Differences Between The Casino Platforms
As you’d expect each software platform has it’s own array of games, and while you will notice common games such as Blackjack, Video Poker and Keno, to name but a very small number, on pretty much all the softwares, there are differences in how they are delivered and played. Plus of course the odds vary considerably and you may want to find a casino that offers your favourite game with the best odds.
Each type of sotware has a different interface, and again there are differences in the interface between the “download” versions and the “no download” (flash or java) versions where applicable. You will always find that where there is the option of download and no-download casinos, invariably the download versions contain a load more games. The commonality is that the common casino games are usually available in both formats, but variants and niche games, or larger arrays of slot games for example, are usually to be found in the download versions. Additionally, the download versions usually contain more functionality.
Almost without exception, you can sign up to any casino and play in “Fun Mode” (“Play For Fun”) before you sign up for real. This is normally a straightforward process that doesn’t usually require the input of any personal information aside from your name and email address, and perhaps a few optional items. It’s a great way to try the games out and again can be utilised in both download and no-download variants of each casino.
One of the more recent innovations is the “auto-play” feature which has been implemented by Microgaming and Playtech casinos, and to a lesser extent, Cryptologic casinos also. The Microgaming version is far better, incorporating what they term “expert-mode”, which not only gives the player more control over the auto-play functions but also implements the best strategy on a number of games, most notably video poker and its many variants. Playtech’s version is also pretty comprehensive in this regard.
While at Microgaming casinos, the player can select the number of plays and also set criteria to stop the auto-play on a given occurrence (ie: when a slots bonus round is hit, or when a payout exceeds a certain amount, the Cryptogic version simply allows the player to select a number of hands/spins and plays until they are complete. The Playtech version (“advanced mode”) is available through the “Menu” button in the software and does what the Microgaming “expert mode” does except that it doesn’t allow you to stop when a slots bonus round crops up, only after the bonus if the amount won exceeds the “stop” criteria you feed in. Expect each of these systems to improve substantially in time to come…there is a lot of scope for improvements! But that said, the Microgaming “strategy” play is excellent for video poker players who do not yet know the best strategy to play. Especially useful in the many variants of “wild card” video poker like “Deuces Wild” or “Aces & Faces”.
Casino Banking Features
Generally known as the “Bank” or more commonly, the “Cashier”, banking is a built-in feature of all casino software and the processes vary considerably. You can read more about Depositing And Withdrawing, but for now, I’ll explain the basic differences between the software platforms.
Microgaming casinos are generally given more control over their choice of banking options, providing in-software banking that all casinos (except Ladbrokes properties) use while Cryptologic has set up their own “Ecash” service which all licensees (excepting William Hill) use. RTG and Playtech casinos generally incorporate their own methods, and while all are very similar and generally simple to use, there are one or two subtleties. In general, the UK bookmakers have added their own banking options to the software to cater for integration between sportsbook, casino and poker accounts, and while it can take a while longer to fathom out, these are generally an improvement over the standard offerings.
Depositing is a simple process, and all casinos offer credit and debit card options. Most also offer “e-wallet” services (such as the very popular Neteller or the slightly less popular FirePay or Click2Pay) with the exception of Wagerworks casinos where players are restricted to cards. Cryptologic casinos aside, you will find that when you cash out any winnings they sit in a “pending” state for varying amounts of time. This is known as the “Reverse Withdrawal” holding area and is there so that a player has a set period of time to reverse the cashout to continue playing.
Personally, I loathe the Reverse Withdrawal feature and see it as a cynical attempt to get players to chase their losses. But it’s a fact of life, and some casinos will, when asked, reduce this period for individual players or “flush” any cashouts from the holding area to avoid temptation. But many won’t so if you see this as an issue, take care to choose the right casino. Information on who does what in this area is available on the big casino list. The “default” Reverse Times vary, mostly from 12-24 hours at Microgaming casinos (some are 48) and up to 5 days on Playtech software casinos (although some process manually and quicker like Bet365 and Tote).
For more specific information on payout speeds, check out the page on Depositing And Withdrawing Your Money.
If your primary concern is finding a casino that offers your favourite game with the best odds, go to the next section. This section deals primarily with game-play and variation on the software platforms. To be honest, I could spend weeks on this section, the range is so diverse, so I’ll just pick out the highlights from the different providers.
Firstly I think it’s pertinent to mention that an online casino does not generally offer multi-player games or poker. Most have separate poker rooms which are assigned to different networks (again provided by standard software suppliers) and require a separate download from the casino. So if poker is your thing, a casino can only really offer you single-player vs. machine variants, like 3-Card, Pai Gow, Cyberstud, Let It Ride or Video Poker. That said, we are starting to see new “multiplayer” casinos trickling through – very much in their infancy with very limited games, but nonetheless, Microgaming has produced the software to facilitate this and it could be the future of online casinos.
