The rise of online casinos more than twenty years ago fueled the creation of countless blackjack variations but many players still preferred the real-life blackjack tables. Now, thanks to the many new technologies, blackjack players have access to a much more realistic experience and live dealer games that can be opened instantly from any computer or mobile device.
Live dealer blackjack remains, at its core, the same game that has been played in brick-and-mortar casinos for decades. Playing in a live online casino, however, is much more convenient and affordable than visiting Las Vegas while, at the same time, it provides fans of this classic casino game with privacy, various bonuses, and interesting options and features. To play blackjack in a live casino, players need to find a fair, respectable casino and register an account.
Requirements to Play in Live Dealer Casinos
Before starting to play live blackjack for real money, players have to find a good, trustworthy online casino that offers a wide range of blackjack titles. Most of the large operators have added live casino sections to their online offerings with high-quality content from respected software providers such as NetEnt, Playtech, and Evolution Gaming. Their games are fair and licensed, and often, available in several different languages.
Opening an Account
Unlike RNG blackjack, live blackjack cannot be opened by unregistered players and there are no demo versions of the games. The first step is to create an account at the casino site players have chosen. Casino operators require personal information such as name, date of birth, physical address, telephone number, and email address. Then, they send the person a confirmation email or a text message to their phone, which activates the user account.
But that is not all – strict identity verification process is usually required, as well. Many operators skip this step during sign-up but in that case, it is a requirement before players make a withdrawal. The verification process may take a day or two, or in some instances, up to two weeks. Players are required to provide copies of their ID (passport, driving license, etc.), some proof of their physical address (usually, utility bills), and sometimes, a copy of their credit card, as well.
Making a Deposit
Once players have active user accounts at the online casino, they will need to make a deposit into their casino balance since live games are not available in free mode. Each casino works with a range of payment services and players can choose from multiple options, including wire transfers, credit or debit cards, prepaid cards and vouchers, e-wallets, instant bank transfers, or cryptocurrencies. The different payment methods have different processing times, limits, and fees, and may be available only in certain regions and countries.
Once players select a payment method that would suit their needs, they can transfer funds from their bank account, e-wallet, or another online account to their casino balance. The operation can be done from the Banking or Cashier section of the casino, where players specify the amount of their deposit and check for any applicable fees. After the transaction is confirmed, the deposit appears almost instantly in players’ accounts. They can now choose a live blackjack table and play for real money.
How Live Blackjack Works
Live blackjack is not a virtual representation of the traditional game and it does not use RNG (Random Number Generator). Instead, it simulates being in a brick-and-mortar casino - an actual dealer deals the cards from a shoe and places them onto seven positions on the table. The game is streamed to players’ computers or mobile devices via real-time, continuous video feed.
The streaming may be done from professional studios or dedicated tables in land-based casinos. The setting usually resembles that of an elegant casino floor and usually, you can see other game tables in the background, as well as casino staff dealing cards, shuffling decks of cards, etc. Multiple cameras capture the table, the dealer, or the cards themselves, and players can see the action from different angles.
The dealers are usually professionally trained, while some of the tables are aimed at players from a particular country - you can find German, Spanish, English blackjack, etc. Players can interact with the game - place bets, Hit, Stand, Double or Split via a virtual betting layout that appears on their screen. The real game can be digitalized using several types of technology, including optical character recognition, which identifies the specific cards, different sensors, and game control units.
Just like in land-based casinos, multiple players can sit on a live blackjack table. Usually, there are up to 7 seats and players have 15 to 30 seconds to place a bet. The table may be full or a single player may be taking part in the game. This is one of the greatest improvements from RNG games where you play solo against the software.
Interestingly, some live casinos now offer blackjack tables with unlimited seats. Instead of seeing 7 positions on the table, each player bets from the central seat. For this to work, however, all players receive the same hand – each of them can decide how to play it, of course. There are a few restrictions for Splitting but other than that, the game is significantly faster. Playtech’s Unlimited Blackjack is a great example.
Once bets are made, the game starts with the number of players who have placed a wager. The dealer deals two cards to everyone, starting from his left, and, depending on the type of blackjack, he may draw one or two cards for himself, as well.
The game is played in a traditional fashion – starting from the player’s right, every player chooses what to do with the hand he or she has received. Several options appear on the screen – Hit, Stand, Double, or Split. Depending on the blackjack variation, Surrender and Insurance may also be available. The majority of live blackjack tables also offer different side bets such as Perfect Pairs or 21+3.
After players end their turn, the dealer also plays out his hand and the round is resolved – some bets are lost while winning players receive their payouts. The dealer does not handle the payments – all winnings are paid automatically and added to the players’ balance. Overall, live blackjack is slower than blackjack games in land-based casinos. Depending on the software development studio and the number of players, each round lasts from a minute and a half to two minutes. Usually, 30 or 40 hands could be played per hour.
