Hard to believe, but November 26, 2018 already marks the fifth anniversary of online casino gambling in New Jersey. However, Live Dealer games did not become an option until August, 2016 when GoldenNuggetCasino.com became the first NJ gambling website to launch a Live Dealer platform. In May, 2017, BetfairCasino.com, a Golden Nugget affiliate, began offering Live Dealer games as well, but it was not until 2018 that other NJ online casinos hopped on the bandwagon. One of them is 888 Online Casino, the subject of this post.
Prior to the debut of Live Dealer games at 888 Online Casino, in May, 2018 Live Dealer platforms were introduced at three Borgata-owned websites: Borgata, PlayMGM, and NJ Party online casinos. Then on August 16, 888 Online Casino, partnering with the Swedish company Evolution Gaming—became the sixth NJ gambling website to offer Live Dealer games.
What Live Dealer games does 888 Online Casino offer?
If you already play Live Dealer games at other NJ online casinos, you will see that your choices at 888 Online Casino are very similar. Here are the Live Dealer games you can choose from at the present time:
- American Roulette
- No Commission Baccarat
- Three Card Poker
- Ultimate Texas Hold’em
Live Dealer Blackjack
Out of all of the table games that 888 and other NJ online casinos offer, blackjack is the most popular. One of the main reasons is the well-known fact that if played according to correct basic strategy, blackjack is the game with the lowest house edge. That statement still applies for Live Dealer Blackjack, but even so, it should be noted that there are other blackjack games you can play in New Jersey, both online and offline, where the rules are more favorable. These are the rules for Live Dealer Blackjack at 888 Casino.
- 8 decks
- Dealer stands on soft 17
- Doubling down on any two cards
- Doubling down after splits
- No resplits of pairs
- One card to each split Ace
- No Surrender
The casino lists the return to player (RTP) for this game as 99.28%, making the house edge .72%. Compared to other casino games, it’s still your best bet. However, other blackjack games exist with better rules and a house edge (for basic strategy players) of .50 or less.
In addition to the standard blackjack plays, at 888 Casino’s Live Dealer Blackjack tables, two optional side bets are offered: Perfect Pairs and 21 + 3.
While these are fun bets to make that pay well if you win, the house edge is higher than on regular blackjack bets, 4.10% for Perfect Pairs and 2.70% for 21 + 3. Therefore, you should make these side bets no more than occasionally and for very small amounts, if at all.
The Perfect Pairs bet wins if the first two cards dealt are a pair. The payouts vary as follows:
- Mixed pair (e.g., eight of clubs and eight of hearts): 6-1
- Colored pair (e.g., eight of clubs and eight of spades): 12-1
- Perfect pair (two identical cards): 25-1
21 + 3
This bet wins if your first two cards and the dealer’s up card can form any of the following combinations:
- Flush (non-consecutive cards of the same suit): Pays 5-1
- Straight (consecutive cards of different suits): pays 10-1
- Three of a kind (three cards of the same value but different suits): 30-1
- Straight flush: 40-1
- Suited trips (three identical cards): 100-1
All of the Live Dealer games offered at 888 Online Casino are described in detail along with the important game rules and RTP, and the casino is to be commended for that. But one thing that is definitely not okay is misleading players with erroneous information, like the following:
“Put your card counting skills to the test with Live Blackjack games at 888 casino.”
The implication that card counting is an effective technique in this game is blatantly misleading and a disservice on the part of the casino to let players think otherwise. The people who were responsible for this text should know better.
What Card Counting Entails
Card counting is an advanced strategy that entails keeping track of the the ratio of remaining high cards (10 through Ace) to low cards (typically 2 through 6). When there is a sufficiently disproportionate number of high cards that can still be dealt, the odds start shifting in favor of the player. When the reverse is true and the number of undealt low cards is disproportionately higher, it favors the house. Card counting is possible with multiple decks, but harder because it includes the additional step of dividing the “running count” by the number of remaining decks to get the “true count” But wait—there is more—the player also needs to learn the corresponding change in basic strategy. And, of course, all of these calculations and decisions needed to be made instantaneously.
