Live Dealer Casinos
Live Dealer Games have become, hands down, the most exciting gameplay experience in online casinos. Let’s face it: online casinos have plenty of advantages over land-based casinos: there’s the convenience, the efficiency, the clarity, the freedom to choose. However, there’s one thing that land-based casinos have that online casinos lack: the emotional thrill, sensory stimulation, and social interaction that comes from playing at real life tables. That’s where live dealer table games come into play.
Live dealer games stream all the action of actual casino tables. Living, breathing, and usually attractive dealers stream to your PC, tablet or smartphone via high definition (HD) video, at home or on the go. You and fellow punters. You see the facial expressions of players and dealers, the rolling of actual dice, the spinning of real roulette wheels, the dealing of paper playing cards – all in real time and with the benefits of an online control panel to manage the information and your betting activity.
It adds up to more fun, stimulation, and adrenaline. You are addressed by your chosen name. You can flirt with the dealer. You can chat with fellow punters. And you can pull down some serious bank in these typically high limit, high stakes games. Not for the faint of heart. But for players who crave the excitement of the real thing, there is simply no substitute for a well-done live dealer setup.
In this in-depth report, we take you inside the world of live dealer games, covering the most thrilling games, the best software providers, the most reputable casinos.
Different Live Dealer Games
There are dozens of casino table games which have been converted to live dealer experiences. In this section, we review some of the most popular ones, presenting an overview of features and game play.
Getting started in a live game once you have signed up at a casino of your choice is usually super simple. The live section is divided into games, and each game has one or more live tables, although not all may be active at any given moment.
Typically, in the live casino section you can see the available games. Click on the game of your choice and you will see what you can play right away: the name of the game, name and photo of the dealer, table limits, how many seats at the table and how many players are sitting. Just click to join the game!
In the better casinos, live dealers will relate to you personally, be friendly, and make it more fun to play. You get the thrill of watching hands play out in real time, watching fellow punters and the (usually attractive) dealer live and in colour, and interacting with them.
From movies and land-based casinos, we are familiar with the spinning roulette wheel and the little ball that bounces around till it comes to rest in one of 36 colored and numbered pockets. You win by betting on specific numbers, ranges, or sets of numbers.
For example, binary choices like red or black, odd or even, low half (1-18) or high half (19-36) all pay even money. You can bet on a third of the numbers and win double your bet. The fewer numbers you bet on, the bigger your win. A single number win pays out 35 to 1.
Live casinos make this classic casino table game come to life! They offer multiple camera views, including 3D and immersive views with Hollywood-style, up-close high def cinematography up to 200 frames per second. Croupiers, in addition to being skilled and attractive, speak your preferred language.
There are many variations of roulette available in various live casinos, including speed roulette, two ball roulette, and many more. An even more important distinction to keep in mind is the difference between American and European versions of the game. The Euro version of the game has just one “house” pocket, labelled 0: if the ball lands there, no player wins, only the house. The Yankee version of the game has a second house pocket, labelled 00, where the casino takes all and all players lose. You may love America, but avoid American roulette, unless there are bonuses that compensate for the house edge.
Roulette has a long historical tradition of betting strategies, such as Martingale, reverse Martingale, and Fibonacci. Without getting stuck in the weeds of detail, there are strategists who recommend betting more or betting less after each win or each loss. Hundreds of books and articles have been passionately written on the subject. There is no fool proof way to consistently beat the house, but live roulette is a great way to test the different methods.
Blackjack, also called “21” is a favourite of new players and experts alike. The object of the games is to form a hand with a higher total card value than that of the dealer, without going over 21. The game’s name comes from the combination of an ace plus a face card or 10 on the first two cards dealt. Blackjack is an automatic winner paying 3 to 2. If you and the dealer both are dealt blackjack, the game is a “push” or tie, and the ante bet is returned.
Blackjack has a significant element of skill, much more than most other casino games. You can:
– Decide whether to take an extra card, whereas the dealer has no choice.
– Split if you are dealt two cards of the same rank. A new card is added to each of the cards, so you have two chances to win. Some pairs are often worth splitting, such as face cards and 10s. A pair of 5s is best not split, because chances are the resulting values will not win.
