Hold’em is easily one of the most prominent variations of casino poker and as such, enjoys a good deal of popularity among online gamblers. Interactive gambling operators offer a broad range of virtual Hold’em variations but it is live dealer casinos where the real action is at. A growing number of players decide to transfer to Live Casino Hold’em because of the higher level of social interaction live-dealer play provides.
Furthermore, some poker fans are skeptical as to the fairness of RNG-based Casino Hold’em games despite the fact the software of all legitimate web-based casinos is subjected to rigorous tests, performed by independent auditors to avoid bias. They prefer to play the live variations where they can see the cards dealt by professional dealers with their own eyes. This way, one gets to enjoy the best of both gambling worlds, landbased and online, as they can play a classic poker game at their convenience the same way they would do at an actual brick-and-mortar casino.
What is Live Casino Hold’em and How to Play It?
For those readers who are unfamiliar with how Live Casino Hold’em is played, this is a game which largely borrows its rules from the popular Texas Hold’em format that is commonly played in tournament poker. The key difference here is that in Texas Hold’em games, the dealer’s sole purpose at the table is to deal the cards and settle winning bets whereas in Live Casino Hold’em, the dealer actually partakes in the game.
Live Casino Hold’em is similar to other card games like baccarat and blackjack because the players are competing against the dealer instead of against one another. This also means the house gets to retain its advantage over patrons ensuring its profits over the long term. This is not the case in Texas Hold’em where the house collects a small but fixed share of the action in the form of the rake players are required to pay.
Live Casino Poker is considered a very good start for novices because it does not require them to bluff or remember any complex strategies. When you are playing the live version of the game, you will find yourself seated at a table opposite a flesh-and-blood dealer, with all the action streamed in real time directly to the screen of your desktop computer, laptop or smartphone.
Rules of Play
Do not be intimidated by Live Casino Hold’em if you are new to poker – the rules are not that complex as you will see shortly. Live Casino Hold’em is played with a full deck of 52 cards which are reshuffled after the end of each coup.
The game’s objective is to form a five-card poker hand that beats the hand of the live dealer in ranking. The hand rankings coincide with those in other poker variations, the Royal Flush being the best possible hand to form.
The game starts with the player posting an ante bet on the virtual layout on the screen. The value of the ante is not fixed but depends on the minimum and maximum at a particular Live Casino Hold’em table. The dealer deals two cards to all participating players at the table, including herself (or himself respectively). Players’ cards are clearly visible which is not the case with the dealer whose cards are dealt face down. Three community cards are then dealt in the center of the layout, after which the dealer matches the players’ ante with a bet equal to its amount.
At this stage of the coup, the participating players have two options. If they decide their two cards will hold against the dealer’s, they can call the dealer’s bet, in which case two more community cards will be dealt in the center of the layout. Players should not forget that calling the dealer’s bet requires a stake that is twice the size of the ante they have originally posted.
The dealer would then reveal their hole cards and will pay out if there are any winners at the table. If not, the dealer will collect both the ante and the call bets of the losers. However, the player may decide to fold their hand after the dealing of the three community cards. This means they are no longer in hand so their ante bets are forfeited in favor of the house. When playing against professional live dealers, one is expected to make decisions fast and act on their hand quickly since players have a limited time to fold or call.
Qualifying Hands and Payouts
One of the biggest peculiarities of Live Casino Hold’em is that the dealer qualifies only when they hold a pair of fours or better. When the player beats a dealer holding a qualifying hand, they will win both the ante and their call bet. However, if the player wins but the dealer does not qualify, the player will win only their ante back because the call bet would be considered a push between the two.
Your profit on a given coup depends solely on the rank of your winning hand. When playing the game at a live-dealer casino, you will be able to see the payouts printed on the tables but more importantly, certain winning hands may earn you rather hefty payouts depending on their strength.
The highest payout is 100 to 1 and is awarded to the player who succeeds in beating the dealer with a Royal Flush. This is followed by the Straight Flush which returns at a rate of 20 to 1. Quads can earn you a payout of 10 to 1 whereas a Full House pays 3 to 1. If your hand consists of five suited cards, you have a Flush where the payout is usually 2 to 1. Straights and the remaining lower-ranking hands like sets and pairs pay even money on winning bets.
If the dealer does not qualify at all, only the ante pays according to the paytable whereas the call bet is considered a push between the two and is therefore returned to the player. In situations where the dealer fails to qualify but you have no hand either, it is again considered a push. By way of example, you post an ante of $25, call with $50 and prevail over the dealer with a Flush of clubs, which would earn you a total of $175 with a payout of 2 to 1.
Of course, each online casino with a live dealer section has its own rules so you might come across Casino Hold’em variations with different payouts on winning hands in the same way the table limits would vary between operators.
