Online casino operators, like the gamblers that frequent their sites, are always looking for the edge. To take advantage of the explosive popularity of live dealer games, online casinos are reaching farther into the world’s vast gambling collection and pulling out many games that, a few years ago, you could only find in the corners of Manila or the Monte Carlo.
And just like that, live dealer versions of games like dragon tiger and hi-lo are as close to you as your laptop or even your smartphone.
We’ve got a lot of solid info to share about these games, but if you’re suddenly feeling the urge to open another tab and start checking them out, we don’t blame you. That’s why we have this convenient list of top live dealer sites that offer these lesser-known games:
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Variations on a Theme
Many of the newer offerings in live dealer games are, as you might expect, popular variations of baccarat and poker, but the differences between them and their brick and mortar counterparts are sometimes obvious, and sometimes quite different. We’ll help you cut a path through the jungle.
One quick note: Video production is expensive, and it’s no different with live dealer gambling tables. To mitigate costs, most tables feature some variation of “play-behind,” which means other gamblers are “sitting” at that table. Most games featuring play-behind are unchanged by it, but occasionally, cards will be dealt, and bets will be made after you have folded a hand.
Live Dealer Baccarat Variations
If it’s true that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, baccarat must be red-faced from all the compliments. Live dealer casinos feature a multitude of baccarat-style games, some that bear only a passing resemblance to the parent game, others wildly different.
Live Dealer Super 6
Like all other baccarat-based games, Super 6 consists of bettors wagering on two hands—the Player and the Banker. The primary bet here is the Super, which is a wager that the banker’s hand will win with an exact score of 6.
In brick and mortar casinos, Super 6 is usually a side bet available at some, but not all, of the casino’s baccarat tables. Up to eight bettors sit around a large curved table with wagering spots marked on the felt-topped table in front of them. The player and the banker each receive two cards dealt face down from a shoe made of 6-8 decks. In some casinos, the bettor who has made the largest wager is allowed to turn over the player hand.
The live dealer Super 6 table, on the other hand, is set up specifically for the single bettor. It is much smaller and has only one set of wagering and card spots marked on the felt. This doesn’t mean you are the only bettor here. The one constant rule of baccarat and its many variations is that the rules—who wins and who loses, who draws a card and who stands—are all ironclad, so there is no need for the many physical interactions other card games require.
This translates to a single live dealer being able to serve a theoretically countless number of bettors. Don’t let this alarm you. Obviously, it makes no difference to the cards how many people are holding their breath to see them.
Speaking of cards, the live dealer deals each card by pulling it, face-down, from the shoe.
Many live dealer tables have an optical scanning slot in the table near the card shoe. As the dealer draws each card, it is read (often by means of a barcode), and the results of each scan are presented on your screen.
This is not just for convenience and security, but also for the multitude of computer-driven tracking charts used in many versions of baccarat. These charts, such as Bead Plate, Big Road, Small Road, and maybe even Cockroach Road, all track the various hands being played, essentially doing your card-counting for you.
The Bead Plate, for example, tracks wins of the player and the banker, much like a light tower at a roulette table displays a history of the numbers and that have come up on previous spins.
Wow, all that explanation and the card hasn’t even been fully dealt yet. Hey, technology ain’t easy, bud.
After the card is read by the optical scanner, the live dealer turns the card face-up and places it in its appropriate place—either in the player hand box, or the banker hand box. This continues until the hand is finished.
The live dealer may call out the cards and the wins, and often she will greet returning bettors as well as wish departing bettors good luck. You, on the other hand, are limited to text chat, which is fine, really—you’re not here to pick up girls, anyway, right? Right?
Live Dealer Dragon Tiger
Another version of baccarat, live dealer dragon tiger is fast-paced—a typical hand is played in less than a minute. This is largely due to the fact that only two cards are dealt: One to the player (this card is the Dragon) and one to the banker (this card is—you guessed it—the Tiger). Main bets are player wins, bank wins, or tie, but there is a wide range of side bets (or proposition bets, if you prefer) as well.
