino games page for more information. But you’ll have no shortage of casino game on social platforms like Facebook.
- Video Games
- With a bit of research, you can find casino themed video games for the Playstation, Xbox and your PC. These might have a one-time cost to buy the game.
Push-come-to-shove, you can always play the games at home with friends and family.