Online Casinos are Piratey, Right?

I’ve been to Las Vegas a few times. The first was for a wedding, another few times were for just plain-old hanging out and finding fun places to eat and drink, and once was for the World of Concrete, which sounds like it could be lame – and you’d be right if it wasn’t for all the giant freakin’ robots. But that’s another story.

(Fun fact: One time at Caesars Palace, Mrs. Bilgemunky and I were so wrapped up in our walking conversation that we nearly plowed into some poor blonde chick, right in front of her own bodyguards. We barely broke pace, giving a lame half-apology over our shoulders while continuing on with our chat. It was a moment or two later when Mrs. Bilgemunky thought to wonder why the blonde chick had bodyguards and it fell together. “Wait, was that Paris Hilton?” she asked me. I looked back and realized that indeed had been Paris Hilton. Probably. Maybe.

Yup, we almost ran over a self-absorbed celebrity because we ourselves were too self-absorbed at the moment to notice her. How the tables have turned! Hahahaha!!! [although they pretty much turned right back since Paris likely flew home in a private jet and we had to elbow our way into coach.)

Where were we? Oh yeah, Vegas. You know what I’ve never done in Vegas? Gambled. It’s way too intimidating – the barrage of numbers and cards and tokens and some dealer who’s probably psychic explaining to me once again how to play the simplest of games but I never remember because it all blends together. Plus, you just know every other player at the table is a con-artist or cardshark – I’ve seen Rounders and that’s how they do.

The one game that seems like it should be safe is the slots. No dealers, no other players, just pull the lever and hope for the best. Plus, they have slot machines in every interest imaginable; cowboys, space invaders, cats, dogs, fish, turtles, pirates (yes, even pirates.) But sadly, modern day slot machines are in their own way utterly confusing. Five rows of spinning icons that can connect not just straight across, but also diagonal, zigged, zagged, checkmark-ways, reverse checkmark-ways, and all sorts of other squiggly ways. Win or lose I just sort of take the machine’s word for it with no real clue what just happened.

Don’t even get me started on roulette.

Scratch that – let’s talk about roulette. Namely, what’s up with roulette? It’s another game that seems like it should be simple enough – just place your bet on a number that probably won’t come up and then watch the dealer (are they dealers in roulette? They don’t deal anything) takes your tokens after the ball lands nowhere near your number. Except, roulette isn’t simple. You can bet exact numbers, sure, but you can also bet colors, or odd numbers, or even numbers, rows of numbers, batches of numbers, etc. And there’s all sorts of strategies for playing the odds and bettering your chances of just maybe walking away from the casino with more coins than you’d entered with. At least, so I’m told. If only there was some way to practice this stuff in the comfort of your own home, without the pressure of a rich Texan standing next to you yelling for you to place-your-damned-bet-already-yee-hah.

Hey, guess what? There is (see what I did there?) Recently I came across MansionCasino.com, which is – of course – an online casino. I’d never really given online casinos much thought, mainly because you can’t online gamble in my state so I didn’t really see the point. But that was before I realized that Mansion Casino let’s you play practice games for free, which is utterly sweet and also pretty fun.

Take their roulette section. It offers nine different roulette tables, eight of which offer unlimited “practice” mode, which seems to be pretty much everything the full version might except for the chance of winning actual money. Aside from standard American roulette there is also European (which I assume is extra classy) and French (which is probably extra sexy.) Russian is notably absent, but that would make for a terrible online experience anyways.

On firing up the American Roulette practice mode, I was met with a full roulette table and a pleasant European lady’s voice inviting me to place my bet (European? I feel like I may have been tricked.) The table offers all the standard options for betting, and I can choose varying denominations of tokens depending on how gutsy I’m feeling with my pretend money. There’s also some gentle background music that makes me feel like I’m in a VIP section. All that was missing was a cocktail. I tried yelling for a cocktail, but nobody came so I had to mix some rum and coke myself.

Once my bets had been placed I could spin the wheel with a click and watch that little ball roll around. It was actually a pretty slick experience, and I can easily see how this could be a great way to get the hang of this game without the hassle of finding an actual casino. But beyond that it was strangely captivating in its own right. Kind of like playing Angry Birds, but more 007ish.

If roulette isn’t your thing, Mansion Casino offers other standards such as craps, blackjack, or slots. The slots echo real-world casinos in every way, from the multiple-line bet options to the vast array of themes, including Fantastic Four and Gladiator. Like roulette it’s fun, and also a great way to get a handle on the controlled chaos that seems to be the modern slot machine.

Having tried out several games, I’m really surprised how well they all capture the casino experience. The only thing missing from the practice games is a lack of a running tally of your practice money, so you can’t really tell whether you’re up, down, or breaking even. I guess that piece of the thrill is saved for actual players using actual money. So if you happen to be in a location that let’s you play the full version and you decide to give it a go, you’ll have to let me know how it goes (just please don’t bet the farm. Unless you’re tired of being a farmer. Or if the bet is a really really really really REALLY sure thing.)