Live dealer online casinos allow you to play on real table games from home. You can decide whether to hit, stand or ‘play’ (depending on the game), and have cash added directly to your account if you win. The social element and real gaming experience have seen live dealer casinos grow in popularity – overtaking the old player-vs-software games found at online casino sites.
This page has everything you need to get started with live dealer online casinos. Below you will find detailed information on how live dealer rooms operate – followed by specifics for the most popular games. Live dealer casinos on different devices, pros and cons and the newest games including live dealer slots are also covered.
How do live dealer casino games work?
Live dealer online casino games each have their own rules based on the game type. You play them through the same casino / lottery account (depending on your province) that you use to enjoy online slots and software-based games.
The lobby of a live dealer casino will show the games available. The most popular games are blackjack and roulette – with a choice of games for each. Casino poker variations, baccarat, craps, and slots are also available.
Some games are played one-to-many. This means everyone plays the same hand, deciding on their action (for example fold / play in casino poker) independently. Blackjack requires strategy decisions and is played at 7-seat tables.
To join a game, click on the graphic in the lobby, you will then see the live stream in action. If the game is already underway, you will need to wait for the next spin / hand. A timer, along with chips, then appears over the table – you simply drag and drop the chips on to the felt to place a bet.
Pros and cons of live dealer casinos
Betting and decision points vary by game. There are some significant differences between live dealer casino games and software-based games. Here is what you need to consider:
- Stakes: In the casino lobby you can see which tables are available and the minimum and maximum stakes for each. Minimum bets are bigger than for software-based games. You can choose a bet level which works for your bankroll.
- Use of a Timer: In software-based games, you can act whenever you like. In live dealer casinos, you have a set time to act. This is up to 30 seconds per round. If you time out, your hand could be folded, or you could stand on your current total. If you miss the count down for placing bets, you could see your numbers come up (for example) with no chips in play.
- Repeat / Double Bet: Games have ‘repeat’ or ‘rebet’ buttons. This saves you from needing to place multiple chips (in roulette). If you go on a winning streak, you will also find a ‘double’ button on some games. You can ‘undo’ bets placed in error very quickly.
- Side Bets: In addition to the main game, many live dealer rooms offer side bets. These can pay big prizes for strong poker hands, or for multiple aces in a blackjack game. Keep in mind that these side bets have a bigger house edge in favour of the casino.
- Chat Box: You have the option of displaying a chat box alongside the table. Here you can type messages that the other players and dealer will read. Dealers will reply verbally to your messages. Some live dealer casinos online also display a scrolling list of the nicknames of winners after each hand.
Live dealer blackjack
Blackjack is the most popular table game at casinos around Canada. It offers a balance of luck and strategy – and has a casino low house edge compared to other games.
Live dealer casinos have multiple online blackjack games to choose from. The need to make decisions on whether to hit, stand or double means that every player has their own hand. You will sit at 7-seater tables – mimicking the setup in brick-and-mortar casinos.
There is a wide choice of stakes – starting minimums of $5 are common. Live dealer blackjack uses 8 decks, re-shuffling regularly to prevent card counters getting an advantage. There may be rule variations between casinos, and between games at different stake levels. US rules are the standard, with the dealer peeking at her down-card when an ace or 10-value card shows.
Side bets on live dealer blackjack games include Perfect Pairs (and others). These wagers are optional, giving you a chance at a big win, though having a higher house edge.
Blackjack games at live dealer casinos are slower than other games. The requirement for every player to act before the dealer completed her hand will slow things down. With a fast and friendly table, you could find yourself in a new hand every couple of minutes. Exclusive VIP tables are reserved for higher stakes players.
Live dealer roulette
Roulette is an easy game to learn – and has big rewards if your lucky number hits. Live dealer casinos are perfect for roulette. You drag and drop chips onto a ‘virtual’ felt, then watch the ball spin and drop from a live studio. Your bets are automatically settled by the online casino – and betting is as easy as clicking a button to repeat your favourite layout.
Keep in mind that unlike software-based online roulette games, the wheel will spin without you if you time out. You will get a choice of even money bets, single numbers, or combinations. Playing for lower stakes than in live casinos gives you the perfect opportunity to try out different roulette betting strategies.