These side bets include dragon big or tiger big (with the hand winning with a score of eight or more) and dragon small or tiger small, with the hand winning with a score of six or less. Tie and suited tie bets may also be permitted.
Other side bets may include suited tie, suit, and odd/even.
You won’t find this game in many brick and mortar casinos (it’s rumored to be played in Cambodia). The live dealer version is simple enough for us to guess that it is played the same way as the land based version—except for the addition of technology, as with Super 6.
There’s usually an optical scanner reading the cards as they’re dealt (in order to add the card to an on-screen display of hand results). There is also someone else, standing behind and off to the side of the live dealer. She looks very busy.
What is that she’s doing? If you guessed shuffling, you are correct. She is shuffling decks for the next shoe. As we mentioned earlier, live dealer dragon tiger is fast-paced, and that shoe the dealer is currently drawing cards from is emptying at an alarming rate.
Remember the hard-working shuffler behind-the-scenes when you tip the dealer as you prepare to leave the table.
Live Dealer Poker Variations
The chance of seeing a poker game listed among an online casino’s live dealer offerings is largely dependent upon how adaptable the game is to the one-player, no-touch paradigm. Simply put, the game must be playable without the player (that’s you) touching or handling the cards at all, and furthermore, the logic and play of the game should not be altered by pitting the player (that’s you, again) vs. dealer/house.
Live Dealer Casino Hold’em
Casino Hold’em was developed rather recently, intended as a table game for brick and mortar casinos. It’s meant to serve as a solid alternative to card room play. Instead of waiting for a seat to open up at a specific table in the card room, casino hold’em made it possible to leap right into the game. Of course, it became instantly popular.
With that in mind, it’s easy to see why casino hold’em had to make so few changes to move to live dealer tables at online casinos.
Like the land based game, live dealer casino hold’em begins by placing your bet and side bets. Then, two cards are dealt to you and the dealer from a shoe containing a single 52-card deck. Yours are dealt face up, and the dealer’s cards are dealt face down.
Live dealer tables often have an optical scanner that verifies and records each card drawn from the shoe, and the hand is dealt. On-screen, you’ll see a display of the best hand that can be made from your cards and the community cards.
Once the two hands are dealt, along with a flop of three community cards, you have either won or lost your bonus bet (a wager based solely on the outcome of the first five cards dealt). Note, however, that if you do not call the dealer’s bet (coming up in the next paragraph), you forfeit your bonus bet. If you choose to fold, your participation in the hand is concluded. The play will continue, however—thanks to play-behind, any number of other people playing the hand may have elected to call.
As long as at least one player has elected to call, the last two community cards are dealt face up, and the dealer’s cards are turned face-up.
Bear in mind that the dealer needs at least a pair of fours to have a qualifying hand, if she doesn’t, your call bet is returned to you. Assuming she has a qualifying hand, the player’s hand and the dealer’s hand are compared. Are they the same (each has a pair of jacks, for example)? If so, it’s a “push,” and all bets are returned. If the dealer’s hand is better than the player’s, well, you know what happens.
But assuming the player has a better hand than the dealer does, the payout on the call bet can range from 1:1 for a straight (or less) to 100:1 for a royal flush. Make sure to check your live dealer casino’s rules and payout charts carefully.
Live Dealer 3-Card Poker
If you think playing five-card draw is too easy, then 3-card poker was made for you! Like casino hold’em, 3-card poker was designed for casinos to take advantage of a situation that combines an overabundance of players with a scarcity of card room seats. Consequently, live dealer 3-card poker is very similar to its brick and mortar predecessor.
Oh, by the way: Some say the best strategy for winning 3-card Poker—live dealer or otherwise—is to play queen-high hands (or better) and fold all others. But hey, who are we to judge? You do you.
In any case, while land based 3-card poker tables seat up to seven players, a live dealer 3-card poker table seats only one: You.
As with live dealer casino hold’em described above, the player must place a bet (usually called an ante) and any optional bonus bets (more on these in a moment) prior to the cards being dealt. Once all bets are placed, the dealer draws cards and begins dealing. Usually, the almost ubiquitous optical scanner takes note of each card as it is drawn.