Why Card Counting in Live Dealer Games Won’t Work
Obviously, if Live Dealer games were shuffled after every hand like other online blackjack games, card counting would be impossible. However, there is still a major problem—there are eight decks, only half of which are dealt out. The unbalanced distribution of high or low cards could be concentrated in the second half of the shoe so those cards are never dealt to the player.
Consequently, players who rely on card counting to increase their bet and/or deviate from basic strategy stand a very good chance of not only not winning, but actually losing more money than those who simply stick to basic strategy. For more on this topic, read here.
Roulette is another very popular game, but unfortunately, the Live Dealer version, at every NJ online casino offering it, including 888, is limited to American Roulette. This game has both a single and double zero on the wheel, which increases the house edge to a relatively high 5.26%. If you play roulette often, you best bet is to play European Roulette or French Roulette instead, with a house edge of 2.7% or 1.35%, respectively. Both of these games are played with just a single zero. NJ online casinos offer these games, but not as part of the Live Dealer platform.
On the other hand, there is no doubt that playing Live Dealer Roulette is a lot more fun and exciting, so if you’re looking for a game that most closely resembles roulette in an actual casino, Live Dealer Roulette is the obvious choice. At 888 Casino, you even have an option called Immersive Roulette.
It’s amazing what advanced technology can do today, including allow you to watch every bet, movement of the ball, and result close up. HD cameras switch views during the course of the game to make it possible. Roulette doesn’t get any more exciting than this!
Baccarat and No Commission Baccarat
Baccarat is often thought of as a high roller’s game. But Live Dealer Baccarat at 888 Online Casino offers a wide enough betting range to accommodate those who want to play for lower stakes, too. If you’re new to the game, it’s a good choice because you can use the live chat option to ask questions without being intimidated and the friendly dealer will be happy to answer them.
The difference between No Commission Baccarat and regular baccarat is that the usual five percent commission charged on winning Banker bets is waived. However, the house edge is about the same due to differences in the payout structure.
As with blackjack, the game gives you the option to make certain side bets. However, you pay for the privilege with a higher house edge. Your best bet is to stick to the basic Bank or Player bets, which keeps the house edge down to only 1.24%.
Three Card Poker
This Live Dealer game at 888 Online Casino is similar to the Three Card Poker games offered in a regular casino, except that in this case, you are only competing against the dealer, not the other players. The fact that there are no other players gives you another advantage—there is never any waiting for seats.
The object of the game is to use the three cards you are dealt to make the best possible poker hand, hoping that the dealer, who also gets three cards, doesn’t have a better hand.
The game is played with a single deck that is shuffled after every hand. At the start of each hand, there is a mandatory ante bet, after which, you have the option to continue with your hand (if you like it). Or, alternatively, if you don’t think your hand has a good chance to win, you can fold.
However, the hand can only continue if the dealer qualifies by holding a Queen or better. If the dealer doesn’t qualify, you get paid even money on your ante bet and your subsequent play bet is returned to you.
Despite the relatively high house edge, because this game is easy to learn and offers lots of fast action, Live Dealer Three Card Poker has become very popular.
Winning Hand Payouts
Payouts for winning hands vary depending on the strength of your hand. These are the payouts on winning Pair Plus bets, where your hand consists of a pair or better and also beats the dealer’s hand.
- Ace-King-Queen suited: 100-1
- Other straight flush: 40-1
- Three of a kind: 30-1
- Straight: 5-1
- Flush: 401
- Pair: 1-1
If you wish, you can also place a 6 Card Bonus Bet, where the payouts for winning hands are higher. However, the house edge is a whopping 18.98%. The object is to make the best possible poker hand from your cards and the dealer’s cards combined.
It doesn’t matter if the dealer’s cards by themselves are better than yours. As long as the bonus hand is three of a kind or better, you’re a winner. These are the payouts:
- Royal Flush: 1,000-1
- Straight Flush: 200-1
- Four of a kind: 1000-1
- Full House: 29-1
- Flush: 15-1
- Straight: 7-1
- Three of a kind: 7-1
Ultimate Texas Hold’em
Like Live Dealer Three Card Poker, this game at 888 Online Casino differs from its real casino counterpart in that you are not playing against other players, only the dealer. So there is no waiting for seats. You can take your virtual seat at the table anytime.
