A combination of the internet and clever software has created the perfect conditions for blackjack players to access a real game (as opposed to one that uses a random number generator) from any device that has internet connection.
It’s true that RNG based games are readily available, but a live casino is able to provide games with real dealers dealing real cards, as well as opening the door to game variations that wouldn’t be possible in any other format.
Live casinos are also able to offer many more tables with various different rules than a real casino would, since they aren’t limited for space in the same way, so the sort of choice on offer is unparalleled.
Most games play at the same speed as a real casino, and betting limits range wide enough to make live blackjack accessible for anyone with a few pounds to spare to those with money to burn.
How Does it Work?
It might take a little be of mental adjustment if you have only ever played real life or RNG based online blackjack before, but playing at a live casino is quick to learn and lots of fun.
The main things to get to grips with are the interface layout and the practicalities of placing your bets, plus the fact that you are playing to the casino’s pace, not your own. It’s also useful to know that all of the cards in the shoe are chipped so that they can be identified by a scanner as they are drawn. This way, the computer instantly knows which cards have been drawn and where they are, and can relay that information to your screen. Nifty.
Dealing with the interface first, you will see all manner of icons, buttons, computer generated chips, and scrolling results, but a lot of this has nothing to do with gameplay. The buttons along the top are all for adjusting the display itself, or the volume, or the settings etc. Scrolling results are just for show.
The centre and bottom half of the screen is where you can see your balance, choose your chip value, and decide whether to just bet on the game or to try some side bets too where available. You will only have this option during betting time though, which lasts around 15 seconds, so if you don’t see these options it’s because the dealer is mid-game.
From here, live dealer blackjack games tend to operate in one of two ways.
A standard game of live dealer blackjack will probably use real cards dealt to each betting position on the table. The cards are scanned as they are drawn so that the software knows which players have which cards and which hands are winners.
You can claim any empty seat at the table, but once a table is full you need to either bet behind or wait for someone to leave (or both), at which point it’s a case of fastest finger first. Any number of people can bet behind but only the person occupying the betting position can decide whether to stand, hit, split, etc.
The names next to each betting position are the usernames of the people currently occupying them; you can also see their current hand total, current bet amount, and their recent winning record – anyone betting behind would do well to pay attention to this.
To bet behind you simply place your chips on the ‘bet behind’ area of each playing position you want to bet on, and if that player wins then so do you. This means that should the player occupying the seat make bad decisions your bet will lose, so it’s a good idea to watch them play a few hands first.
It’s possible to bet behind all of the seats at the table if you want to, and anyone occupying a seat can also bet behind their fellow seated bettors.
For some blackjack variations however, there is only one betting position, yet despite this, every single player can make their own strategic decisions on the same starting hand, and this leads us nicely on to the next section.
Games that display cards digitally make it possible for each player to decide for themselves how they want to play the hand they have been dealt.
There is still a real shoe of cards that are dealt, but once each card has been scanned it is deposited in a flap in the middle of the table, at which point a digital representation of that card appears in its place.
This means that players who want to hit when others want to stand can do so without impacting anyone else’s game. Although all players will see the physical extra card being drawn, it will only show up digitally on the screens of those players who requested to hit.
This continues until all players have either decided to stand or have gone bust at which point the dealer completes their hand as normal and the outcome for each player is decided. So although every player begins with the same 2 cards, not all players will necessarily have the same hand by the end.
There is still a time limit when it comes to making your decisions though, and if you do nothing a decision will be made for you. This way of working also means that if you stand early on then you have to wait for everyone else to finish playing before you find out the result.
With live dealer blackjack, table limits tend to be higher than with live dealer roulette. This is because the games take longer to play, but it also because the house edge is so small (assuming people play basic strategy).
At most live casinos £5 is the minimum bet for standard games of roulette, but there are many other tables with much higher minimum bet limits; into the thousands for some of the VIP type tables.
Despite this it is rare to find upper limits of much more than around £10,000, as the casino still needs to manage its risk.
Anyone with less money to spend might want to explore some of the variations such as Power Blackjack which allow bets as low as £1 a time, usually because the game is weighted further in the casino’s favour in exchange for the chance to win bigger payouts.
Only one live casino game allows bets lower than this, and that is Blackjack Party by Evolution Gaming, where you can place 50p bets. There is no logical reason for this as the game has no extra features or rule changes.
Blackjack has loads of side bets, but they won’t always be found on all live casino tables.
Where they are available, you will see the option to bet on them around the main betting area. All you need to do is click on the side bet you want to place a chip on it – just make sure you are happy with the chip value you have selected.
- Buster Blackjack/Bust It – This bet pays out if the dealer’s hand busts, the more cards it takes the bigger the payout.
- Lucky Lucky – Pays out for various number combinations coming from the dealer’s up card and the player’s first two cards: 777 suited/unsuited, 678 suited/unsuited, 21 suited/unsuited, any 19 or 20.
- Perfect Pairs (Dealer or Player) – Pairs at either end of the table can pay out differing amounts depending on the pairing: same number, same number and colour, same number and suit.
- 21+3 – Uses the dealer’s up card and the player’s first two cards to create mini poker hands such as 3 of a kind, straights, and flushes.
- Top 3/Hot 3 – Similar to above but with fewer winning options.
These can be won even if your hand loses and vice verser, and it is also possible to utilise side bets when betting behind regardless of what the person in the chair is doing.
Live Blackjack Game Variations
As has already be alluded to, the existence of live casino blackjack has opened the door to a number of interesting game variations that go further than just tinkering with the rules a little bit.
You can usually spot a variation from the game lobby because the studio they are filmed in will be a lot more interesting to look at, perhaps themed, in order to create the right atmosphere for the players.
Some tables have themes such as sport, where the dealer will chat about the football for example and stats will show up in the background, or VIP and Privee’ tables with higher limits and more opulent surroundings, but in cases like this the game itself will be standard.
True variations which have extra features include:
Roulette players might recognise the name of this one as there is a roulette equivalent. Before each game up to 3 cards will be randomly chosen by an RNG and given either a 3x, 5x or 10x multiplier. If the player is dealt one or more of these cards and wins the hand the multipliers will be applied cumulatively to their hand, providing the potential for a 1,000x max payout if all 3 cards match and have a 10x multiplier. However, your stake is not returned on multiplier wins, and a 3card bust for the dealer results in a push.
The player gains extra advantage in Power Blackjack thanks to the addition of power doubling – the ability to double, triple or quadruple your bet after the first tow cards have been dealt even after a split. Anyone who understands perfect strategy will see the benefit in this. However, this is offset by the fact that whenever the dealer busts on 22 a winning hand will turn into a push rather than a win. All 9 and 10 cards have also been removed from the shoe (J, Q, K are still present), and the dealer checks for blackjack if their up card is J, Q, K or A.
Majority Rules Blackjack
In this game you play as a collective, with decisions on whether to hit, stand, double or split, going to the vote. Each player makes their decision, and as this is going on the percentage swing either way shows up on the screen, until everyone has made their choice. At this point the decision with the most votes wins and the dealer will follow those instructions. For decisions that could require extra money to be wagered (such as a double), players can toggle the settings to either accept or decline these decisions as standard.
Free Bet Blackjack
It’s not often the casino gives you something for free, but with Free Bet Blackjack players get the chance to double their bet for free on a hard 9, 10, or 11, and they can also split their hand for free on all pairs except 10, J, Q, K. Of course only the extra winnings will make it back to your balance, not the free stake. It’s not totally free though, because at the other end all bets will result in a push when the dealer busts with 22.