Dealing Shoes vs. ASMs
Usually, live blackjack games are played with 6 or 8 decks. The cards are normally shuffled offscreen but the dealer places the cut card in front of the cameras. The rules and methods for shuffling vary from one software developer to another but there are two main ways for shuffling we can identify.
The first one includes manual or automated shuffling offscreen after roughly half of the dealing shoe has been dealt. The cards are dealt from a standard shoe that is used in many brick-and-mortar casinos, as well. Other live casino games use automatic shoes that also act as shuffling machines. Some live casinos have introduced continuous automatic shuffling machines, which guarantee that cards will be randomized continuously.
Live Blackjack Layout and Functions
As you can see live blackjack does not differ much from blackjack games in land-based casinos. The only notable difference is the user experience - here, players interact with the physical game and dealer through the virtual elements on their screen. Along with the buttons for Hitting and Standing, the virtual table layout also includes a betting box for the main wager, as well as additional fields if side bets are offered.
Many games also display a history of the last 10 hands and statistics about how many times a particular player has won and lost since the beginning of the game. There are additional windows for live chat and settings. Players can usually choose the size of the window, minimize the history and live chat, choose the viewing angle, change the volume of the sound, and more. Most types of live casino software include various other customization options.
Some live casinos feature auto-generated tables so when all blackjack tables are full, another fresh table is open for the player. There is a limit to the number of tables that can be open at the same time, of course. This feature is useful as it eliminates the need to wait for a seat to be freed during busy hours. However, it is present only in some of the largest online casinos and has its limitations, too.
Nearly all live blackjack games offer players real-time communication with the dealer and with the other players on the table. This usually happens via live chat, where players can ask questions relating to the game, congratulate those who have won, etc. The live chat would typically open in a separate window and players can minimize it if they want to.
Of course, there are strict rules about the live chat etiquette and code of conduct. Players are required to approach others in a respectable, polite manner. Otherwise, they may be banned from the casino.
Bet Behind Option
Several producers of live casino software have added an interesting option called Bet Behind. With it, players are allowed to bet “behind” other patrons. In other words, they simply bet on the hand someone else is making decisions on. Generally, casinos allow both bettors and patrons who are not seated on the table at all to bet behind other players.
An even more exciting feature available at some live casino sections is the multi-table play. It may not be suitable for beginners but it makes the game much more intriguing for experienced players. With it, they can play on two, three or four tables simultaneously. The live video feeds will appear in several smaller windows and players can switch between them during the game.
One of the greatest advantages of playing in a live dealer casino is that you can open the games whenever you wish. Since online casinos are accessible at any time of the day or night, at least some parts of the live section will be open 24/7, as well. The reason for this is very simple – online casinos cater to patrons from various parts of the world and various time zones.
As an increasing number of casino players switch to mobile gambling, game creators also optimize their content for iPhones and Android devices, as well. The mobile technology has improved significantly in the past few years and as a result, the live games now are streamed in HD quality even to mobile phones and tablets. For a seamless gaming experience, however, mobile users need to make sure their device has enough processing power, stable connection, and the latest software updates.
Counting Cards in Live Dealer Blackjack
Some blackjack players believe that since the live games do not use RNG software it is possible to count cards in an effective, profitable way. This is a common misconception among less experienced players. In fact, live blackjack has been designed to prevent card counting or, at least, to make it ineffective.
Speed of the Game
Usually, card counters manage to gain a small advantage over the casino (around 1%) by determining when to apply small changes to basic strategy and more importantly, when to increase their bets. This small advantage does not show in every hand played, however – it is realized over a long period. In other words, the more hands they play per hour, the closer they get to the expected returns from the game.
When playing blackjack in a brick-and-mortar casino, counters could realistically play anything from 60 to 120 hands per hour. Rounds in live dealer blackjack, on the other hand, last longer because players are given time to place bets and decide how to play their cards. As a result, around 40 hands per hour could be played. Even if card counting was possible, it would yield profits that are too insignificant to make it worthwhile.
The main reason why card counting is unproductive in live blackjack is the poor deck penetration. It is usually around 50%, which means that the cards are shuffled after only half of them have been dealt. The deeper the deck penetration, the more accurate counting will be. That is why it is often recommended that counters play games with penetration of 75% or more.
Rules and Additional Things to Consider
To gain as much advantage as possible, card counters should look for blackjack variations with very favorable rules. Currently, many of the live blackjack games are played under very liberal rules, indeed. But some live casinos are starting to use continuous shuffling shoes. These devices continually shuffle the cards that are used in the game – in this process, the cards that have already been dealt are shuffled with the rest of the decks. In addition, several cards are “burned” at the beginning of a new shoe.
More importantly, the live blackjack games are monitored by software, which keeps a running count of the cards. It also observes the bets that have been placed on each table. Whenever the software detects a pattern in the betting, it signals that this player is counting cards. Such patterns are easy to identify as they always include increasing the bet size when the count is high. The worst thing is that if suspected of counting, players can be instantly blocked from the online casino without even an explanation.