The AA Side Bet in Casino Hold’em
Similarly to other casino games, Live Casino Hold’em provides players with the opportunity to place a side bet (also known as the AA bet) and potentially win a huge payout. These side bets are posted at the start of the coup within a smaller betting circle marked with the initials AA, which pretty much suggests what this additional extra wager is all about.
When placing a side bet in Live Casino Hold’em, you are practically betting that your two cards and the first three community cards dealt at the table will form a pair of Aces or higher. The better hand you form, the bigger the payout you are entitled to. It should also be mentioned that the side AA bets return at a higher rate than the standard winning bets in the game, the Royal Flush being the only exception.
The payouts are rather appetizing, though, starting with the Straight Flush side bet which returns at a rate of 50 to 1. This is followed by the Quads which pay 40 to 1. If you are dealt a Full House and decide to call the dealer’s bet, your bonus bet will earn you a payout of 30 to 1. Bonus bets winning with a Flush pay 20 to 1. Pairs of Aces up to Straights return payouts of 7 to 1. It makes sense if you fail to form at least a pair of Aces after the three community cards are dealt, your side bet loses.
Features of Live Casino Hold’em Games
There is nothing more exciting for table games fans than playing against professionally trained dealers but few are the people who live in a close proximity to a gambling venue or who can afford to travel often enough to enjoy the game on the spot.
Live Casino Hold’em is a great solution as it comes shockingly close to the real deal. The games are streamed in real time in high definition right to the screens of players’ desktop computers or smartphones. The cards are dealt by professional yet very pleasant and chatty dealers who are always happy and willing to engage in conversation with their players. At some live casinos, you get to choose between Asian and European dealers, depending on your preferences.
Once you join the game, you will be verbally welcomed by your dealer and if you wish, you can respond back by using the live chat box most live casinos offer. The chat also enables you to converse with fellow players at your table which makes the gameplay all the more exciting. It is almost as if you have taken a seat at a hold’em table in a brick-and-mortar casino. Of course, if the chat distracts you from your play and breaks your concentration, you can choose to turn it off.
Depending on the developer behind the software, Live Casino Hold’em table are sometimes manned by two staff members. One of them is dealing the cards, playing and interacting with the customers while the second person sits at a small table to the side and reshuffles a deck to prepare it for the next coup. This is normally the case at the Live Casino Hold’em tables of Evolution Gaming.
Players with different budgets are accommodated with varying table limits, depending on the live casino they have registered at and the supplier providing the software for the live stream. In many online casinos offering the game, there is the option to stake anywhere between $0.50 and $1,000 on the ante bets. Bear in mind that there are different minimum and maximum limits for the ante and the bonus AA bets.
The live variations of the Casino Hold’em are beautifully presented, with a re-sizable interface, clear audio, and a high-quality stream that is usually tolerant to lower-speed Internet connections. The live variations of the game are able to support an almost unlimited number of players who can join the action at the tables on any type of device they like, be it a laptop, a desktop computer, a smartphone or a tablet.
That being said, Live Casino Hold’em requires you to play at a faster speed. If you need more time to make decisions, this might not be a suitable game for you. With some variants, like the one powered by Evolution Gaming, players have about ten seconds to place their ante bets. You can track the remaining time in a small box at the upper right corner of the screen, where you can see a green, yellow, and a red light. Bets are accepted when the green light is on whereas yellow indicates bets are soon to close. Naturally, when red switches on, bets are closed for the respective coup.
Providers of Live Casino Hold’em Software
There is an increasing demand for live casino games, which is why most established operators in the industry have added it to the list of their offerings as a way to attract more interest from customers. Most casinos which provide live-dealer solutions choose to use streaming software developed by third-party specialists.
Older companies like Playtech and Microgaming have introduced live games to their product offerings in an attempt to remain competitive on the market. These providers have a long and successful history in this field and enjoy an impeccable reputation in the industry. Others like Evolution Gaming and Ezugi specialize particularly in the development and distribution of live casino software.
Microgaming’s live-casino product impresses with a number of useful features, including HD video stream and multi-window games which are hosted in different languages to accommodate non-English speaking customers. There is a special feature alerting players when a seat at the table opens but if you play Live Casino Hold’em, you will not have to worry about that because the game supports an almost unlimited number of participants. Playing multiple live tables at a time is also a possibility at Microgaming-powered live casinos.
Playtech has been developing and improving their live-dealer products since 2003, when the company launched its first live casino. Players from the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain who register at a Playtech-powered live casino will benefit from tables serviced by native-speaking dealers. The company streams the games from its European and Asian-based studios. Other useful functionalities customers of Playtech casinos will benefit from include multi-game play, full-screen mode and the options to control the games’ sounds or hide fellow players’ bets.