If you are given a choice, pick live dealer casinos with European roulette wheels. The single green zero gives you better odds compared to the two zeros of the US wheel.
Variations of roulette in live dealer casinos include those wheels, French rules (for the best possible odds), auto roulette (a wheel only, without a dealer), lightning roulette, and ‘Immersive’ roulette – which features slow motion replays and special effects.
Live dealer baccarat
Baccarat works well in live dealer casino game format. The strategy is simple, and many players can enjoy a single table. This game has a low house edge for the main bets. The dealers handle the complex drawing of cards – leaving you to choose to bet on ‘player’, ‘banker’ or tie.
The main form of baccarat played online follows the Punto Banco or ‘Mini Baccarat’ rules. This allows for quick games, with the timer only in use between hands.
Many live dealer baccarat games have side bets, which offer big multiples of your bet for pairs and other combinations. Keep in mind that both side bets and ‘tie’ bets have a large house edge compared to the main game.
It is the low house edge for the main bets that makes baccarat popular for high rollers. You will find some live dealer online baccarat games where bets in $1000+ units are possible. Most casinos have wagers starting at $5.
Live dealer casino poker games
There are multiple variations of casino poker games available at live dealer online casinos in Canada. What they have in common is that poker hand rankings are used – giving you the opportunity for big wins from a single bet.
These games are played one hand to many players. This means the hand will continue to the end, even if you have folded. This allows players with different strategies to participate. Keep in mind that if you time out before deciding to raise or fold, your hand will be folded. This also applies if you disconnect at the wrong moment.
Here are the most popular live dealer casino poker games:
- Casino Hold’em: This hand uses the flop, turn and river concept familiar to Texas Hold’em fans, and creates a casino game. You are dealt 2 hole-cards and need to make the best poker hand with this and the 5 community cards. Ante wins are boosted based on the strength of your final hand.
- Ultimate Texas Hold’em: The strategy for this variation is complex. You can raise only once per hand. This can be pre-flop, on the flop, or after the river – with smaller bets as the hand progresses. An optional ‘trips’ side bet can pay big money if you get a strong poker hand.
- Three Card Poker: In this game you are dealt three cards and decide whether to play (for an additional bet) or fold. The ‘Pair+’ side bet is considered to be a vital part of the game by players. You will often find an optional 6-card bonus side-bet, which pays big money if you hit a royal flush.
Traditional casino poker games including Caribbean Stud are available at selected live dealer casinos.
New live casino games: craps and slots
Casinos are always innovating, and two games which were not previously available are can now be found at selected live dealer casinos.
Slots have been put into a social format, adding a host, and allowing players to enjoy the same game in parallel. Examples include the Buffalo Blitz slot at PlayTech live dealer casinos. Here the game shows prizes in multiples instead of dollars – allowing for players to bet different stakes and still enjoy the action.
Craps is a new addition to the live dealer line up. You can learn about the different betting rounds – and enjoy multiple side bets based on the roll of two dice.
Is it better to play live dealer games on mobile or desktop?
Both software-based and live dealer casinos give you multiple ways to access the slots and table games. You can enjoy them from desktops, or on your mobile devices. On a desktop, casinos are accessed via your browser – this works for Windows, Mac, and Chromebook systems.
Many casinos have apps, which ensure that the games are optimized for mobile devices and for touch-screen inputs. If your iPhone or Android smartphone has a smaller screen, it can be worth viewing the games before you play. This will ensure you can see the betting surfaces and follow the action well enough before you play for real money.
In addition to the dedicated apps, you can access live dealer games via your web browser on your mobile devices. Keep in mind that a stable network connection is required. This will ensure you don’t disconnect when it is your turn to act – which would result in your hand being folded.
Enjoy live dealer games at provincial sites in Canada
In some cases, you can enjoy live casino gaming offered by provincial gaming organizations. A good example is offered by the British Columbia Lottery Corporation. Sign up to an account at their site and as well as being able to play the lottery, online slots and more, you can also enjoy live casino gaming. The games include blackjack, baccarat, baccarat eSqueeze, live roulette and auto roulette. You will also find live dealer casino games in QC – these are available via the espacejeux portal from Loto Québec.
