It’s hard to imagine a game better suited for the live dealer experience than blackjack. The speed of the deal, the simplicity of the bets, the slender house advantage… What’s not to like? And with live dealer blackjack as close as your laptop or smartphone, you are ready for action.
We’ve got some info to share with you about the differences and surprises you’ll find, but if you want to go straight to the tables, be sure to check out the following list of gambling sites that offer live dealer blackjack:
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How Does Live Dealer Blackjack Differ From Brick and Mortar Blackjack?
Before we jump into the many options available at live dealer blackjack tables, let’s first look at the differences you’ll encounter as you move from the brick and mortar casino into the cyberspace realm of live dealer blackjack.
The minimum bets are going to start out higher than at land-based casinos. Live dealer blackjack is an expensive production; besides the physical location and equipment, there’s also a dealer, a lighting tech, a cameraman, a sound man, an IT man, and a pit boss. Almost certainly you are not going to find a $1 live dealer blackjack table. If you do, let us know; we have a five-dollar bill we might like to put into circulation.
At a brick and mortar casino, you and the other players are pitting your hands against the dealer’s hand. All hands but the dealer’s are dealt face-up; the dealer deals herself a single card face-down, and a second one face-up.
As with land based play, Live Dealer Blackjack is you (and up to six other players) versus the dealer. Further similarities include the ability to play more than one seat.
Additionally, bet-behind (which got its start at land-based casinos) takes on a whole new life with live dealer blackjack. It’s a good way to occupy yourself while waiting for a seat at a particular table.
Offered by some live dealer tables, bet-behind (sometimes known as 1 to many, for reasons that will shortly become abundantly clear) involves betting on the hand of another player already seated at the table (at a standard 7-seat table; the number of players at the table is usually the only limiting factor to how many hands you can bet-behind.
Bet-behind can cause some confusion, particularly if you’re not used to it (or worse, if you were unaware it was taking place). Someone else is actually playing the same hand, so if you are dealt a jack and a 5, and the dealer is dealt a 6, you might choose to stand on your 15—and then see the dealer slide another card and deal it to your hand. Psych! Your hand is the 15 you chose to stand on; any hits to it are for someone who was betting behind you, i.e., playing the same original two cards, but betting, hitting, and standing (and splitting and doubling down as well) as that player sees fit.
Once you get used to the idea of bet-behind, you can even try it yourself while you are seated at the table; it’s really like playing some or all of the seats at a land-based casino, once you get used to seeing hits dealt after you pressed the stand button.
Walk into any casino in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, or London, and you’ll find the dealers are generally an even mix of men and women. These are dealers trained and experienced in the rules and customs of blackjack.
The same is true with live dealer blackjack at online casinos, with one noticeable exception: The vast majority of the live dealers are women, and an attractive bunch they are, too.
The reason for this is quite simple: while men and women tend to gamble online in more or less equal proportions (the split is actually about 60% men to 40% women), that ratio virtually disappears at the live dealer table. Some companies have reported as little as 2% female participation.
You might think this is caused by the live dealers being mostly women but think about that brick and mortar casino you just visited. Wasn’t the proportion of women players to men players right around the 60-40 split? And even if it wasn’t, it was nowhere near 98-2.
Still, the disparity is a real Chicken and Egg conundrum, maybe even a mystery inside a riddle wrapped up in an enigma . We went too far just then, didn’t we? Still, something to think about as you double down on those tens.
One other distinction between land-based vs. live dealer blackjack: The dealers are much more talkative. Dealers in brick and mortar casinos are notoriously quiet. The online dealer, however, will often announce each card dealt; she’ll welcome you and other players as you take your seats, and she’ll wish you good luck when you leave.
The live dealer blackjack table is arranged as a land based table would be: An oval table featuring seating for you and up to six other players on one side (Note that some live dealer tables only seat three).
