How do live casino table games work?
Live-dealer table games are a superb combination of the best of both worlds. They merge the 24/7 accessibility of an online casino with the exclusive pleasure of playing in a brick-and-mortar casino. Bet from the comforts of your home, while interacting with a real croupier at the other end.
In this guide we'll explain:
- What is a live dealer casino
- How live casino works
- Where to find live casino games
Say farewell to random number generators; bring back the human touch!
What is a live casino?
In a live-dealer casino, you can play a wide selection of table games, with live dealers. Enjoy the casino classics, such as blackjack, roulette, baccarat and casino hold'em.
See the real croupier deal your cards, roll the dice and spin the roulette wheel, bringing the real-life action to your computer, smartphone or tablet screen. This makes for the most authentic and satisfying online casino experiences.
In addition to just playing, you can enjoy the social side of the brick-and-mortar casino experience. Chat with the croupier and other players about the game itself or any topic that stretch beyond the confines of the casino.
How does a live casino work?
Compared to online slots, casino table games are fairly straightforward. However, a lot of effort goes into bringing them live on your screen. Take a peek behind the curtain!
The games are operated by live human dealers, also known as croupiers. They are thoroughly trained to lead the games in an elegant and efficient manner.
Generally speaking, the dealers are young, attractive ladies and gents. In addition to knowing the games and equipment thoroughly, a good dealer will lift the general atmosphere of the table. This especially makes a difference in game-show-style tables like Lightning Roulette, Dream Catcher and Blackjack Party.
Dealers use monitors to stay on track of the players. Being aware of betting decisions, wins, chat messages and new players entering the game enable dealers to interact with the patrons seamlessly.
In the brick-and-mortar casinos of Las Vegas, you should always tip your dealer. Even though tipping is not expected in live table games online, it is always appreciated. Most providers don't support tipping, but in Ezugi and Playtech casinos you can show your gratitude properly.
SHUFFLERS AND SHOES
Usually, every dealer starts learning the ropes by working as a shuffler. Their job is to make sure every baccarat and blackjack table has randomly shuffled cards on hand.
Just like brick-and-mortar casinos, live-dealer tables use a transparent box of cards called the shoe. Every shoe has a red card. When the dealer turns it over, it signals the last round before the reshuffle. After that, the dealer takes the new shoe to play. The shuffler then starts working on the cards of the previous round.
One key concept of live-dealer card games is deck penetration. This is the percentage of cards played before it's time to change the shoe. In baccarat, roughly two-thirds of the cards are played before a reshuffle. In blackjack, the deck penetration is usually only 50%.
The idea behind the low deck penetration is to discourage card counting. Alternatively, NetEnt and some other suppliers have started using continuous shuffle machines to eliminate advantage play.
In casino poker, cards are shuffled every round. Since a multi-deck shoe isn't a practical solution, live poker dealers usually shuffle the decks themselves. Alternatively, they put the old deck into a single-deck shuffle machine at the end of each round and start the next one with a fresh deck.
Card games such as blackjack, baccarat and poker utilise the optical character recognition technology. All the cards have a barcode printed in the middle and every table is equipped with a scanner.
When dealers take cards from a shoe – a special container for multiple decks of cards – they scan each card before turning it over.
Live roulette tables are also highly automated. The cameras and sensors can accurately read where the ball has landed, and the dealer doesn't need to enter this information manually.
Live casino tables usually have multiple cameras to capture different angles of gameplay and produce an immersive experience.
Depending on the game supplier, you can see the whole table or various close-ups. Most tables have a built-in rhythm for changing camera views. Some live game providers also let you choose your preferred view manually as well.
Blackjack is the most notable exception to the multi-camera rule. Since the players need to see the cards of the dealer, other players and themselves simultaneously, a single camera is used to capture the whole table.
GAME CONTROL UNIT
All the data gathered by sensors is interpreted and encoded by the Game Control Unit, or GCU. This shoebox-sized piece of equipment is found at every live-dealer table.
The GCU is responsible for matching what happens on the physical table to the results on your screen. This is achieved by combining rigid game rules with accurate data and reliable software.
EXAMPLE: Since the order of play is pre-determined by the rules, the GCU automatically knows where each card is going and whether or not it produces a winning combination.
The user interface of live-dealer games enables you to have full control and flexibility over your bets and gaming experience. At all tables, you can select the chip value and repeat or double the bets of your previous round. Some providers also allow you to save your favourite betting combinations, which can come in handy in roulette.
