Think of any great movie role where gambling is an important theme - Paul Newman in The Sting, perhaps, or Sean Connery in any one of several Bond films - and a whole range of images surely spring instantly to mind.

There’s the sharp but deeply troubled Humphrey Bogart as the casino owner in Casablanca, and the wily and ultimately dangerous Robert de Niro in Casino - and these and similar characters all have one main trait in common.

Whether good, bad, or somewhere in the middle, they all have “savvy” and sophistication - and a quiet charisma that carries them seemingly effortlessly through the most difficult battles of wits at the gaming table.

Real casinos aren’t often as highly charged, outwith the exotic gambling houses frequented by the international jet set, but these cinema icons do reflect - in major scale - some of the thrill and challenge of the well fought-out game.

But how does this level of experience translate to the online environment?

It could be assumed much of the subtlety of the “live” game is missing in the internet version, but in fact almost the exact opposite is true.

With the ability to handle complex transactions instantly, and present information from separate streams instantaneously, internet gaming is free to evolve new features and encourage interactivity among players in a way that wouldn’t be possible in a “live” environment.

Meanwhile the essential core elements of the game are the same as ever, requiring the player to commit to a high level of concentration and get fully involved in a strategy game full of bluff, evasion, stalling and - carefully measured - risk.

Some online games require you to download and install software, and this tends to give high quality graphics and a high quality of game flow, but browser games are massively popular too - it is a matter of experimenting with the systems available and making what seems the best choice to suit your particular style of play.

You have to decide you are going to be a responsible gamer from the start, since ultimately your enjoyment - and financial security - depends on committing safe levels of cash that are well within your means.

Get the balance right, and if you do turn out to be a natural online gamer you will be able to look forward to plenty of long term entertainment - and the potential for some convincing rewards.

If you value gaming systems that offer variety you will find that online gambling sites such as Jackpot 247 offer as much choice as possible in order to appeal to the maximum number of gamers.

It also means players who have a particular favourite game can play it regularly but choose to dabble with one of the many others, from time to time, by way of a diversion.

Everybody knows about the potential pitfalls of gambling, but a massive and growing community of online gamers appear to be finding some underpublicised side-benefits .

The brief high pressure of a high octane game is a great way to learn how to handle challenges at work, while the thought processes involved in a challenging game - and the speed with which decisions can be made - arguably help to keep the mind “nimble” and alert.

And of course there’s the fun factor and, crucially, the thrill of winning real cash after making some particularly clever bet.

It all adds up to one very convincing leisure proposition that appears set to keep those virtual gaming wheels spinning for a long time to come.