Blackjack, Roulette and common “Table Games”: I’ll admit that this is not an area I am well versed in, so the differences are trickier to spot! Having said that, I do know that the Roulette (French, European, American) games on Microgaming look crap compared to other casinos with very little excitement and basic “ball spin” graphics which has been the subject of much player derision recently. Surprising when you consider Microgaming has, in my opinion, easily the best interface of all the software providers. BUT…and it’s a big BUT, you can use the “expert-mode” feature of Microgaming software to play X hands with repeat bets and you can even set your own “betting patterns”. Great feature.
Blackjack variants abound from single-deck to multi-deck, single-hand to multi-hand and lesser know variants like Atlantic City (Microgaming), Multi-Split (Crypto), Progressive (Crypto), Double Exposure (Microgaming) or European (Microgaming) among others. Microgamings “auto-play” feature is available on a number of table games, with exceptions, as an option to players and of course, were used it uses basic strategy too.
Video Poker: There are so many variations of this game available it’s difficult to know where to start! RTG and Microgaming casinos provide the most options with Wagerworks providing the fewest (erm….one at time of writing!). Cryptologic Video poker delivers the slowest game, but in my eyes, it is actually the most exciting…I think it’s because it has a slow turn and a little pause between hands in multi-hand play.
But with video poker more than most casino games, the odds can vary dramatically from software platform to software platform. This is perhaps where RTG software can provide an “edge” for their casinos, in that the casino can choose their own payouts for each game. Of course, this makes it very difficult for the player to know what the odds are…but it also means I’ve seen positive expectation games appear, such as Joker Poker at iNetBet which runs in at over 100% expected return. Until recently, Crypto’s “Double Bonus” Video Poker provided the best “set odds” of any video poker game, but alas it’s been downgraded.
Amusing story here, but indicative of the industry: when InterCasino announced that the paytable of Double Bonus Video Poker was being downgraded, the press release stated that the game was being “upgraded” to keep it in line with the real experiences a punter would get at a land-based (“B&M” – Bricks & Mortar) casino. Oh how we laughed publically at that one. But unfortunately, you’re a gambler therefore you can’t think for yourself 😉 If you’re an American gambler, then it gets even worse!
The catch with Video Poker, of course, is that to achieve the “expected return”, you have to play exactly to the best strategy. This is where Microgaming software wins out, as it provides the “expert-mode” option which does the hard work for the punter. You could argue it takes some of the fun away, and it does IMO, but for players looking to maximize their chances, or for newbies, it’s spot on.
Slots and Other Games: variation in the slots is massive. While Playtech and RTG slots are generally regarded as okay, and Wagerworks provide some different and entertaining ideas like Monopoly, The Price Is Right and Cluedo, it is generally accepted by slots players that Microgaming provide the largest and most innovative range. Loads of the (boring!) 3-reel slots of course, but the real fun is in the 5 reels “bonus” slots. true, they get through your money quicker than the 3-reelers in general, but they can also reward higher, depending on the slots you pick obviously.
The Microgaming graphics are great for slots play, and of course, the auto-play function is very useful here. I couldn’t begin to tell you where to start when choosing a slot to play, but the most popular slot on Microgaming software, in fact online generally I’d guess, is “Thunderstruck“, a once-unique bonus slot that rewards 15 “free spins” where all wins are trebled in value as a bonus. It is excellent fun if a tad greedy at times!
All casino software platforms have “progressive jackpot” games, mostly slots but also extended to other games such as Video Poker (ie: “Jackpot Deuces”), Keno, Card games and even Roulette (Crypto). The jackpots can grow and grow and you’ll frequently see them climb over $1,000,000 and occasionally over $2,000,000! You can play jackpot games for big prizes for as little as $0.25c (“Tunzamunni” slot on Microgaming is a 3reel slot that frequently hits $75,000-$100,000+ for just $0.25c a spin).
The way “Progressives” work on the big software provider networks is that every casino contributes a % of their takings to the software provider which is known as a “progressive contribution”. This is held back by the software provider until a time as the jackpot is won by a player at any of their licensees properties. The software provider reimburses the full jackpot amout to that casino, who in turn pay the player. Having been lucky enough to recently win a small-ish progressive at a Cryptologic casino, I can say that the cashout time takes no longer than normal, if you’re playing at a reputable casino of course! The screenshot I hear you cry? Okay, if I must: here it is. I was playing at the (rather poor) Java version of InterCasino.