There was a time where playing online casino games from your home was considered the pinnacle of gambling technology.
How times have changed, as now online casino players can watch their favourite games take place while interacting with the dealer and other players thanks to live casino games.
Live casino games have become popular with the sceptics among us who still believe that casino software is fixed (it's not by the way). For them, watching the game take place with real people proves that the games are fair and random.
Here we aim to take you through the best live casino games around and tell you what to expect. Unlike other online casino games, you can't play most live casino games for free so be sure to have a good read through the guide before you risk your hard earned money.
As always, the precise list of what makes a 'good' live casino depends on your personal taste, but there are a few factors you might want to keep in mind as the main things that can make a difference.
How fast does the game progress, and are you happy with that? In particular, consider how long you have to wait between plays when seated at a fairly empty table, and at a fairly full one.
A good live casino should feel comfortable no matter if you're the only seated player, or one of many; and you might also be keen to make sure the dealer gives you an equal amount of attention in either situation, too.
The pace of play might be influenced by, among other things:
The amount you can bet is likely to play a big part in determining how happy you are with your experience - and that means how little, as well as how much, you can stake.
If you're new to the game, or have an especially conservative staking style, you might prefer to look out for tables that allow particularly low wagers, and build from there towards higher-stakes games.
How does the site look? A visually appealing site is important for live casino gaming, so make sure the video stream is clear, but also that the computer-generated (CG) graphics make it easy to keep track of each hand.
Most sites will offer at least some form of customisation, often a choice between a 'virtual' table that places the video stream front-and-centre where a real-world dealer would be, and an alternative view that more closely resembles other online gaming rooms, but with the video stream included in a corner of the screen.
Look out for:
Can you watch other players as they play their hands - not on camera, of course (although certain sites may ultimately begin to offer this), but on the CG part of the screen?
Being able to see other players' cards and bets might influence your own staking style, and even if you're not planning on trying to count cards, it will at least give you something to watch whilst awaiting your own next turn.
Playing in several live casino rooms at the same time can be more challenging than keeping track of several RNG (random number generator) games, but if you're keen to try, you'll need to make sure you're registered to a site that allows you to sit at multiple live-dealer tables at once.
This leads back to the question of pace of play - is there long enough between hands to switch to another table and back again? Do you get long enough to make your play that it would not be a disaster if your hand came around on two tables at once?
We're not going to go into full reviews of individual platforms here, but remember that not all live-dealer rooms are powered in the same way, and finding a provider you like is an excellent starting point. In particular, some operators have live dealers based within the UK, while others may be elsewhere in Europe or even further afield than that.
You can usually communicate with the dealer in one way or another, but look out for platforms that give you plenty of options - from simple instant text messaging, to other methods, potentially including voice and video chat if you have a microphone or webcam.
There are several companies now running live-dealer games, so preview several if you can, and find one you like - and remember, their platform may be available via several different online casino sites, so treat the casino you play at, and the live-dealer platform you use, as two different considerations.
Most online live casinos are based in custom-made studios, with a large number of tables in one or more large rooms somewhere in the UK, Europe or elsewhere in the world, and a dealer for each table.
However, you may also see 'live casino' games that are associated with televised broadcasts - in these cases, you'll usually get a video stream online that matches what you would see if you tuned to the appropriate television channel.
You can place bets online, or via the television broadcast (typically using a telephone number, for example) and all wagers will be counted together.
Most people will have seen late-night live-host roulette, which is broadcast on terrestrial television channels in the UK, and is generally supported by online casinos operated by the same brand, which allow you to bet on the same game you see on your TV.
A small number of online casinos may also allow you to wager on the outcome of real-world casino games, with a video stream showing you a table in a bricks-and-mortar casino somewhere, which 'real' casino gamblers can also stake on.