– “Double down” after getting your first two cards, doubling your bet and taking an extra card.
– Buy “insurance”, a side bet (paying 2:1) that the dealer has blackjack. It is available when the dealer’s card showing is an ace.
– In some casinos there are other side bets, like “Dealer Match” which pays out if the cards of the player match the up card of the dealer’s up card.
– Some casinos also offer you the chance to surrender after the initial check for blackjack. If you have a bad hand and the dealer has a nice up card, you can give up and get half of your ante back.
In theory, you can gain a marginal edge by “counting” cards as they are revealed, helping you to guess what cards are still to be dealt. However, live casinos (like their land-based cousins) use an 8 deck “shoe” for dealing. So even if you are an idiot savant like Hollywood’s Rainman, or a photographic memory like the team in the film “21”, card-counting is practically impossible and therefore pretty useless. But that doesn’t stop card sharks from trying to beat the system!
Live baccarat is based on the classic European card game, made famous by James Bond in Casino Royale. The game is all about the Player and the Banker trying to get a hand valued nearest to 9. Aces are worth 1, numbered cards are worth their face value. Other cards are worthless. If a hand totals 10 or more, the “tens” digit is dropped so, for example, a 16 would become a 6.
The game play starts simple: two cards are dealt to Player and Banker. A hand of 8 or 9 is called a “natural”, and must stand, whilst a result of 0-5 requires drawing a third card. If the Player’s hand totals 6 or 7, then a Banker hand of 3, 4 or 5 must draw, while a hand of 6 means the Banker must stands. The Player gets cards first.
Interestingly, you can bet on the Banker to win, or on the Player, or on a tied or “push” result. While it is natural to identify with the Player, it’s up to you on whom you bet!
The live game is optimized to how all the action, usually with multiple HD cameras and a variety of viewing angles. Bet limits display the lowest and highest possible bets. You will be notified if you are over or under. Some casinos use a “traffic light” convention to let you know when betting is possible: green means go for it, yellow means the time for betting has almost expired, and a red light means that it’s too late to bet.
Live Casino Hold’em
Live 5-card Hold’em is a variation of the popular poker game. The idea is to get the best possible poker hand with the two cards dealt to you plus 5 community cards.
Poker hands are ranked as follows:
- Straight flushes are consecutive cards of the same suit, with a Royal Straight Flush topped by an Ace being the best of all
- Four of a kind
- Full House: three of one kind, and two of another
- Flush: All cards of the same suit
- Straight: 5 cards of different suits in numerical sequence
- Three of a Kind
- Two Pair
- A Pair
The betting action is familiar to poker players: there is an initial “ante” bet, an optional bonus bet if two or more aces are drawn in the first 5 cards dealt, and additional betting rounds as community cards are laid down. When it’s your turn to bet, you can CALL to continue the round, or FOLD to end it (and forfeit your bets). If the dealer doesn’t get a pair, usually 4s or better, the players win. Otherwise, you need to get the best poker hand. If player and dealer have the same type of a hand (for example, 3 of a kind), the winner is the one with the highest card rank, with a high Ace being best and 2 being worst. In the unlikely event that dealer and player have the same result, a “push” is declared and bets are returned.
The HD stream in a live game typically offers multiple camera views and angles, often including a 3D option. A single fresh deck is used for each hand. There is always the option of chat interaction with the dealer and other players. An unlimited number of punters can play, because, unlike in the traditional game, you compete only against the dealer, not against the other players at the table. That certainly contributes to improving the mood among the players, and encourages interaction. You are all on the same side, everyone against the dealer, and therefore encouraging and congratulating each other.
Live Three Card Poker
In live 3 card poker, players compete not against each other but against the house (dealer) with a fresh single deck.
Typically, the dealer needs a high Queen to open. If not, the player wins the value of his ante bet. Payouts up to 100 to 1 if the player is dealt a pair or better. In addition to the ante bet, there is a “play bet” and special bonus bets unavailable in regular poker.
There is also the 6-card bonus bet which let’s players try to make the best 5-card hand out of their own cards plus the dealer’s. A royal flush pays an amazing 1000 to 1, a straight flush 200 to 1 and 4 of a kind 100:1!
You can also take an In Pair Plus side bets, players win if they draw a pair or better, regardless of what the dealer shows.
