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Eight Tips for Online Gambling Newbies
by Max Drayman

By now we've all heard about online gambling and poker playing and you're thinking you might want to give it a try. On your mark, get set, wait!

Before you venture forth, it's a good idea to do a quick reality check because the road to online gambling riches is not without potholes. Here are a few caveats to illuminate the path ahead.

1. What's a download? Why do I care?

Some casinos, but certainly not all, will ask if you want to download their software package in order to play their games. There are a couple good reasons to do so: (1) you'll get a full-featured package with all the bells and whistles, and (2) there's some evidence that the downloaded packages are more secure.

That said it's hard to argue with the "instant" gaming option that the "no-download" games offer. If you want to get right to, it this is the way to go. One thing to keep in mind is that many casinos offer their games in both the no-download and download varieties. You can always start with the no-download games and upgrade to the full package when it suits you.

2. Will the software run on my computer?

Good question. The answer in the vast majority of cases is "Yes, beautifully!" If your machine is running modern software and you're able to surf the internet satisfactorily then your computer will, in all likelihood, have no problems at all with the casino games. On the off chance that you do encounter a problem, contact the casino's Customer Support people. That's what they're there for.

3. Play vs. Real mode, what’s the diff?

Simply put, Play means you’re not playing for real dollars and Real means you are. Beyond that there’s the question of whether the games you play are the same in both modes. All the casino operators say “Yes, same games,” but there have been a number of instances where players have demonstrated that that’s not entirely true. Your best bet is to go with one of the major online casinos if you want to ensure that your Play mode games are running exactly the same software as you’ll be seeing in Real mode, but even then it’s not a 100 percent certainty in all cases at all times.

4. I want my winnings!

So you've won big and you're ready to hit the mall. All you need to do is cash out, right? Wrong! All casinos have policies about how much you can cash out and when. Casinos vary widely on this, but the short answer is that you'll need to be patient. Even if the casino lets you withdraw right away it could take weeks to receive your check. Some casinos won't let you withdraw until you receive a PIN number from them through the mail. Still others require numerous pieces of identification be faxed to them so they can verify that you are who you say you are.

It's up to you to decide if you can live with the casino's demands but in any case it's best to know what they're going to want from the get-go: read the casino's info on withdrawals, it should all be spelled out clearly there. If you don't like what you see, try another one.
The actual methods of getting paid are a slightly complicated subject due to history and applicable legislations. For details we suggest you read our recently updated article on Depositing and Getting Paid.

5. PIN number? What's that?

In most cases the casino's cash-out policies are pretty reasonable, albeit a little inconvenient sometimes. Many of them issue the user a unique identification number, a PIN that you need in order to initiate a cash-out.

Often your PIN number comes via regular postal mail which can be annoyingly slow. The theory is that it's for your own good, since receiving it confirms that you actually live at the address they have in their database. It also helps the casino avoid fraud. Whatever, it's become part of the way many online casinos do business, so you're probably just going to have to get used to it.

6. How much is it going to cost me?

A bitter pill that online casino players were at one time asked to swallow was a charge on their withdrawals. In general this is pretty rare now and our advice is to avoid casinos that practice this policy, except in obvious circumstances such as the wire-transfer fee that places like Western Union charge.

It's well worth your time to read your casino's website page of "Banking" or "Withdrawals." The vast majority of casinos are quite reasonable in their withdrawal options, but you never know until you know. If it's not clear, email or phone them and find out what the deal is.

7. Hidden banking fees

So the check is in the mail and that means you're home free, yes? Maybe, but again, it depends on the details. For example, receiving a check on a Swiss bank in U.S. dollars may not be money straight in your pocket.

We've known people to be hit with stiff transaction fees when they ask their bank to process a check drawn on a foreign bank. Direct deposit and bank wires may be alternatives, but you'd best look into it before hand, because not all casinos offer these services.

8. Bonus rules

Bonuses are a big deal—literally and figuratively—and you may have encountered one that sounds really attractive. By all means, go for it, but not before you read the fine print.

Bonuses come in a bewildering variety and it's no small thing to decide what's a great deal and what's just so-so. All casinos will require that you play the bonus before you can withdraw it. Some require you to play many times the bonus plus your original deposit, and on and on it goes. No one can offer advice that will apply to all the bonuses, other than the one bit of advice that we all know: buyer beware.

Unfortunately we can't leave the bonuses issue without a few cautionary words. First and foremost don't abuse the bonus offers. If the casino suspects you of abuse, you will be the loser because you're depending on them to handle your money honestly and responsibly: if they suspect you've been cheating them, they're well within their rights to freeze your funds until they get things sorted out to THEIR satisfaction.

Finally, there's the issue of fair-play on the casino's part. Some casino managers have a tough time with the fact that a player can deposit $100, get a $50 bonus, hit a winning streak at the Craps table and cash out for $2200.

Whatever the reason, a few casinos have been known to withhold the player's winnings, or freeze player accounts completely. Do a little research if you're serious about using a particular casino's bonus. Read the message boards and check out our reviews to see if we've visited the casino you are considering. Also, there are other sites like ours that make it their business to keep the player informed so surf a little before you hand over your cash.

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