An interesting side note: The dealing of cards for this game (both land based and online live dealer versions) does not alternate between the dealer and the player (e.g. one for you, one for me). Rather, three cards are drawn in succession and become the player’s hand, and then another three cards are drawn and become the dealer’s hand.
Once three cards are dealt to you (face up), and to the dealer (face down), you have the option to either fold or play. A fold ends the hand; your ante is surrendered, as are any bonus bets you made.
Important note: Many live dealer tables offer you a checkbox option that will automatically fold your hand whenever you fail to draw a queen high hand.
If you choose to play, however, you place a “Play” bet equal to your Ante bet. The dealer then reveals her cards. As with casino hold’em, live dealer 3-card poker requires the dealer to have a minimum hand to qualify the play—in the case of live dealer 3-card poker, a queen.
One more thing. The bonus bets in live dealer 3-card poker are won and lost irrespective of the dealer’s hand.
But Wait! There’s More
We rummaged through some of the Internet’s seat cushions and discovered still more live dealer games, and these aren’t even second cousins of baccarat or poker! In fact, some of them only have vague or nebulous connections to land based casinos, so we’ll have to be satisfied with telling you how they’re played at the live dealer tables of your favorite online casino.
Live Dealer Hi-Lo
A card has been drawn and placed face-up on the table. Will the next card drawn be higher or lower than the first card? Nothing like struggling with metaphysical complexities, is there?
Okay, so live dealer hi-lo isn’t exactly the calculus of gambling (it’s more like the tic-tac-toe of gambling; actually, upon further reflection, we’d have to call it the rock-paper-scissors of gambling). For all that, live dealer hi-lo is fun and fast, so enjoy the simplicity as you place your bets for higher, lower, or snap (tie).
Live Dealer Dream Catcher
Designed for those who want even less complexity in their lives, live casinos are now offering the live dealer Dream Catcher, or—as it’s known in the brick and mortar world—The Big Wheel. That’s right; you too can pit your clairvoyant acumen against the enigmatic and all-but-incomprehensible rotation of the live dealer dream catcher. It’s gotta stop somewhere, you note thoughtfully. But where? It truly is a mystery for the ages.
The live dealer stands next to a Big Wheel taller than she is, and chatters away while you place your bets. You’re betting on a color. The wheel is split into wedges of color identified by the x payout each one represents. A “1” might be yellow, and it will pay 1:1. There are a lot of yellow wedges on the wheel. A “10” might be green, and if you bet on that and it hits, your bet pays 10:1. There are very, very few green wedges.
FYI: There are even fewer “40” (blue) wedges.
Tips For Playing Live Dealer Tables
Choose a Reputable Online Casino
There are thousands of online casinos, and many more join the ranks of those offering live dealer games every day. Be sure to seek independent reviews of these casinos to get an idea of what others think of their bonus programs, rollover percentages, and general accounting responsibility.
Shop for Sign-Up Bonuses
Virtually every online casino offers sign-up bonuses as well as a host of other incentives to get you to join their player roles and to keep you happy there, forever if possible. As we noted earlier, it’s a good idea to check independent reviews of these casinos to see what others think of the bonuses.
The Longest Journey Begins With a Single Click
If we helped you learn more about the variety (and occasional quirkiness) of live dealer games, we hope you’ll scroll back to the top of this page and take a tour of the top online casino sites offering amazing live dealer action.
As we noted earlier, live dealer games are expensive to produce, so you won’t find many “try it for free” options. Still, most live dealer tables offer a detailed rules pages, and many even have some (admittedly limited) advice explaining how to play each game. Take advantage of these and educate yourself thoroughly about any new game’s intricacies.
Remember, nobody will think less of you if you stick with the minimum bets on a game that is new to you.
On the other hand, is the live dealer experience as familiar to you a well-worn pair of boots? Well, then, pull them on, stomp over to your computer, and place your bets.