The Ante Bonus pays out big if the player is dealt a royal flush (5:1), straight flush (4:1) straight, regardless of the dealer’s hand.
The rules for 3-card poker differ from 5-card or hold’em variations
– A Mini Royal is the highest straight flush, with an Ace, King and Queen of the same suit. A pair plus bonus pays 100 to 1.
– A straight ranks higher than a flush.
– A pair is two of a kind and an additional unrelated “kicker”
– High Card is any other hand. The winner is the one with the highest card. If player and dealer have the same high card, the next highest card determines the winner. And so on.
– If player and dealer have hands with identical values, the “kicker” determines the winner.
– If the player has the better hand, both the ante and play bets pay out 1:1
– If player and dealer have identical hand values, even after the kicker is considered, the outcome is a “push” and bets are returned.
Live Caribbean Stud Poker
Caribbean Stud – sometimes called Casino Five Card Stud – is like five-card stud, but you are competing against the house. Sure, you can’t bluff or trick your opponents. But it’s great for a live game. Sometimes it has additional benefits progressive jackpots, though in the UK, only larger casinos tend to offer this option.
The rules of play are straightforward.
Place your ante before the dealer calls time. Choose whether you want to go for the jackpot if one is available. You and the dealer get 5 cards, face down. The dealer turns over one.
You then can choose whether to play or fold.
– Should you decide to fold, you forfeit the ante.
– Should you decide to keep playing, you must raise with a wager worth double your ante.
– Should the dealer “qualify” with an ace-king or better, he turns over all his cards.
If not, the game is ended and you get paid out the value of your ante.
Some tips to improve your odds:
- Never fold a pair.
- Always fold if you have less than an ace and a king.
- If the dealer turns either ace or king, raise only if you have an ace, a king and another face card.
If your cards beat the dealer’s, win even money on your ante and the following payouts for your raise:
– Royal flush: 100 to 1
– Straight flush: 50 to 1
– Four of a kind: 20 to 1
– Full house: 7 to 1
– Flush: 5 to 1
– Straight: 4 to 1
– Three of a kind: 3 to 1
– Two pair: 2 to 1
– A pair or lower rank: even money
If your live game has the possibility of a jackpot – and you have chosen this option, you can win much more for higher hands. Keep in mind that jackpots are not near the level of progressive slots, and usually have a cap. Still, jackpot payouts can be impressive
Sic Bo Live
Sic Bo is a simple game based on the roll of three dice. It originated from China, has been growing in popularity worldwide. The availability of the game in a live version adds to the excitement. What a difference between a nicely designed but artificial computer game and a live authentic experience interacting with a human croupier streaming by video in real time.
You can play at home or on the go, whenever you feel like it. There’s usually one or more Sic Bo games going on at any moment, around the clock, every day of the year. You may be concerned that the rules of the live game are different than at a land-based casino, but rest assured there are no real differences.
These are the following possible outcomes when rolling a Sic Bo dice
– Three of a Kind of the number you pick pays 150 to 1
– Two of a Kind of the number you pick pays 8 to 1
– Any Three of a Kind, not a specific number, pays 24 to 1
– Small: bet that the dice sum will be from 4 to 10, excluding Three of a Kind. Even money.
– Large: bet that the dice sum will be from 11 to 17, excluding Three of a Kind. Even money.
Specific numbers, 4 to 17, as the sum of the dice, pay out as follows:
- 4, 17: 50 to 1
- 5, 16: 30 to 1
- 6, 15: 18 to 1
- 7,14: 12 to 1
- 8,13: 8 to 1
- 9-12: 6 to 1
– Duo: Bet on two different numbers pays 5 to 1.
– One of a Kind: Your chosen number must come up on 1, 2, or all 3 of the dice. On one die, you get paid even money; on two dice, 2 to 1; on three, 3 to 1.
Impressive payouts and jackpots have made Keno a favourite among punters looking for a high-reward, low-effort gaming experience. We suggest playing only at premium online casinos, including those in our recommended list. The more popular casinos tend to deliver much higher maximum payouts to punters relative to land-based casinos. Live Keno is for the most part a game of chance.
