Live Dealer Blackjack
For over a hundred years, live dealer blackjack was the only kind you could play. After all, how else could you play a card game? You'd have to have a dealer to give the players their cards.
Of course, in recent years, electronic gaming has become more popular in both land-based casinos and their newer, virtual cousins, online casinos. Video blackjack has become a staple on the casino floor in casinos in Las Vegas and elsewhere.
The situation with online blackjack is just the opposite. While video blackjack has replaced a percentage of the games using live dealers in traditional casinos, the reverse has happened with online casinos. Internet gambling sites use random number generators to power their blackjack games.
But live dealer blackjack online is becoming more of a "thing" every day. Live dealer blackjack for real money in the USA is a little harder to find than games powered by random number generator software, but they're out there. We have at least one solid recommendation to make in that niche, too.
How Live Dealer Blackjack Online Works
Some (but not all) online casinos offer live dealer games as an option to their players. These usually involve pretty and sometimes scantily-clad female dealers from other countries who interact with players via Webcam.
These dealers conduct their games just like their land-based counterparts would, with some minor differences. For one thing, we don't know of any online live dealer blackjack games which don't use a continuous shuffling machine. This is a major difference and one that warrants further discussion.
One of the ways advantage players get an edge over a casino is by counting cards. The idea behind this strategy is that a deck of cards which has proportionally more aces and tens than low cards offers the player a mathematical advantage over the casino. So a player who can track that ratio can raise her bets when she has an edge, and overall, she can get an edge over the casino.
This card counting process involves keeping track of how many high cards versus low cards have already been dealt.
But if a casino is using a continuous shuffling machine, these cards are fed back into the shuffler after every hand. It's impossible to get an edge in this situation, because it's the equivalent of starting a new game every time you get a new hand.
These machines are in use in some land-based casinos. They're mostly produced by a publicly-traded company called ShuffleMaster. In Atlantic City, they're especially popular, because the courts in New Jersey have ruled that the casinos there can't ban a player for counting cards. So they opted to make their games impossible to take advantage of with card counting strategies.
Online casinos seem to be greedier than their land-based counterparts. Even when you're playing the electronic versions of their games, the software shuffles the deck after every single hand. And we know of no exceptions to this rule on the Internet, with either RNG powered or live dealer powered games.
Other than that, live dealer blackjack works more or less just like other online or land-based versions of the game. You're still dealt two cards initially, and you still have the same target number (21). Basic strategy is the same. You still have the same options—hitting and standing being the most common, although you can still split and double down in live dealer blackjack games.
The Pros and Cons of Live Dealer Blackjack
We don't have an opinion about whether or not live dealer blackjack is superior to blackjack powered by traditional online casino software. It's just a matter of preference. But we will provide an overview of some of the pros and cons of each type of game.
One of the biggest differences between live dealer blackjack and blackjack powered by random number generator software is the number of hands you play per hour. Random number generators deal at least twice as fast as a human dealer, so you'll see twice as many hands per hour. If you're used to getting 100 hands per hour via a human dealer, you can expect to see 200 hands per hour via software.
This is a pro AND a con, depending on your perspective. If you're strictly concerned with how much money you stand to lose per hour, you're better off playing the live dealer games. The math behind this ought to be easy to understand.
Suppose you're playing a $5 per hand blackjack game, and the house edge is 1%. If you're playing 100 hands per hour, you're putting $500 into action per hour. Your expected loss is 1% of that $500, or $5.
But if you're playing 200 hands per hour, you're putting $1000 into action per hour. Your expected loss is 1% of that $1000, or $10.
That means you're paying twice as much for that entertainment.
On the other hand, you might not want to deal with live dealers via Webcam. Maybe you don't like pretty foreign girls. Or maybe you just want some time to yourself when you're engaging in this contest of skill. If that's the case, you might be willing to pay the extra amount per hour for your entertainment. We know plenty of slot machine players who don't want to deal with other people at all. That's why they play slots in the first place.
It's not impossible to find blackjack players with a similar disposition.
The limits at various casinos vary based on whether or not you're using a live dealer. Online casinos tend to have higher betting minimums for their live dealer games. If you're using a software program to deal, it might make sense to offer a blackjack game with a minimum bet of $1. But if you have to pay a dealer, it might only make economic sense to offer the game if you're only accepting bets of $5 or $10 or more.
This might not apply to you at all. If you're a player who regularly bets $100 per hand, you'll be able to find action at either type of game. But if you're an extreme low roller, you might have to stick with the RNG versions of the game just in order to stay under the betting limits that you're hoping for.
One other advantage that RNG powered blackjack games have over live dealer versions is "freedom". And by that, we mean that you can find free versions of the software based games, but you can't get a free version of a live dealer game. This comes down to simple economics, too.
If you're a high roller, you might be able to convince the customer service team at a casino to let you try a couple of hands for free to see if you like it. But don't be disappointed if you can't make that happen.
How to Find the Best Live Dealer Casinos
At one time, the only live dealer casinos available were the ones which specifically catered to that market. A casino either offered live dealer games or RNG powered games, but not both. Now, though, casinos often offer both options to players. In fact, some of the best live dealer casinos offer both playing modes.
One of our favorite sites for live dealer casino games is BetOnline. Not only does BetOnline offer live dealer blackjack, but it also offers a huge variety of RNG powered casino games like slots and video poker, too. It's a one-stop-shop gambling site, also offering sports betting and poker versus other players. BetOnline has one of the best reputations in the industry.
When you're looking for other casino options for live dealer games, take a look at what kind of software the sites you're considering use. Reputable software usually equates to a good casino experience. Playtech and Microgaming are both known more for their RNG powered games, especially slot machines, but they've expanded their offerings recently to include live dealer games.
One interesting player in the niche is Evolution Gaming. They're relatively new to the whole online casino game, having been in business for only 10 years. They focus largely on making sure that their dealers smile, communicate clearly, and build rapport. Some of the better casinos to take advantage of their product include 888 Casino and Betsson.
Any casino offering live dealer blackjack also offers other table games in a live dealer format. The most common of these include the following games:
Live dealer blackjack is a legitimate and fun way to experience online blackjack. This version of the Internet game has its pros and cons, but mostly it's just a matter of preference. From a purely monetary standpoint, it's hard to lose as much per hour to a live dealer compared to a random number generator for the simple reason that a live dealer is slower.
Some of the better casinos offering these kinds of games include Bovada and Betsson. Look for companies which use Evolution Gaming, Microgaming, or Playtech. If you're from the United States, you'll have fewer options, but Bovada is eager to take your action.