Complete Guide to Gambling

Gambling is such a broad topic that you could spend years reading about it and still learn something new every day. It's almost audacious for us to even attempt to compile a comprehensive guide that covers gambling in all its forms. Even so, that's exactly what we've attempted to do right here.

In this guide, we're going to do our best to break it all down to bite-sized pieces. Below we explain how it all works, what you can expect when you gamble online and provide links to more resources that cover each topic in greater detail. Whether you're a total newbie or an experienced veteran, we are confident you'll find at least something useful or interesting in the following pages.

The Different Forms of Gambling

Gambling has taken many forms over the course of human history. It's interesting to think that the ancient Chinese used a form of lottery to finance the construction of the Great Wall of China. But today, we're here to talk about it in its modern form for the sake of keeping this guide at least somewhat reasonable in length.

The vast majority of modern gambling takes place in five different forms. You could probably find other examples if you looked hard enough, but the following categories cover the big majority of what you're likely to see today at any gambling venue.

Casino Games

Casino games such as blackjack, craps and slot machines are probably the most widely recognized gambling games. You could take just about anyone from any part of the world, drop him in the middle of a casino and he would recognize it for what it is: a place to gamble.

The games that fall under this category represent gambling in its purest form. You don't use much (if any) strategy to gain an advantage over the house or anyone else. You place your bets, cross your fingers and hope for a winner. It all comes down to random chance.

Most games do actually have a bit of a strategic element, but strategy in a casino game is mostly about picking the right wagers and making decisions that lower the house advantage a bit. In the end, whether you win or lose is a matter of random chance.

Our casino games guide breaks it down even further. Check out the link below to read more about casino games in general as well as detailed information about all the most popular games.

Sports Betting

Multiple Sports ItemsSports betting is as old as gambling itself. Back when the Chinese were building the lottery-financed Great Wall, people in Ancient Rome were betting on circuses and races. What separates sports betting from regular casino games is that the player does not compete directly against the house.

Those who are particularly skilled can actually earn a profit with sports betting. This is widely known and accounts for some of its popularity. You work with the same information as the bookmakers and have a real shot at winning money. It's easier said than done of course, but it's nice to know the odds aren't permanently pitted against you.

Plus, sports betting is just a lot of fun. It's exciting to place a bet on a big game and watch your favorite teams duke it out before your eyes. When you know you have money on the line, every play takes on new importance. If you'd like to learn more about the art of sports betting, see the link below.

Poker

Out of all the games mentioned on this page, poker is the odd one out. In fact, we don't even consider it gambling because it has been proven time and time again that poker is a game of skill. There's a reason why we see the same players at the final tables of big tournaments year after year.

But despite our protests, poker is often lumped in with gambling so we've included it here. We're big fans of poker anyways so it's fun to write about. If you'd like to try your hand at poker, take a look at the guide linked to below. Our poker guide explains everything you need to know about safety, choosing a site and improving your strategy.

Horse Racing

Horse racing betting is surprisingly complex for a sport that seems so simple on the outside. In some ways, horse racing is like sports betting. You bet on the performance of other people (or animals) in a competition over which you have no control. However, you have access to just enough information to make educated guesses about how it will all go down.

It shouldn't be any surprise that horse race betting is big business. With tracks located around the world and hundreds of betting sites following those tracks, significant money changes hands every single day. If you'd like to step into the world of horse betting, see the link below.

Bingo

Bingo is the most lighthearted form of gambling in our opinion. The game doesn't lend itself to much strategy, but it's fun nonetheless. Bingo offers just the right combination of chance, big money and socializing that it has its own devout following. Bingo has a greater emphasis on good old-fashioned fun than any other game in gambling.

You can read more about bingo (including suggestions on where to play) in our guide here:

Online Gambling

Most of what we write about here at GamblingSites.org applies specifically to online gambling. There is some crossover when we talk about things like game strategy, but there are some differences between gambling on the internet and doing it at a brick-and-mortar casino.

How It's Different than Live Gambling

Apart from the obvious difference in location, online gambling closely resembles gambling at a casino. The biggest difference is that online casinos rely on random number generators (RNGs) while brick-and-mortar casinos rely more on old-fashioned physics. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the game of roulette.

At a live casino, the dealer drops a ball into a spinning wheel and the randomness of physics determines where the ball finally lands. At a gambling site, an RNG is used to choose a random place where the ball will land. The graphic representation of a ball spinning around a wheel is just there for aesthetic purposes. Behind the scenes, an RNG chose the spot at random.

RNGs are used extensively at online casinos. RNGs are used to shuffle decks, roll the dice and spin the reels of slot machines. In some ways, RNGs are actually more random than the physics used at a casino. For example, a dealer at a brick-and-mortar casino can never shuffle a deck of cards as thoroughly as an RNG can.

The other big difference between the two formats is found in the financial side of things. Online casinos process your deposits and withdrawals electronically. Money is sent directly to and from your bank account by the gambling site. Personally, we find this method of banking safer and more convenient than lugging chips and cash to and from the cashier at a brick-and-mortar casino.

Where to Gamble Online

One of our primary jobs with this website is to help you find a place that is safe and reputable. We do this by visiting sites for ourselves and ranking them according to their safety, reputation, game selection, payout odds and more.

We also try to help you find gambling sites that meet your needs. We know, for example, that sports bettors are best served by one set of sites while poker players are best served by another. You can follow any of the links below to see which sites we recommend for different forms of gambling.

The next set of pages rate sites based on your location. We have these pages because some sites cater specifically to players in certain parts of the world via country-specific bonuses, the types of sports bets they offer, banking options, accepted currencies and so on. These lists are especially useful for those of you in highly regulated markets such as North America.

Just visit any of the links below to see our top-picks for gambling sites in that location.

Each of the above pages rank sites according to their overall level of service for each jurisdiction or form of gambling. However, we understand some of our readers have different priorities. The pages below rank sites according to more specific traits:

We’d like to stress that even though we have different criteria for ranking sites, we only stick with sites that are safe and that meet a minimum level of overall quality. You can expect to see some overlap between top-lists simply because we stick to a small set of gambling sites that we know and trust.

Just because we have a page dedicated to “safe” gambling sites, for example, it doesn’t mean the sites ranked on other pages aren’t safe places to play. It means the sites on our “safe” page have been online for longer and hold more certifications than sites listed elsewhere.

Site Histories and Biographies

Recently, we've taken to researching and writing about the histories of the sites and people who shape gambling today. These informational articles may not help you win more money, but they do provide interesting insight into how certain companies and people have impacted modern gambling.

Gambling Jurisdictions

The laws governing gambling vary greatly around the world. In some locations, gambling is embraced and accepted by the government. In others, gambling is outlawed outright. However, we've found that most jurisdictions reside somewhere in the middle. In those places, gambling isn't exactly embraced but it's also not exactly legal.

Our jurisdictions guide is designed to help you navigate the complex legalities of gambling in various parts of the world. If you would like to learn more about the legal state of gambling in your area, head on over to our gambling jurisdictions page.

Final Words of Wisdom

Congratulations if you've managed to make it this far. We're almost done. Before we let you go, we'd like to leave you with a few final words of wisdom.

Always remember that gambling is nothing more than a form of entertainment. The odds work against you at all times and you should prepare yourself for the likelihood of losing money. What we always tell people is to look at gambling as just another form of entertainment with an associated cost.

Set a gambling budget and stick to it. That way, you can look at any losses as what you paid to be entertained for an evening. If you're lucky enough to come out ahead, that's just the extra cherry on top. If you ever feel like you're losing control over your gambling habits, we invite you to take a look at our gambling addiction page.