Live Keno is easy to play. Like Bingo, it’s a lottery requiring little thought, just luck. Numbers are drawn at random. Players compare drawn numbers with those they have chosen. The winner is the one who gets all their numbers first. Games are swift: you rarely need to wait more than a few minutes at our recommended casinos. Here’s how to play.
- Pick your numbers, usually from 1 to 80, though many variations exist. Prizes and odds also vary according to how many numbers you pick. You can request randomly-generated numbers.
- Decide how many draws you want to play consecutively, usually up to 99.
- Decide how much you want to risk per draw. Typical wagers are 1, 2, 5 or 10 pounds per draw.
- The total cost is the number of consecutive draws, multiplied by your spend per draw. Usually there is a maximum outlay of around £100 when playing regular Keno.
- Bonuses can multiply your wins by up to 10 times. The maximum ticket price is £200 when playing Keno with a Bonus.
You can sit back and watch the draw in a live stream to see which numbers are drawn. Chat with fellow contestants.
For an alternative way to play Keno, try a variant using patterns instead of numbers. It takes a bit more thinking, but once you get the hang of it, it’s easy.
Live Dealer Casinos on Mobile Devices
Because live casinos are a relatively new phenomenon, they feature top notch technology. They are usually up to speed when it comes to support for mobile devices. Smartphones, tablets and PCs are usually available without downloads. Most live casinos now use the HTML5 standard, in which games play instantly in the browser of your device without requiring any download. However, some casinos like Betway offer iOS and Android apps, and once you know you like that casino’s live games, it can be a good idea to go for the app for a more dedicated experience. The casino apps are almost always free. Regardless of HTML 5 or app downloads, live casino games benefit from good bandwidth and a device supporting HD to fully enjoy the video live streams.
Live Dealer Games Providers
A live dealer casino is only as good as the gaming providers that the use. Some casinos use only one provider to power their live arena, others use multiple gaming providers.
Below you can learn about some of the big hitters and what the specialize in.
When it comes to live dealer, Evolution Live Gaming stands apart from the crowd. Founded in 2006, Evolution licenses live games to many of the biggest names in the business. Partners include Paddy Power, and William Hill– among many others. Its impressive suite of classic table games has been reimagined for quality live games. Their core offerings include:
Roulette is arguably Evolution’s strongest game, reflecting a keen awareness of what players want to see. For example, there’s a belief that each roulette wheel has its unique physical characteristics, which produce a bias favouring certain numbers.
So what does Evolution do? It shows a history of the winning numbers. The same is true with visuals: players love close ups and feeling like they are part of the action. Multiple HD cameras create an immersive experience, including slow motion replays of the ball arriving at its destination.
Variations on the classic game include two ball roulette, dual play roulette (where live and standard players can play together, and Slingshot Auto Roulette, which speeds up the action and automates a physical wheel to enable it to run non-stop.
Baccarat is a hard game to “translate” to live mode but Evolution’s multi-camera and slow-motion replays make you feel part of all the action. One variation offers what is known as a “squeeze” where the hands in which bettors have placed the most money are slowly revealed.
Evolution blackjack tables feature seven seats, but that does not limit how many players can bet.
As happens in real-world casinos, players “bet behind” those seated and wager on hands with them.
Evolution also offers some intriguing side bets.
– In Perfect Pairs, you bet your first two cards will be a pair.
– In the 21+3 side bet, you bet your first two cards combined with the dealer’s up card will form a premium poker hand.
Evolution is known for accommodating players of varying experience, skills, and betting limits, from 10 pence to tens of thousands of pounds.
Playtech is one of the top providers for every aspect of the online casino business. What the company has done in live dealer technology is consistent with its high standards and technological innovation elsewhere.
Its Grand Royale suite of live game products features a stylish set with top of the line tables and gaming equipment.
Effectively, this initiative creates an immersive VIP experience in the tradition and spirit of the classical European Salle Privée (private room) gambling tradition.
At the core of Playtech’s “Grand” live VIP offering are five Blackjack tables as well as a seven-seat VIP Baccarat table and Mini Prestige Roulette. James Bond would feel at home here, just as you will. Unlike him, however, you can leave the tux in the closet. However, you don’t need to sacrifice the attractive, friendly and highly trained dealers
Playtech is also a leader in the exciting and fast-growing technology of augmented reality. This lets you experience a new dimension of immersion in the game and its intense audio-visual content. Not to be neglected is the company’s commitment to multi-lingual support, letting you play in your native tongue.