Bear in mind that while you can see the dealer and the table, the only sign you’re there will be the cards dealt to you and the other players, your bets, and any text chat you choose to engage in.
Unlike the land-based version, live dealer blackjack will usually have a nondescript slot next to the shoe through which a barcode printed on each card can be read as the dealer removes it from the shoe face down. This ensures the cards are correctly noted during play; the dealer will still usually announce the value of each card, and you can easily read them as they are dealt face up to the individual hands.
In addition, be sure to familiarize yourself with all the button locations for betting, hit, stand, split, and double down. Nothing more embarrassing than doubling down on tens. Well, okay, we can think of some things more embarrassing, but we’d prefer to forget that incident at the pool…
Expect the play to be somewhat slower with a live dealer. It’s actually about the same speed you would encounter in a brick and mortar casino, but there’s the rub: you’re not in a brick and mortar casino, and you may be too used to the lightning pace of machine random number generation.
Even though the dealer is talking to you, you’re sipping a tasty beverage while you play, and you can even hear casino sounds in the background, you’re actually sitting at home. Yes, it was a surprise to us, as well.
Most, if not all, online casinos offering live play actually contract out to dedicated production companies that specialize in streaming live table games to a number of online casinos. This makes sense from both a monetary and manpower perspective. An online casino would have to drastically alter its business plan if it had to employ hundreds of people as croupiers, dealers, pit bosses, camera operators, sound men, lighting techs, best boys (what the heck is a best boy, anyway?)…. You get the idea.
So, the online casinos go to a third party producer for their live tables.
This is a good thing. It ensures a higher standard of quality across the board among the many different online casinos. It allows them to offer more affordable live dealer blackjack games, but it has one drawback: It’s hard to get a seat at the table.
Online casinos figured this out right about the same time everybody else did. Rather than lose customers, they started offering private tables to their customers. These blackjack tables are typically branded (for example, the table may have the online casino’s logo printed on it), and generally speaking, you can find a seat at these tables more easily than at the open tables.
Keep in mind that while it is usually easier to find a seat at an online casino’s private live dealer blackjack tables, the actual number of tables at each site varies from two or three tables to one or two dozen tables.
Top Tips for Live Dealer Blackjack
Check the Payouts Specific for Each Table
As with brick and mortar casinos, 3:2 payouts for natural blackjacks are the standard at online casinos, but some live dealer tables will only pay 6:5. At some tables, the dealer isn’t required to stand on a soft 17. Neither of these are a good thing. Find another table.
Don’t Bother Counting Cards
You might think your relative invisibility at the table makes you immune to observation, and that this might be a good time to hone your card-counting skills.
Don’t bother. The shoe, whether it is six-deck or eight-deck, is shuffled far too often (at about the 50% mark) for counting to be useful. Also, many live dealer blackjack tables burn a card before each deal (not just after the shuffle), which means a significant number of cards will never be seen. But hey, if you just want the practice, feel free.
Speaking of Which…
Don’t buy insurance. You’ve heard that advice before, probably even before there was internet. Seriously speaking, the only rational justification for buying insurance is if you’ve been keeping close track of the cards, and consequently, you have an educated guess that the card face down next to that dealer’s ace has a better than even chance of being a face card.
Unfortunately, in the case of the live dealer blackjack table, cards are burned and the shoe is shuffled far too often for that educated guess to develop into anything useful.
Tip the Dealer
That dealer is working hard to please her boss and make the gambling experience enjoyable for dozens, possibly hundreds of gamblers—and she’s doing it under very, very hot lights. So tip her. How much? Well, unless you never tip, just use the same criteria you use at a land-based casino.
Start Your Engines
Frankly, with all this good info about live dealer blackjack, we’re surprised you’re still with us. Thanks for hanging in there. One last thing before you start checking out our list of the top live dealer blackjack sites (conveniently located near the top of this page). You should probably also—
Ah, who are we kidding? Scroll up and find your favorites right now. We’ll be here when you get back.