Online gaming for beginners

They started as a spin-off venture, an auxiliary service that permeated our culture through the means of popup windows and gaudy adverts, but now online casinos and poker sites are everywhere. No longer the preserve of hardened gamblers and committed card players, anybody with the will to bet and a little bit of luck can learn to win online. If you're new to the whole process, here's a brief guide to get you started.

1. Begin by choosing an online poker room. Until you know your stuff it's best to stick with larger companies. Many poker gambling sites will require you to download software; so, unless you're willing to risk a virus taking hold of your computer, it's important to choose a reputable online gaming provider.

2. Pick your game. Web-based casinos offer thousands of options, from poker games to virtual slot machines to bingo, so there's something out there to suit any taste. You should also have the choice of playing a one-person game such as solitaire, playing with a dealer, or joining a game composed of other casino users. Try Bet365 for a start, as they offer a good range of standard casino games and, unlike other sites, they also run online poker powered by Playtech, so you can decide what type of gaming suits you best.

3. Will you play for free or for cash? Granted, playing casino games without staking a bet doesn't really constitute gambling, but it can be fun nevertheless. Think carefully before you decide to stake your money on online betting – while it may bring a bigger thrill to the process as well as giving you the chance to win extra cash, there is always the possibility that you will lose all of what you put down.

4. Learn the rules. It always pays to have a good grasp of a game before you begin gambling – luck is a significant component of online betting but, in most games, skill has its place as well. You needn't spend money on expensive guides, there are plenty of free tipster sites out there which provide tips for beginners. It's worth playing for free initially: most casinos have a ‘practice mode' which allows you to improve your skill before trying your luck on the tables.

5. Enjoy yourself. This, after all, is what the whole online casino culture is about. Yes, there are stories about people who have made their fortune gambling online, but it's more likely that you'll find yourself out of pocket. Accept that the money you lose is a fair price to pay for good entertainment, and think of any winnings as an added bonus.

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