Gamblers have an odd relationship with machine-generated random numbers. Ever since Charles Fey, a San Francisco mechanic, devised a mechanical poker game featuring five spinning drums and 50 card faces in 1880 gamers have been spellbound by slot machines. Fast forward to 1963 and the Bally company release of Money Honey and the launch of the electronic era of gaming. Results were now completely generated by random numbers that the player could not see, that could be manipulated invisibly by operators and had to taken on faith by those with fistfuls of quarters. It is no coincidence that players called the machines they loved “one-armed bandits.”
Leap again into the digital age and the most popular of casino table games – blackjack. With online blackjack the player gets a freshly shuffled deck before each hand, a completely random result with instantly generated random numbers, and lightning fast hands. Casino software at trusted operators gets tested on an ongoing basis and the casinos themselves are regularly audited by outside agencies. Yet with all that some gamblers have a nagging suspicion over the fairness of the games with results that they can not see generated and have no way to verify.
Enter live dealer blackjack
Slots players are used to their fates being decided deep in the unseen bowels of a machine so the transition to online slots play for them was seamless. Blackjack players, however, like to see their cards turned. In the early 2000s casino specialist companies wed cutting edge video streaming technology to Internet software solutions to bring casino action to players in live time. Blackjack was the perfect game for this live dealer treatment.
Today most of the online casino pacesetters offer their members live dealer blackjack. Some license the technology from pioneering casino technology companies like Microgaming, Entwine Tech, Evolution Gaming and Playtech Software while others develop their real-time gaming software in-house. When hooking into a live dealer game be certain that your computing bandwidth is powerful enough to handle high-resolution streaming because if the connection breaks up you will probably be holding a winning hand when it does.
The blackjack tables are set up in casino-simulated studios or broadcast from tables in a land-based casino that are open to the public. A full bank of cameras deliver all the sights and sounds of the live casino blackjack experience instantly to the player’s computer or mobile device. Players can interact with the dealers with online chatting capability and can hear the dealers pace the action with audio connections. Oversized playing cards show up clearly as they are dealt even on the smallest smartphone screens.
Rather than playing one-on-one against online software in live dealer blackjack players sit at tables with up to six other players. This obviously slows down the action of regular online blackjack but it does inject an element of sociability that is ingrained into the ancient game of tewnety-one. If the downtime in a live dealer game drags more slowly than desirable a side game at a regular online casino can always be fired up onto the device. At most houses, like in land-based casinos, there is a wide range of minimums and table limits. Don’t expect to find the $1 hands that permeate online blackjack tables since dealers must be paid and the streaming technology is an added expense to the operator. You also will not be able to play practice hands of blackjack for no money at live dealer tables so perfect your strategy in online casino games before bringing your chips to a broadcast table.
The blackjack odds and rules for these games streamed into living rooms are typically identical to those found in land-based casinos. Study the rules and payouts from the different live dealer casinos to find those most rewarding to the player. The house edge shifts depending on the payouts. An operator who only pays 6:5 on blackjacks cuts the player edge by 1.3% over the standard 3:2 reward for twenty-one. If a dealer is allowed to hit on a soft 17 (an ace and a six) the house scoops up an extra 0.2% – that may not seem significant but a player employing basic blackjack strategy is only at a 0.5% disadvantage against the house while playing blackjack. Also check various restrictions on doubling down, splitting identical cards and hitting on split aces.
Land-based casinos have been known to ban so-called blackjack card counters who shift the house odds in their favor by keeping track of cards that are played and increasing their bets when a shoe in particularly “rich” with ten-point cards. Playing live dealer blackjack from your couch out of view of pit bosses and security cameras while you use a pad of paper to record the cards played would seem to be a paradise for card counters. Operators know that and instruct dealers to shuffle cards halfway through an eight-deck shoe. Deck penetrations of 50% or less will thwart card counters from effectively employing their systems.
Live dealer casinos can offer a choice of dealer nationalities and chat options. When chat is permitted typed messages are presented to the dealer on a screen which is used to interact with the players. You also have the opportunity to tip your dealer. Depending on the casino set-up you can do this with a “Tip” button or placing a virtual chip over a tipping slot. Unlike land-based casinos your dealer will often express thanks by using your name in front of the entire live game audience. Some casinos permit players to chat back and forth which promotes the conviviality of the casino blackjack table.
This immersive experience of live dealer blackjack is the fastest growing form of twenty-one online. You can sit in with players from around the world and enjoy the entertaining camaraderie of a real blackjack table. And if you are the type of gambler who does not believe it unless you can see it live dealer blackjack is the only way to go.