The company offers a range of faster-playing “mini”, “lite”, “speed” and “squeeze” versions of live table games for players more interested in swift, crisp gameplay rather than immersive visual stimulation. These streamline games are especially well-suited to mobile play, which Playtech supports brilliantly.
In Playtech’s Blackjack games for example, you are invited to the table with other real human players, not simulations. Watch as they get dealt their cards and place their wagers. The table is authentic and the cards are dealt from an eight-deck shoe. The action is so realistic that you may forget you are sitting in your bedroom or the local publick house! There are also fun variants like Live Ultimate Blackjack, where the number of players is unlimited.
The company’s poker offerings are high end as well. Live Casino Hold’em is a five-card variation that goes the extra mile to give you a realistic and engaging experience. Playtech even employs a dedicated manual card shuffler to ensure the decks are properly mixed. Some of the shufflers are just as fascinating to watch as the dealers and the players. If you want to check out Playtech’s live dealers, you can find them at bet365, Ladbrokes and at many more established casinos.
NetEntertainment has made a full-on commitment to seamlessly combining two top trends in Internet gaming: live and mobile.
The company has long positioned itself as a mobile-first developer, prioritising the on-the-go experience, distinguishing itself with the customisability of its offerings. This allows casino customers to effectively become development partners in delivering bespoke solutions that combine the game with marketing and promotional campaigns. For you the player, that means seamless play with bonuses seamlessly integrated. If you want to see for yourself, Mr Green features NetEnt live dealer games.
Chroma Key “green screen” technology lets casinos replace backgrounds, creating infinite possibilities for look and feel. User experience (UX) is at the core of the company’s priorities, and NetEnt frequently wins awards for its superior interfaces. The human dimension is also front and centre. Dealers, croupiers and hostesses are attractive, outgoing and well-trained, ready to add a personal yet professional touch.
Among NetEnt key live-dealer offerings:
An intuitive, easy to navigate user interface, seamless streaming, perfectly synchronized audio-visual ensures a stunning roulette experience. Choose from multiple cameras with a tap, getting close-up views of dealers, players, gaming table and spinning wheel surface as you please. Choose portrait or landscape mode. High definition and slow-motion options add to the drama and immersive effect. You feel part of all the action, and in control.
That sense of control extends to betting. You can, for example, place your wager even as the wheel is spinning and the ball is bouncing around. And custom control also extends to the multilingual interface, which ensures that the games speak your language.
NetEnt’s Live Blackjack has already earned its reputation as a casino classic, distinguished by its gorgeous graphics and innovative UI/UX. The company offers a broad selection of table limits to ensure that seats are available for you. And the live stream is crisp and responsive, without the annoying lags which can interfere with a seamless experience. Interactivity is also top of the line, with a well-done chat interface and relevant statistics and histories at your fingertips.
Netent’s Common Draw Blackjack
NetEnt’s Live Common Draw Blackjack table is unique in the online gaming industry. At any given moment, there may be hundreds of punters playing, in multiple currencies and languages. Even at scale, you will get a personalised gaming experience. Low-limit games are available to play even as you wait for your seat at the table.
Netent’s Live Rewards
NetEnt’s Live Rewards automation engine offer players a bespoke experience fully integrated with their favourite casinos. That can mean instant prizes and promotions tailored to your interests and preferences.
Extreme is the new kid on the block in the top-tier of live providers, founded in 2013. they may not be as famed as the other premium live casinos developers, but they bring something fresh to the table. Their suite of products is limited to just “the big three” live games: Baccarat, Blackjack and Roulette. What the company lacks in quantity, however, they make up for in quality.
While Extreme is not known for flashy dealers, its live gaming content has attracted top casinos like LeoVegas and InterCasino, compelling the industry to sit up and pay attention to this live gaming upstart.
What is special about Extreme live games? Let’s take a closer look.