Ezugi is another provider of live casino games that is currently gaining traction among gambling enthusiasts. The company was founded in 2013 but quickly carved out a niche for itself on the market and there is a good reason why – its software offers unique features you are unlikely to find anywhere else. The Live Casino Hold’em games provided by Ezugi further enhance the social experience since players can share their results and send tweets while they are at the tables. Other positives of the Ezugi live software include statistics, full-screen mode, hand history, and multi-seat options. You can also tip the dealer if you are pleased with their service.
Evolution Gaming is currently the leading supplier of live casino software on the market, which can probably be attributed to the fact the company has dedicated its efforts entirely to the development of live casino software and solutions. Evolution Gaming has dedicated studios in a variety of jurisdictions, such as Malta, Latvia, Denmark, Spain, Belgium, and Italy. Those of you who decide to give its Casino Hold’em games a chance get to enjoy a number of handy features like two different viewing modes (classic and 3D), video/sound adjustments, complete hand histories, a multi-language service, and multi-table play.
Pros and Cons of Live Casino Hold’em
It cannot be argued that Live Casino Hold’em offers plenty of advantages, especially when compared to the equivalent of the game that runs on a Random Number Generator. One of the biggest positives results from the fact the game brings the exciting ambiance of brick-and-mortar casinos to the comfort of players’ living rooms. Many live casinos are also mobile-responsive so you can play on the go.
This is a great alternative for those who have grown tired of the monotony of RNG-based games thanks to the additional social element involved in the gameplay. There is a high level of interaction between dealers and players thanks to the live chat facility. One can even tip their dealer for the great service just like the would in a real casino. Also, there is no need to question the integrity of the software and worry whether it is biased or not. The cards are dealt right before your eyes by skilled and experienced personnel.
The great thing about Casino Hold’em is that there is no need for you to wait until an available seat opens at the table. Casino Hold’em is able to support an almost unlimited number of players at a table serviced by the same dealer. Some casinos offer multi-lingual tables to the convenience of customers who are not fluent in English.
Another advantage is the user-friendly interface which enables Casino Hold’em players to tweak the settings and adjust the gameplay so that it suits their personal preferences. You can adjust the camera angle or turn off some of the sound effects if you find them distracting.
The advantages of playing Live Casino Hold’em outnumber the disadvantages. One of the few downsides has to do with the fact that unlike RNG-based games, their live counterparts are unavailable for demo play which is to say you must invest real money to even test the games and see what they are all about.
Another minor disadvantage has to do with the pace of play. Since the game is streamed live, there is no time for players to ruminate on what move to make next. Decisions need to be made quickly because there is a limited amount of time to place your bets, usually only ten seconds but it varies on the basis of software. Because of this, Live Casino Hold’em may not be the perfect option for novices who are accustomed to playing at a slower pace.
A Few Tips on Improving Your Live Casino Hold’em Play
As simple as it is to play, Live Casino Hold’em is a game that calls for a certain amount of skill and strategy if you want to turn up some profits. Before you start investing your money into live play, it is advisable to master the game by playing one of the RNG-based variations. The rules, the payouts and the house edge largely coincide with those in the games hosted by dealers in real time but RNG-based Casino Hold’em supports free play so you will not have to waste your money until you learn the game.
Another recommendation is to avoid making the AA side bet because the house holds a bigger advantage over players with this type of wager. Many players are lured to side bet because of the substantial payouts winning wagers of this type can potentially offer but still, it is not worth the trouble considering the AA bet comes with a house advantage of 6.26%. If you experiment too much with this type of bet, you will inevitably end up losing money over the long term.
In this type of game, it is of great importance to know when to call the dealer’s bet and when to fold your hand. Note that giving up too many hands is not a good idea as experts recommend players to fold only about 18% of the hands they are dealt on average. While it is difficult to outline a strategy for this type of game within a few sentences only, there are a couple of basic rules you must follow if you want your Live Casino Hold’em sessions to be profitable.
Calling the dealer’s bet is recommended in cases when your highest card is an Ace or a King or when you have two cards that of a higher value than any of the three community cards. Also, it is advisable to call when you have a Queen or Jack as your strongest card provided that the community cards are of a value that differs from the value of your cards. Calling is also recommended when you are dealt suited cards and there are two more cards of the same suit after the initial deal. Do not rule out the possibility of drawing to a flush.
While it is important to play as many hands as you possibly can, there is no need to call when you are certain you are holding a sure loser. Folding is recommended whenever there is a pair of community cards at the table and you are holding a Ten or less. The only exception is when your two cards and the pair at the table are all of the same suit or are of sequential ranking, in which case you might draw to a flush or a straight.
We recommend you make use of some of the Casino Hold’em calculators that are available online as this can assist you with decision-making until you get a better grasp of the game. These are very easy to use as you only need to enter your cards and the community cards on the table for the software to calculate whether there is more value in calling or in folding.