Since becoming the first online casino in NJ to launch the Live Dealer format in August 2016, Golden Nugget has regularly expanded the hours of operation and number of tables. But this marks the first time that an entirely new game has been added to the lobby.
What is Casino Hold’em?
Casino Hold’em may bare some base similarities to traditional Hold’em, but overall it’s a vastly different game, with the main difference being that in Casino Hold’em, players don’t square off against other opponents, but the house.
The game begins by placing an Ante wager. Then two hole cards are dealt to the player, and another two facedown to the dealer.
Next, three community cards are dealt (the Flop), at which time players can choose to Call or Fold. In order to Call, players must place a bet of double the Ante wager. Fold, and forfeit the Ante wager, effectively ending the round.
Next, the dealer deals out two more community cards, the Turn and the River, after which, the dealer reveals her down cards. The system will then determine both the dealer’s and player’s best five card hands.
From that point, payouts are determined, in accordance with the following rules:
- Should the dealer have a pair of 4s or better (otherwise known as a qualifying hand), but a hand worse than the player’s, the Call bet will pay 1:1 and the Ante wager will pay odds based off the player’s hand strength.
- If the dealer qualifies and beats the player, both the Ante and Call bets are lost.
- In the rare case that the dealer qualifies and ties the player, the Ante and Call bets push.
- If the dealer does not qualify, then the Call bet pushes and the Ante pays out odds based off the player’s hand strength, regardless of who has the better hand.
One of the appeals of the Casino Hold’em resides in the fact that two exact conditions have to be met for players to lose both their Call and Ante bets — the dealer must qualify and have the better hand.
As far as the Ante payout table, it looks like this:
- High Card through Straight: 1-1
- Flush: 2-1
- Full House: 3-1
- Quads: 10-1
- Straight Flush: 20-1
- Royal Flush: 100-1
Don’t (or do) forget the side wager
What would a modern carnival game be without a side bet? Casino Hold’em sticks to the same formula as other Live Dealer games on Golden Nugget by offering players a bonus bet that may not have the lowest house edge, but can return a pretty penny when it hits.
In order for the AA+ Side Bet to pay out, players must make a hand consisting of at least — you guessed it — a pair of Aces by the Flop.
This bet pays out seven units for any hand pair of Aces through a straight, 20 units for a flush, all the way up to 100-to-1 for a Royal Flush. The house edge comes out to 6.26%, which is significantly higher than the house edge on the main game, but still not terrible for a so-called sucker bet.
The Live Dealer advantage
In the case of Casino Hold’em, players can interact with real dealers, who deal out physical playing cards to players in real-time, perfectly simulating live play. However, the game affords players benefits that cannot be found at most land-based casinos, including:
- Low minimums: The lowest minimum bet players will find live is $5 – $10, and it will cost players triple these amounts to ante up and Call. However, online the minimum is just $1 a hand.
- Shared hold cards: The game differs from Casino Hold’em played in land-based casinos in that all players will share hole cards. This opens the door for a theoretically unlimited number of players to be seated at a single table, much in the same way they are for Live Dealer Baccarat.
- Electronically determined outcomes: No waiting on the dealer to calculate and pay out winnings in chips. All wins are handled instantaneously by computer systems.
If there is a drawback to Live Dealer Casino Hold’em it’s that it only runs from 3 p.m. – 3 a.m. daily. Also, the format is not yet available on Betfair Casino, but given that Betfair shares a studio and dealers with Golden Nugget, we presume that it won’t be long before the games run there as well.
Casino Hold’em strategy
We’ve been asked several times about the best strategy for this game. Sadly, achieving the optimal return of 97.84% is going to prove difficult — at least without the assistance of a computer program — as there are just too many permutations of five-card hands to always know the right play.
Luckily, these program do exist and can be used while playing online. They could not be utilized live.
For players who can’t be bothered with programs, we have some general advice:
- Players will want to Call far more often than they think. Statistics indicate that Calling is correct 82% of the time.
- Generally speaking, only fold hands that don’t connect with the board in any way, such as two unpaired singletons where it will be impossible to make a straight or flush by the river.
- One exception to the above rule is when players have two overcards. Even with hands like AK of spades on a 6-7-8 of clubs board it is no worse to Call than to Fold. But A2 of spades on the same board would be a clear fold.
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