Live Dealer games are also a very popular option in some of the top foreign online casinos (where you, as a U.S. resident, can’t play). So it is no surprise that here in the states, Golden Nugget, a company that prides itself on being innovative and forward thinking, has jumped on the bandwagon. Obviously, this casino’s experts did their homework, as New Jersey online players have been frequenting the Live Dealer games, and Live Dealer Blackjack, in particular, in droves. When Live Dealer Blackjack was introduced at Golden Nugget Online Casino nearly a year ago, only two tables were open and between the hours of 5 p.m. and 1 a.m. only. Now this casino’s players have a choice of four tables, all of which are open until 3 a.m. Starting hours vary depending on the table and day of the week. At BetfairCasino.com, where Live Dealer Blackjack has been up and running only since May, 2017, there are currently three tables for this game.
Blackjack is a Game of Both Luck and Skill
Unless you are a casino gambling newbie dabbling in blackjack for the first time, you probably already know that of all the games in the casino, blackjack (assuming the game is run fairly and has reasonable rules) is one of your best options. In fact, blackjack is the game with potentially the lowest house edge.
Here in New Jersey, regardless of whether you play in Atlantic City or online, you can be 100% certain that the games are fair. Every game is carefully scrutinized by the Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE). However, blackjack is not only a game of chance, but also a game of skill.
Rules Matter, But So Does How You Play
GoldenNuggetCasino.com publishes the return to player (RTP) for all its games, including blackjack. The RTP is simply 100% less the house edge. It doesn’t mean that this figure or close to it will be the percentage of your total investment you can expect to get back after any one playing session, but rather a theoretical probability if you were to play many thousands of sessions. This explains why even when you play the best games in the house, on any given day, a sizable loss is still possible.
As if playing a game with a very small house edge with the prospect of losing anyway isn’t disconcerting enough, the blackjack picture is muddled even further by another fact. Whatever the published house edge happens to be (and it can vary greatly for different blackjack games) is predicated on the player knowing and adhering to the correct basic strategy. Surely you have seen other players at your table who didn’t have a clue about the correct way to play certain hands. Sometimes they get lucky and win anyway, but over the long run, they are giving away a lot of extra money to the house.
Blackjack is a game of both luck and skill. In this respect, the blackjack games offered in Atlantic City and other licensed brick and mortar casinos, regular online blackjack, and Live Dealer Blackjack are all alike.
Why Many Players Love Live Dealer Blackjack
Because of blackjack’s reputation as being a game that’s potentially beatable (although a lot of myths have been perpetuated on this subject), many players are drawn to it. But that is not the primary reason why players are attracted to Live Dealer Blackjack.
Advantages of Playing Online
For starters, Live Dealer games offer almost all the unique advantages that online casino gambling offers over brick and mortar casino gambling:
- You can play whenever you want anywhere in New Jersey on your computer or smartphone without having to travel anywhere.
- You don’t have to interrupt a great playing session to rush to make some other commitment or, conversely, continue playing longer than you should because your bus isn’t leaving until later or you’re staying overnight. You can start and stop play whenever you want, take the game with you, or return to it later.
- You can wear whatever you want.
- No travel, meal, and room expenses.
- Generous bonuses, not just to high rollers, but to everybody, just for depositing and playing.
The only extra perks that other online games offer but live dealer games don’t are 24 hour availability and the option to play in demo mode for free.
But Only Live Dealer Games Offer Social Interaction, Too
On the other hand, there is one area where most online games fall way short of what brick and mortar casinos have to offer: the social experience. Ordinarily, playing online is a solitary pastime. For anyone who enjoys a night out on the town, it’s hard to top the electric atmosphere of the casino. Where else can you not only try your luck, but mingle with other players, revel in others celebrating your good fortune, or at the very least, commiserate together over the dealer’s hot streak?
The casinos’ answer for online players who miss the social interaction of a regular casino is Live Dealer gambling. These games, rather than being dealt electronically, have a real Atlantic City dealer and are brought to your computer or mobile device screen in real time via a live stream feed. In addition, while you are playing, you can interact with and carry on a conversation with the dealer and other players at your table just like in a real casino! It is as close as you can get to playing in a real casino without actually being there!
The Trade-off–Tougher Rules
Unfortunately, the trade-off for the extra fun and excitement of playing online blackjack with a live dealer is rules that are less advantageous to the player than some of the other blackjack games at Golden Nugget and Betfair Online Casino. Rules matter in blackjack, and even among the regular blackjack games at these casinos, there are variations which make some options better than others. At Golden Nugget Online Casino, no less than nine other blackjack games are offered, of which the four best choices are the following:
- The 6 deck Classic Blackjack game from NetEnt with a bet range of $1.00 to $1,000
- The 6 deck Players Suite Blackjack game from NYX with a bet range of $1 to $200
- The 4 deck Vegas Blackjack game from NYX with a bet range of $1 to $100
- The 6 deck game from NYX called Sidebet Blackjack with a bet range of $1 to $100, $5 to $250, or $15 to $500
All of these games have a house edge of slightly over .40% or slightly better than the blackjack games offered in Atlantic City. So your choice should depend on how much you want to bet and whether you wish to play more than one hand. You can play up to five hands in Sidebet Blackjack, but stick to the basic bets; all of the sidebets have a high house edge.
The following are three important ways players are being charged extra for the Live Dealer Games added entertainment
Note that Vegas Blackjack is played with four decks while the other recommended games use six decks. However, Live Dealer Blackjack uses eight decks. Other things being equal, the more decks that are in play, the more random the distribution of cards and the less likely a run of cards that is favorable to the player. Even when the cards are reshuffled after every hand, as they are in online blackjack ordinarily (but not in Live Dealer Blackjack), because there are fewer cards, your probability of getting a blackjack or other good cards is higher.
Dealer Hits Soft 17
Eight decks instead of four or six isn’t the only reason Live Dealer Blackjack is a tougher game to beat. In all of the recommended games mentioned above, the dealer stands on soft 17. However, in Live Dealer Blackjack, the dealer hits soft 17. Although 17 is a pat hand, it is not a good one because it loses to 18, 19, 20, and 21. That’s why you, the player, should never stand on soft 17. Any card from Ace through 4 will improve it, and even if the drawn card turns the hand into a stiff, it can be hit again with another chance to improve. Giving the dealer the same options will result in the dealer getting better hands more frequently and the player winning less frequently.
Mid Shoe Cut Card
One difference between Live Dealer Blackjack and the other online blackjack games that many Live Dealer players think works in their favor is the method of shuffling. In Live Dealer games, the dealer only shuffles once–when the cut card comes up–rather than after every hand. However, only about four of the eight decks are dealt! Therefore, any attempt to get an edge by card counting is a waste of time. However, I will save that discussion for a future column.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that Live Dealer Blackjack is not a bad game, but there are other blackjack games that are available to you that are better. It’s a fun way to pass the time, but you would do well to keep your bet size modest and your sessions short. If you’re new to blackjack, it’s a great way to learn the game and improve your skills by watching other players in action and asking questions. However, the house edge is nearly double that of the same casinos’ best blackjack games. Therefore, high stakes players should limit their heavier action to the latter to maximize their chances of winning.