Live Dealer Casino Holdem

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A Texas Hold’em poker craze swept the Internet as the new millennium was ushered in. It gained impetus when Chris Moneymaker turned an online satellite win into a multimillion-dollar championship at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) in 2003. That was just about the same time that the very first live dealer gaming platform was being launched by Playtech from its new broadcast studio in Asia.

Because poker is a competition among players, not an attempt to beat the dealer, the format for Texas Hold’em did not really suit the new live dealer interface. As a result, the game was passed over initially. It was not until a single-player version was developed to play against the House that a table could be offered for live dealer play. It was dubbed “Casino Hold’em.”

Like the WSOP Main Event game, Casino Hold’em uses a standard 52-card deck and features five communal cards plus two “hole” cards for each player. The object of the game is to win by creating a five-card poker hand that ranks higher than the dealer’s.

In Casino Hold’em, there are just two rounds of wagering, the “Ante” and the “Call.” No raises or checks are allowed. The only decision required is to fold or stay in the hand after the “Flop.” Winning bets pay even money, and there is an “Ante Bonus” for premium hands. A Royal Flush, for example, pays 100-to-1 on the Ante.

Another unique facet of Casino Hold’em is that the dealer’s best possible five-card hand must contain a pair of fours or better to “qualify.” If the hand does not qualify, all Ante bets win at least 1-to-1 odds, while the Call bets are returned as a “push,” no winner.

Soon after Playtech launched its live dealer studio in Riga, Latvia in 2009, Casino Hold’em was introduced at a table that could accommodate multiple participants, much like Blackjack. Among the first casinos to subscribe to Playtech’s Euro Studio in 2010 were William Hill, Euro Grand and bet365.

Although the game met with some initial success owing to its novelty, it has since proved to be more of an attraction for occasional table games players than for serious poker enthusiasts. To date, none of the other major providers of live streaming video feed have replicated the game, so Playtech holds a virtual monopoly on live dealer Casino Hold’em.

Instead, the trend has been turning toward ways of converting current online poker rooms that rely on Random Number Generator (RNG) software into a form of “real” Texas Hold’em. A pioneer of this platform has been 888 Poker. Instead of a live dealer, they use the RNG to deal virtual cards, the same as in virtual poker rooms. The twist has been to turn the webcams on the players, allowing them to see their competitors—a step toward full-fledged interactive poker.

Taking this concept a step further was the introduction of two-way webcam poker with a live dealer at the Italian-nuanced web site called “Casino Espresso.” The site hired actual human dealers for live streaming from the Casinò di Venezia Malta. Among the platform’s capabilities are Texas Hold’em tournaments and cash tables, Sit & Go, Free Rolls and Omaha ring games.

Meanwhile, Playtech’s Casino Hold’em remains the gold standard for those who seek a poker-type table game that can be played against a live dealer. At bet365, wagers of €1~€50 per hand are permitted. Players may use a chat function to send text messages directly to the dealer, who responds verbally via high quality audio and video. It provides a very personal experience—the human touch that seems missing from RNG versions of poker online.

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