Learn why players love live games and compare the best live casinos.
Modern iGaming technology has made it possible for online players to experience authentic, live dealer gambling on a variety of platforms. Live casinos are extremely popular with players, rapidly overtaking most traditional ‘virtual’ and flash games. So what’s so great about live gambling?
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Top live dealer casinos
Fancy a spot of live gambling? The websites below have been selected by our experts as the best live casinos available.
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Discover how to bet on live events with in-play markets.
About live casinos
If you know anything at all about online casinos, then it won't surprise you to learn that the first live dealer software was created by Isle of Man gambling giants Playtech. They rolled out the software as long ago as 2003. Unfortunately, it wasn't a hit, as not enough players had the high streaming speeds needed to make play possible. The technology at the time was also quite expensive.
Undeterred by Playtech's failings, both Microgaming and Evolution Gaming launched their own versions of live casino software. Eventually, Broadband began to replace Dial-Up as the accepted method of connecting to the internet, and the speeds needed to relay video feeds in real-time finally arrived. Big brands such as Smart Live Casino and SuperCasino - both UK based - began to offer live casino games, and the phenomenon took off.
How live casinos work
Currently, the market leaders supplying live casino feeds are Playtech, Evolution Gaming, CWC Gaming and Vuetec. Vuetec are noted for streaming live from real world casinos, including Fitzwilliam's Casino and Card Club in Dublin. Cutting edge cameras are used to record the action as a live data stream to the site's server. Players who are logged on to the live casino have access to this stream, which is downloaded and played via a media player. The technology is so advanced there is less than a second delay between the action 'as live' and the video being played on a player's computer.
The player's actions are recorded via the interface on the player's PC, smart phone or tablet. This is information is sent back via the internet to the site's server, and relayed to the croupier via an off-screen monitor. The croupier then acts accordingly. Despite the seeming complexity involved in transmitting from a live casino, the actual technology used is not that much different from making a Skype call, or watching a Netflix movie.
Live casino games
The first game that was offered live by Playtech was blackjack, although due to limitations the casino group could only offer a single table a day. Once the technology had caught up with the concept, Playtech, Microgaming and Evolution Gaming all added roulette and baccarat to their repertoires of live games.
Blackjack, roulette and baccarat still form the main backbone of live casino action right up to the present day. In fourth place on the podium is Casino Hold'em – the 'verses the house' version of the world's most popular poker variant.
The only other live casino games you're likely to find are sic bo and three-card poker.
Live games are streamed from real casinos or special studios via a video link. Sometimes, several casinos will share the live tables to make sure they are always full, but many other casinos have dedicated tables all of their own.
All the action at a live casino is dictated by computer, aside from dealing the cards. When the live dealers deal cards from the pack, they are moved over a special screen that reads them and feeds them into the computer controlling the table, then they are dealt out to the player. This is so the computer can keep track of everything, and calculate who's won and who's lost, and how much they've won and lost.
Casinos that offer live options tend to limit the number of tables available, as paying a dealer, computer software boffins and cameramen to work at a table is far more expensive than developing a piece of software for someone to download and use on their computer. Live online casino fans do tend to hog tables once they manage to acquire a seat.
Some jurisdictions, such as Spain, only permit play at live online casinos provided the tables from which the games are broadcast are physically located in the same jurisdiction.
The tables used to broadcast live games can be found all over the world with concentrations in Latvia, Malaysia and Canada.
Many players are attracted to the concept of live casinos as they feel they can use methods such as card-counting – backed up by having a computer to help – to give themselves a distinct advantage over the house. Naturally, the casinos have foreseen this possibility, and use methods that prevent the use of card-counting, such as frequently changing the dealing shoe, and dealing 'burnt' cards face down. This is in a similar vein to how 'burnt' cards are dealt before the turn and river in Texas Hold'em.
The player interface at a live online casino does take a little getting used to, as you're playing (a) alongside other players and (b) with real cards. The interface typically overlays the video feed. You can choose your bets and actions as normal, and virtual chips will appear on the display on the table. The live dealer is informed of your actions by a screen in front of them, and will deal cards as appropriate.
Some versions of live casino software will allow you to chat (via typed messages) with your dealer and your fellow players, and others will allow you to play via a mobile device.
Naturally, playing live requires a dedicated internet connection, and casinos have rules that govern what happens should you lose your connection. For example, in blackjack if you lose connection during a hand and don't manage to reconnect in time, you're considered to have stood, and the hand is played out accordingly. When you enter a live casino for the first time it's always worthwhile checking the casino's rules concerning player disconnection.
The dealers at live casinos are all highly trained, as the mistakes they make can cost both their employers and players money. As being a live dealer in this manner as opposed to being a live dealer at a “real” casino can be pretty intense, dealers only deal in shifts of around one hour or so.
Dealers are also trained to be friendly and chatty – welcoming players to the table even if they are just looking in at the action, and congratulating players on correct calls, lucky cards, or when the cards don't run for the house.
While the ambience that's created isn't quite as cosy and intimate as a real-life casino, it certainly makes for a much more enjoyable experience than hours spent toiling away on a laptop playing blackjack with only a few megabytes of computer code to keep you company.
The most coveted croupiers are the playboy bunny dealers found at 32Red's Microgaming-powered live dealer suite. Displaying ample cleavage and trademark bunny ears, they're a welcome distraction for any male punter. If that doesn't get the testosterone going, then the prospect of topless dealers surely will. Toplesscasino.com are currently beta testing, with a full launch anticipated in winter 2015.
Play live on TV!
If you've ever wanted to be on TV, then playing at a live casino at some online casinos allows you to do just that ... kind of! In deals with terrestrial broadcasters, a small handful of online casinos broadcast play at one of their live casinos on TV.
For example, Jackpot247 has a deal with the UK broadcaster ITV to broadcast roulette each night from 00.30 until 3.00. If you are a player at the casino, just sign in and find your way to the live TV roulette table. You can take a seat if there is space, and then make bets using the interface on your PC, laptop or smart phone. You can also bet by telephone if you'd prefer - just phone the number shown on TV, follow the automated prompts then place your bets using your numeric keypad. You can watch the action unfold live on your TV.
Other casinos with live TV play include SuperCasino on FIVE and 24 hours a day on Sky Channel 862 and Smart Live Casino on Sky Channel 863 and also in Malta on Melita 609. All the action on TV is presented by experienced television presenters and professional croupiers. Currently, roulette is the only casino game that's offered 'live on TV'.
Live casino news
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