As in regular Texas Hold’em, the object is to use your own two cards, together with the community cards, to form the best possible poker hand.
The game is played with a single deck, which is shuffled after each hand is concluded. Each hand starts with a mandatory ante bet and blind bet, after which you receive two cards face up and the dealer receives two cards face down. You then have the option to continue with the hand or fold. However, unlike in regular Texas hold’em, you only have the option to raise once, ether pre-flop or immediately after the flop is dealt.
Another rule is that in order for your hand to continue to its conclusion, the dealer needs to qualify with a pair or better. If the dealer doesn’t qualify, your ante bet is returned and the hand is over.
Ultimate Texas Hold’em Payouts
If the dealer has a qualifying hand and your final hand is a straight or better and also beats the dealer’s hand, your blind bet will be paid off, according to the strength of your hand, as follows:
- Royal Flush: 500-1
- Straight Flush: 50-1
- Four of a Kind: 10-1
- Full House: 3-1
- Flush: 15-1
- Straight: 1-1
If you made a raise, depending on the size of your raise, you will receive additional payouts of 1-4 times your ante bet.
The 888 website lists the house edge as 2.18%
Optional Trips Bonus Bet
At the start of the hand, you also have the option to make a Trips Bonus Bet, where if you beat the dealer with three of a kind, you will also be paid. This bet reduces the house edge slightly to 1.9% and pays as follows:
- Royal Flush: 50-1
- Straight Flush: 40-1
- Four of a Kind: 30-1
- Full House: 8-1\
- Flush: 7-1
- Straight: 4-1
- Three of a Kind: 4-1
What’s Great and What Isn’t About 888 Live Dealer Games
What Could Be Better
Like all of the NJ Live Dealer casinos, the 888 Live Dealer platform should be viewed as a work in progress that could be better. These are the various areas where the 888 Live Dealer platform is in need of improvement.
Offer games with better Odds
Many players were probably hoping that with the addition of more casinos offering Live Dealer games, there would be new games added where the rules would be better for the player. However, that has not been the case. It won’t take long for savvy blackjack and roulette players to realize that they can find different versions of these games elsewhere with a better chance to win.
Difficult to read website
The small white print on a black background is hard to read. This is a shame because the website contains a wealth of information. Having to strain one’s eyes to read it is a turn-off.
Hours of operating and betting ranges for each game not indicated
Players would like to know ahead of time what hours during the day the Live Dealer games are offered and what the betting range is at each table. This information should be provided on the website.
888 Live Dealer Games Great Features
Fortunately, the Live Dealer platform at 888 Online Casino offers all of these great features, too.
- Very informative website: Unlike some online casinos, 888 is to be commended for including detailed descriptions of each game along with the rules, payouts, and house edge. This is especially important for Live Dealer games, which cannot be played in demo mode. Since players are betting real money from the get-go, not having a basic working knowledge of the game beforehand can result in costly mistakes.
- Lots of flexibility: You have a wide choice of games, all of which can be readily accessed on your PC, Mac, or iOS or Android device.
- Highly experienced online casino operator: Even though the New Jersey site us.888casino.com launched its Live Dealer games later than other sites, its online casino for overseas players has been offering these games for some time, which gives 888 a big edge over those casinos that are brand new to the Live Dealer platform.
- Well-trained, knowledgeable dealers: At 888 Casino, the dealers are far more than just easy on the eyes. They also have “years of experience at the tables They are sufficiently well versed in the games they are dealing to answer virtually all of your questions. If you’re a beginner, they can walk you through the rules of the game and help you place your bet.
- Live chat option: This allows you to interact with the dealer and in some games with the other players, much like you would in a real casino.
- Play when you want and dress however you want: You can see the dealer, but the dealer can’t see you, So dress however you like and play where and when you want, as long as it’s in New Jersey.
If you’re a NJ online casino player looking for a new place to play Live Dealer games, I recommend you check out 888 Online Casino.