It’s arguably the best loved and most well known poker variant in the Western world, so it’s no surprise to see the live casino sector try to capitalise on its’ popularity.
This is specifically a guide to playing in a live casino rather than an in depth look at the rules of the game, so if that’s what you are looking for you can see our main game guide here.
If you have played Texas Hold’em before in real life, either among friends or at a gambling establishment, you will probably find the live casino version to be more like Texas Hold’em Light.
This is for a few reasons, and the obvious one is that you are only playing against one other person, the dealer. You can’t see the other players even if you were betting against them so bluffing and tactics don’t apply here.
When comparing the difference between real life casino games and their live casino counterparts, Hold’em has probably seen more changes to the way it is played than most.
How Live Hold’em Works
When you first see the interface the dealer may well be mid game, but when they reset it will look something like the image above. All providers are slightly different, but they all follow a similar blueprint.
You can choose your stake amount by clicking the appropriate chip value when the option appears and then clicking the ‘ante’ area of the table. You can place more than one chip if you want to increase the bet without switching chip value.
Betting time is short, so if you want to play you need to act fairly quickly, and remember that the initial stake is not the only cost with this game, it actually takes a minimum of three betting units to play a full hand.
The version we are playing here is Evolution Gaming’s Casino Hold ‘Em, which also has a few side bets. Ignore them for now and we will touch on them later.
We will run through an example hand to explain each step.
Casino Hold’em Example
This example is a game of Casino Hold’em, which is a much simpler version of the game so while it is suitable for anyone, it is especially good for beginners.
We have bet £0.50 and bets have closed, so we are just waiting for the game to begin.
We could have also placed side bets at this stage but chose not to, so those options are now closed to us for this hand.
Now we have received our cards as well as being able to see the first 3 community cards. The dealer has their cards too and this was all done in a single deal.
We now have to make our only choice of the game:
If we fold the game is over for us and we lose our bet. However, since there are many other players who may choose to ‘play’ the game will continue. The dealer will never fold regardless of their hand.
If we fancy our chances and want to continue then we have to place a ‘play’ bet which is 2x our initial stake.
As you can see, the decisions other players have made are displayed as a percentage. We have a bad hand so are going to fold on this one, but we can move on to a hand that we do want to play.
You can see above that we have an extra chip worth £1.00 on the ‘play’ area of the board.
This is because we chose to play this hand so have now staked 3 betting units totalling £1.50.
Next, the remaining 2 community cards are dealt (at the same time) so that we can see what our strongest hand is, if we have one at all.
Immediately after this the dealer will turn over their hand and whoever’s is strongest wins the game.
In this instance, the dealer’s pair of Aces beats our pair of sixes so we lose.
Each card is chipped which is why you might notice the dealer sliding them over what looks like a barcode scanner as they are dealt from the shoe. This is how the interface knows which cards are on the table and where they are. It can then work out who’s hand is strongest and knows who to pay and how much – it also means the interface can provide the graphical representation of your best hand.
At the end of the game the dealer will remove the deck, place it in an empty shuffling machine (or pass it to a live shuffler if there is one), before replacing it with a freshly shuffled deck for the next game.
This means each game uses a freshly shuffled single deck of cards.
Instead of playing for a pot like you might in a regular game of Hold’em, the live casino version has set payouts depending on the situation.
These are slightly different depending on which variation of the game that you play, but for Evolution’s Casino Hold‘em they are split into two; the payout for the ante bet, and the payout for the play bet.
You also have to consider whether or not the dealer qualifies. If you look back at our example images you will see the table rules read that the dealer qualifies when they have a pair of 4s or better.
Where the table shows ‘Win*’ the payout for that win depends on the strength of the winning hand:
|4 of a Kind
|3 of a Kind
|1 Pair or Less
This payout system means that live casino Hold’em can also be given a return to player percentage which wouldn’t be possible in a real life game.
This version of the game comes with two side bets, but there are other game styles that come with their own side bets too.
This particular game has the Bonus side bet and the Jumbo Jackpot side bet. Basically you can bet an extra stake on each hand that a certain combination of cards will show up, and if that happens you can get a hugely increased payout.
Side bets are seen a lot in blackjack and is essentially the same concept here. The Bonus side bet applies to the first 5 cards dealt and pays out if it contains a pair of Aces or better, the Jumbo Jackpot side bet pays out based on the player’s hand and the community cards only (not the dealers).
You can see from the image on the right that this one is potentially huge, but you would need to have a bet on the exact hand where this extremely unlikely event happened in order to win it.
Other live casino Hold’em variations from Evolution include:
- 2 Hand Casino Hold’em
- Ultimate Texas Hold’em
- Texas Hold’em Bonus
Texas Hold’em Bonus is a little more like the traditional version of the game in that it has more betting rounds (the turn and the flop), so more experienced players with bigger bankrolls might prefer this one.
Ultimate Texas Hold’em is similar but includes the option to check, whereas 2 Hand Casino Hold’em is the same game we have just demonstrated but the player can bet on two hands at once plus side bets.
There are other variations from other developers too, and they will all come with their own slightly modified rules, side bets, and gameplay options, but essentially all live casino Hold’em games are run using the same basic layout and structure.
What is the Difference Between Live and RNG Poker?
It may well seem redundant to point out that an RNG version of the game is run by a computer engine rather than by a real life dealer, but since some gamblers don’t trust RNG based games it is a real consideration.
The other aspect that live Hold’em has in common with all other live games is that the speed of play is dictated by the dealer and the automated countdown. When playing an RNG based game you can take things at your own pace, you can even go and make a coffee half way through a hand if you like; if you did that during a live casino game then your decisions would be made by default.
The live casino version is a good option if you are wanting to learn the game before playing in person for real though, as the interface not only handles the results instantly but keeps the player updated on the strength of their hand.
For example, it will highlight the best hand you have at any point during the game which allows you to quickly work out which hands are stronger than others and how they are formed. You can then make better decisions as to when to fold and when to play, and this is the only real decision you need to make. It eases you in slowly to making choices under pressure and trying to work out what the other player might be holding, which is a very real part of the game when playing in person.
There is also a social element to live casino which you don’t get with RNG based games, since you can chat to other players and the dealer using the chat box.