Big Fish Games bets on a winner with their social gambling game Big Fish Casino

If the only sure things in life are death and taxes, the eventual legalization of real money mobile gambling is in the very next tier of inevitability. Big Fish Casino will be headed that way in the UK very soon, but it’s already live on iOS, Android and Facebook in the US as a free casino sim. It’s still fun in that form, keeping your hard earned dough mostly safe… for now.

Big Fish Casino is essentially an updated version of Card Ace: Casino, made possible when Self Aware Games was acquired by Big Fish Games earlier this year. Players who have spent time on Card Ace will find that their account information, chips, gold (the game’s premium currency), achievements and friend lists have all made the jump to the new game with no action required on their part.

Newcomers start with a virtual bankroll big enough to sample everything, and the variety of casino games offered is impressive. The Facebook edition includes slots, blackjack, Texas Hold ‘Em poker and a second power game that also has a Scrabble-like word-building element. iOS players also have access to roulette and video poker, with the promise of these spreading to other versions in the near future.

Big Fish Casino     Big Fish Casino

What all of the games have in common is a commitment to social features. You’ll always be playing with other humans, even in normally single player pursuits like slots and video poker. Chat windows make it easy to get a conversation going, and if you have some extra chips to spare, you can attempt to acquire some new friends by sending people a virtual cup of joe or an adult beverage. And if you don’t have any chips left, you can use the giant red chip to launch the in-game purchase screen, wait four hours for the refillable bonus, or hound your friends to gift you some.

Speaking of friends, Big Fish Casino provides numerous tools to invite yours to the party. The iOS version can be linked to your Facebook, Twitter and Game Center accounts and can even use your email list to add people from your contact list. Once your buddies are on board it’s easy to play with them, since all of the games have friend-only and invite-only modes.

The hazard faced by general casino titles is the whole “jack of all trades, master of none” syndrome, where the gameplay in the individual games suffers when compared to standalone apps. That’s certainly the case for the Big Fish Casino slots, which don’t have nearly the sophistication found in a number of other places. There’s some other wonky stuff too, like the very short time you have to change your bet before the next hand in blackjack, but otherwise, everything plays very well. The options available in poker are a pleasant surprise, especially the inclusion of Sit and Go tournaments.

Big Fish Casino     Big Fish Casino

On mobile devices, the game looks even better than it plays. The developers made sure to use every available pixel on smartphones and tablets, and the graphics are bright and attractive. The interface is also extremely intuitive, with pretty much everything accomplished with a simple touch or drag.

I wish I could say the same for the Facebook version, but since I’m not running for public office, I should probably be truthful here. The game is strangely squashed into the top 40 percent or so of a maximized browser window, and using a mouse makes the interface a lot less enjoyable to navigate. Add in the fact that there are less games to play on the Facebook side, and the iOS experience simply stands out as superior in every way. It’s almost like Self Aware is trying to subtly get you to play it on mobile for its own nefarious ends (cue evil laugh).

Okay, that’s probably an over-dramatization. Big Fish Casino is a good casino sim on Facebook and an excellent one on iOS devices. Whether our friends across the pond take to it for real money gaming or not, it’s going to have plenty of people in the US and elsewhere playing for free before too long.