Getting Started

When most people hear the words "online gambling" they almost automatically think of casino-style gambling. Truly, however, casino gaming is only a moderate piece of the Internet gambling pie. Sports books, lottery sites, combinations sites and bingo lobbies are as well part of the ever-evolving online gambling scene, with each offering another form of gaming designed to suit bettors of all tastes.

To assist you get started as online player, below is a brief overview of each of these types of web sites.

Casinos


What exactly IS an internet casino? Plainly put, online casinos are computer generated simulations that offer real-time betting on classic casino games. Casino sites are closely identical to their land-based brethren, allowing patrons to select a game, buy their chips and wager real money versus the house, or in some cases against other players. The only fundamental difference between the two venues is that with internet casinos, wagering happens through a computer. So, just as you would expect to walk into a casino in Las Vegas and find all of your favorite games of chance, so, too, will you find them in their online counterparts. While some sites have the barest minimum in terms of design and software, literally providing only screen shots of the games as they progress, some of the more established sites have developed software programs that rival today's most realistic video games. In these casinos, players are treated to a quasi-realistic tour of the house, with 3-D graphics showing the general layout, table games, slot machines and even other people milling about. In addition, players themselves are represented by 3-D characters that can maneuver about the casino and chat via instant messaging with other real players in real time. These chat functions even carry over to the gaming tables, so players can chit-chat with each other, just like in a real casino.

Sports books


Among the founding fathers of online gambling, sports betting are the second largest segment of the I-gambling industry. It consists of web sites that cater almost exclusively to sports enthusiasts, offering news, daily updates on events, live lines, picks, and of course the ability to bet on a variety of sporting events. Before the advent of Internet gambling, sports’ betting was usually done over the phone through a "brick-and-mortar" sports book or, depending on where you live, in a casino. However, with the development of online sports betting, bettors can now visit a site, do their research and place a bet, all in a matter of minutes from their home computer. Additionally, since most I-sports books have an international clientele, their event offerings are usually quite large - allowing betting on literally hundreds of events daily. Some sites have even pushed the term "sport" to the limit, allowing wagering on everything from presidential nominations to the winners of reality television shows! Because of the nature of these types of sites, don't expect much in the way of pizzazz. Unlike casinos, where players have to walk around, pick out games to play and tables to sit at, sports books need only have players find what they want to bet on and select it. That's not to say that the sites are any less enjoyable or well designed, only that the nature of this betting venue requires a more straightforward approach.

Lottery Sites


Instant wealth at a nominal price has always been the draw of the lottery. Because so many people fancy the thought of betting a buck and walking away with millions, it was only a matter of time before the lottery began to make its presence felt on the web. Generally speaking, lottery site design tends to fall more in the category of a sports book-straightforward design with minimal special effects. That's because lottery sites work exactly the same as a typical lottery. Players pick their game, choose their numbers, buy a ticket, and pray they hit the jackpot. The only real difference is that a computer randomly generates the winning numbers, as opposed to the traditional "ball drop" technique used with many terrestrial lotteries. Therefore, designing a lottery site where bettors walk around would be tantamount to designing the interior of your local convenience store - there's simply no need.

Bingo


Bingo's origins can be traced back to 1530, where it first gained popularity as the national lottery of Italy. Since that time, it has steadily grown and evolved to become the familiar game played worldwide for both profit and recreation. Because of its international appeal, it comes as no surprise that bingo is one of the fastest growing segments of the online gaming industry, accounting for as much as 20% of all online gambling activity. While the types of bingo games vary from site to site - ranging from free games with no monetary prizes to $5 progressive jackpot cards that pay thousands - most sites present a digital version of the familiar bingo card with game play that mimics the traditional style. Players simply log on to a site, register as a player, pick their card(s) and start to play bingo online. To make things even easier and more exciting, most bingo sites offer an auto daub feature, faster game play (each game lasts about four minutes) and continuous play. Since bingo is sort of the hybrid of casino gambling and lottery games - having players sit in a hall waiting for the results - site design typically mimics real life. After selecting the game and buying the cards, players sit and wait for the results, and then start the process all over again. Because this tends to get a little tedious after awhile, most bingo sites have implemented a chat feature that allows fellow bingo lovers to converse while playing.

Combination Sites


While many I-gaming organizations prefer to master a specific gambling type, combinations sites - sites that offer multiple types of betting venues - are becoming more and more popular. For example, it is not unusual to find a site that offers both casino wagering and sports betting. Similarly, many lottery sites and virtual bingo halls have started offering slot machines and video poker games to appease gamblers prior to the start of a new game. While the house's reasoning behind this move towards multiple gaming types is obvious - to draw in a larger segment of the gaming population - the player also benefits from the increased selection. By selecting a site that offers a comprehensive gaming venue, should a bingo player want a change of pace, for example to play online casino blackjack, they no longer have to download or register at multiple sites. They need only find one of the growing number of combination sites where they can download once, register once, and play whatever they like whenever the mood strikes.

Specialty Sites


On the contrary end of the selection spectrum, there are the game unique "niche" sites or specialty sites. These specialty sites center their energy not just on a gambling genre, such as casino gaming, but on one specific type of game. Of all of the niche formats, none is more common than poker. One of the world's most popular and challenging games, poker sites have quickly become an online gambling backbone, with poker players of all levels flocking to them in droves. Why such attention? Not only do these sites offer fun and challenging play, but many of them also host free and qualification tournaments with prizes that tip well into the millions. Unlike winning the lottery, where players rely on luck, these poker tournaments offer skilled players a real shot at leaving the table with a wad of cash at little or no risk. Naturally these sites feature more than just tournaments, so players who are so inclined can pull up a chair at any number of tables. Betting limits vary, with some tables running as low as a quarter while others cost as much as a grand to get in. Game variation also depends greatly on the site, with the most prominent being the Hold 'em and Stud games. All games are played just like in a real casino, with players competing against one another for the pot while the house takes a small cut. Another type of niche format is the recently developed person-to-person betting (P2P). In this next generation betting site, players not only get to bet against the house, or each other, but they also get to BE the house. These sites work just like any other sports book, with patrons wagering on any number of events. The only difference is that bettors have the option to switch sides and not only place bets, but book them against other gamers. This same type of option has also began appearing in a limited number of casino sites, allowing a player to actually be the dealer against the other players. All that is required is a large enough bankroll to meet any possible losses.

Beyond any doubt, as technology and general appeal of online gaming grows, we will see and even greater variety of gaming sites and offerings develop. But for now, these descriptions will help you to realize the difference between the current sites and help you to identify what type of internet gambling venue is good for you.
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