For players looking for patterns in the online live table games, most suppliers offer a handsome set of statistics. You can often see the results of previous rounds directly in the default view, but you can also access more detailed info by going into the history or statistics tab. Each supplier has its own way of communicating the game history, but they all get the message across.
Roulette stats include the distribution of spins on each number and group, as well as hot and cold numbers. In addition, you can often see the raw data of up to 500 spins.
In blackjack, the stats are less robust, because the casinos don't want to encourage card counting. NetEnt does show the dealer's 10 previous hands, but with continuous shuffling machines in use, this data won't help you much.
In baccarat, there are many traditional ways to keep track of the results. Depending on the supplier, you can select between different scoreboards. In Evolution Gaming's tables, you can see the bead road, big road, big eye road, small road and cockroach road simultaneously, and even zoom in to take a closer look at your preferred scoreboard. Neat!
In a live-dealer studio, there are usually several tables for different games. The dealers work in shifts, especially if the tables are open 24/7.
Latvia is one of the biggest live-dealer hubs in Europe, with Evolution Gaming and Playtech casino studios. However, there are studios all over the world.
Some studios are built to mimic the style of the brick-and-mortar casino floors or a more futuristic setting. Others take full advantage of the blue screen. With some digital wizardry, you may even find yourself playing blackjack on the deck of a pirate ship!
Virtual reality is also finding its way to the live table games. NetEnt recently released its Live Beyond Live environment with blackjack and roulette. If you have a pair of VR goggles lying around, you can go for the most immersive live-table game experience yet.
LIVE STREAMS FROM BRICK-AND-MORTAR CASINOS
Not all live-dealer games take place in a studio environment. Many live suppliers also have cameras in brick-and-mortar casinos for streaming roulette from tables that are open for both the physical casino's patrons and their online peers.
Since the tables occasionally get quite busy, the atmosphere is a big part of the live streaming. However, dealing out the winnings and raking in the chips takes time.
Some providers, such as Authentic Gaming, have solved this by having a dedicated table that only caters to online players.
CASINO BRANDED TABLES
Some live-dealer suppliers offer online casinos dedicated tables with the site's own branding. These branded tables are only available in those specific online casinos and feature their logos prominently.
A live-dealer table is inherently a flexible and scalable product. Understandably, having a branded table for a single site isn't cheap. That's why only the most established online casinos have their very own live-dealer tables.
When it comes to live-table betting limits, there's a lot of variance among suppliers and individual games.
At the low end of the spectrum, you have auto-roulette and Evolution Gaming's innovative Lightning roulette. Starting from 20¢ per spin, both are great options for budget players looking for some live action.
For regular blackjack tables, the minimum bets start at C$5 per hand. But don't lose heart if this is too much for your budget.
If you're a live blackjack player hunting for a low-limit game, NetEnt's common draw blackjack is the way to go. With a C$1 minimum bet, you can enjoy the fun for a long time and still make your own betting decisions.
Alternatively, you can bet behind other players in most blackjack tables. The bet-behind minimum bet is usually just a fraction of the actual table limit. You can get started with C$1 bets, and actually learn from skilled players calling the shots.
Live table games offer high rollers plenty of opportunities. The highest table limit we've encountered so far is the spectacular C$75,000 in Extreme Live Gaming's Classic La Partage table.
Baccarat is also a perfect game for high-budget players. You can bet anything C$1 and C$30,000 per hand.
At VIP blackjack tables, you can often play with up to C$10,000 per hand.
How to find live table games online
Today it's easy to find a casino with live table games. However, there's a lot of variation between brands.
Some sites have just a few of the most popular online live table games from a single provider; others are more dedicated to bringing you a wide selection from multiple studios.
Practically every live table casino online has a separate section for the live dealer in their game menus. The best ones also let you sort the live tables by supplier.
Instead of having a dedicated live casino section, sometimes the live games are bundled together with "ordinary" casino table games. Usually, this is a sign of a very limited live dealer offering: enough for a beginner to get the idea, but not something for a true connoisseur.
Most casinos let you view their entire live table selection even before registration. In others, everything related to live dealers is only visible after login. This can be frustrating, but shouldn't be an automatic red flag.
Normally, players can access the games only when logged in. But some suppliers, like Betconstruct, allow you to check out tables and take a look at the user interface before creating an account.