Difference between online casinos vs. live casinos
Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of playing live dealer casinos over standard online virtual casinos:
- However good the graphics, software-based games just don’t recreate a visit to a casino in the same way that live dealer tables will. By watching the cards dealt in real time, you can be sure that the games you are playing give you a fair chance of a winning streak.
- You get to interact socially when playing at a live dealer casino. You can leave a comment for the host or chat with other players at the table. In games which are dealt one-to-many, everyone will win at the same time. This can lead to an entertaining atmosphere at some tables.
- The speed of the games at a live dealer casino can be slower than a virtual casino. If you want to get as many hands in as possible (for example, when playing blackjack), the virtual casino is your best bet. There are some games, such as Lightning Roulette at the live dealer casino, where the pace of the game is quicker than usual, with more spins per hour than at other variations.
- The minimum stakes at a live dealer casino will be little higher than their virtual alternatives, although the difference between the two has diminished in recent years.
- You need to make sure that you do not time out or forget to act when enjoying live dealer table games. If you are playing against software, you simply pick up where you left off, even if you disconnect. With live dealer games, if you forget to act, your hand will be folded – which could see you miss out on a big win.
Overall, live dealer games are hugely popular. The experience is as close to a real casino as you will find online – and for most players, a lot more fun than simply playing against computer software.
Bonuses at live dealer online casinos
Whenever you sign up to a casino that offers live dealer games, you will get a bonus or promotional offer. Some casinos offer free chips without a deposit, giving you a chance to check out the games. The biggest bonuses come when you make a deposit.
Make sure your casino has a wide selection of ongoing promotions and rewards. If you enjoy the live dealer games at a casino – you will want to make sure they top up your bankroll on a regular basis.
Here are some of the best casino bonuses to look out for at Canadian online casinos:
- A percentage based welcome bonus: This is easily the most popular bonus type for online casinos. After registering you will get a deposit bonus based on the size of your first deposit. Common examples are a 100% deposit matched bonus up to $300. In this case, any deposit up to $300 will effectively be doubled by bonus funds. To clear the bonus, you need to meet a play-through requirement. For example, you might have to play through the deposit and the bonus funds 10x before the funds become withdrawable. Note that live dealer tables are sometimes excluded from play-through or (more commonly) weighted according to the size of the house edge.
- Free spins: Free spins on slot machines can be a great way to win money to take to the live dealer tables. They are offered as an incentive to sign-up, and as a promotion for regular customers. Some casinos offer a small number of free spins with no deposit, then a bigger number if you fund your account.
- No deposit bonus: This type of bonus will give you free chips to try out the games at a casino simply for registering an account. While they are on the small side (up to $25 is common), you never know when an early win might boost your casino bankroll. With a funded account, you can often try your hand at the live dealer games without risking you own money.
- Risk free / Rebate welcome bonus: This form of casino bonus gives you a rebate on any money you lose – usually based on your first 24 hours of play. This is a great way to enjoy live dealer games, with a second chance if you get off to a bad start. Rebates take the form of bonus credits, which will have a play-through requirement.
- Cashback / Loyalty rewards: Casino reward regular players through point accumulation / comp schemes. They vary in complexity, with some casinos having tiered systems offering progressively better rewards. You can swap points you accumulate for bonuses or cash. Other ongoing rewards include reload bonuses, one-off promotions, and double-points specials.
There are big differences between casinos in the number of standing and one-off promotions on offer. Some brands will encourage you to check out their live dealer games by having promotions targeted at those tables.
Wrapping up: getting the best from live dealer casinos in Canada
When you try out live dealer casino games, it quickly becomes obvious why they are becoming more popular than the traditional software-based equivalents. You get to gamble on real games, streamed from a studio in real time. Betting is as easy as dragging and dropping chips onto the felt on your desktop or mobile device.
There are new games, side bets and variations appearing all the time. Live dealer casino staples include blackjack, roulette, baccarat, and casino poker games. Social slots and craps are the latest additions.
For many players, the ability to interact with the dealers and other players makes these games into a social experience. Even if you don’t interact, winning alongside players from all over Canada will make for an entertaining experience.