Extreme’s Super 6 Baccarat / Punto Banco 2000
In Extreme’s radical version of this classic old-school game, you get even money on Banker wins, except when the total is 6, paying out 1 to 2. As usual in Baccarat, you don’t want to be betting on ties, but the house edge for both Player and Banker are miniscule. There are also some great side bets:
Player Pair and Banker Pair both pay out 11 to 1, Small pays 1.34 to 1 if there are 4 cards between Player and Banker, and Big pays 0.48 to 1 if there are 5 or 6 cards between them.
The Extreme live version of the classic game has the following rules:
– Dealer must stand on a soft 17
– No doubling down after splits
– No re-splits
– No surrender
Perfect Pairs and 21+3 side bets are available.
Extreme’s Live Roulette
Roulette is Extreme’s strong suit. Inspired by the classic Novomatic Slot Book, the company has developed unique live roulette offerings, all arranged in an easy to understand layout.
The setup allows for the adding of slot-like bonuses to the classic spinning wheel table game. The bonus side bet is based on a symbol chosen randomly on each spin. The base game is a basic single-zero European game with several variations, each with a different name and a different skin (graphical interface).
There’s Sizzling Hot Roulette, Golden Ball, If you jump from one game to another, the dealer remains the same. There is also a triple wheel game, in which you can play one, two, or three games at once. The symbols differ from one game to another, but the payouts and probabilities remain the same.
Live Online Dealer Casino Bonuses
Punters accustomed to the welcome bonuses and free spins casinos offer for slots may be disappointed to learn that live games are not always covered by the freebies on offer. Live games are popular, so casinos don’t need to give stuff away. Live table games also let skilful players cut the house edge substantially, so casinos are reluctant to reduce margins further.
Two factors you should keep in mind and look out for in the Terms and Conditions before you play: wagering contribution and wagering requirements. Games of pure chance allow you to full exploit the bonuses on offer. But table games? Not so much. True, some top-level casinos allow live games to contribute 100%, but most are way down below 10%. So keep your eyes open for live deals, but keep your bonus expectations realistic.
However, some casinos will offer other kinds of Live Dealer promos.
What Distinguishes a Good Live Casino
What qualifies as “good” is a highly subjective matter. Some players are in it for the social experience, while others like the eye candy. It’s much easier to identify what’s bad. Happily, if you stick with the reputable and recommended casinos in our list, and choose the live games from the elite software providers we’ve discussed, you’re sure to be thrilled with the immersive and exciting actions and intense HD visuals. There are, however, a few characteristics that separate a truly superb live online casino from the ordinary.
The Dealer or Croupier
In a good live casino, the dealer should make you feel welcome and comfortable from the first moments. They should greet you by name, promptly and patiently respond to your queries and comments, not just at the beginning but throughout your time at the table. When you type a comment to the dealer, you should expect a personal reply.
Video Streaming Quality
Not all video streams are created equal. The good ones have continuous high definition streams, without distortion or interruptions. The better game providers and the casinos that work with them have the setup and software to deliver a steady HD stream if your device and connections supports it. The better ones also have “fallback” options for on the go and low-bandwidth situations.
Camera Quality and Controls
The best live casinos invest in their broadcasting suite, at the heart of which are broadcast quality video cameras and studio lighting. The better ones give you a choice of modes, including exotic options like slow motion and instant replays of critical moments, such as the dice or the roulette ball coming to their final destinations. The cameras and lighting on the dealer are especially important. Why have an attractive, well-dressed dealer if the image quality is not top-notch?
Better Live Casino Software
Better live casinos, naturally, choose one of the top-tier software packages to operate their games. If you stick with one of the four top-tier providers, you can’t go wrong, although you should look around to see which really makes you feel part of the action. That doesn’t mean that lesser known providers can’t deliver a satisfying first-class experience, and some of the upstarts – including Extreme – make up in quality what they lack in quantity of games.
We hope you have enjoyed our in-depth survey of what’s out there in the world of live casinos. After playing with real dealers and interacting in real-time with fellow punters, you may have trouble going back to anything else. While you can’t play live games for free, there are many low-limit games that will not put a dent in your bankroll. Most important for starters is to check out the live sections of reliable sites to see where you feel comfortable and confident. After a while you will feel which software providers have the games that get your adrenaline rushing and deliver the most satisfying experiences.