Behind the scenes look at live dealer blackjack technologies.
I’ve spent a good deal of time addressing the rise of live casino gaming, reviewing major live dealer operators, and delving into more intricate topics relating to this unique gambling vertical. Today, we’re going to take a closer look at how these operations do what they do. Not from an interactive web-based perspective, but rather from within the studios that broadcast them.
Most people think of a live casino as a
cheaper, seat-free version of a land-based casino, or a more
aesthetically appealing rendition of standard online casino games.
Neither is the case. Live casinos are not cheap, nor do they come
anywhere close to providing the same experience as an online casino.
They are, in fact, extremely calculated endeavors that require a
hefty investment to run, and therefore a high price for internet
casino operators to acquire a license for and pass on to their
When a successful product comes to fruition,
it’s all worth it in the end, but the high-tech power behind live
casinos is far more complicated than most ever take the time to
Close-Up: Live Dealer Blackjack Technologies
Think of a live casino studio like a news
broadcasting station. You need a few professionally trained and
well-groomed people to deliver the news to the viewers at home. This
is all the viewers really see. What they don’t see are the
teleprompters that relay the news read by the news anchors; the
high-tech cameras aimed at them, capturing their every movement; the
microphones perfectly positioned to pick up a broadcaster’s voice
with crystal clarity.
This is the exact same situation that goes on
within a live casino studio, except that they aren’t relaying the
news. They are conducting live dealer blackjack, baccarat, roulette,
casino hold’em, sicbo, and whatever other games their studio provides
to players at home.
The dealers and croupiers are professionally
trained to perform their skillful duties without ever letting on to
the audience at home that they’re reading an information screen while
looking into a camera, instead of each player’s eyes. A card game
dealer must position themselves and the cards they deal just so,
allowing the sophisticated technology around them to do its job.
Let’s take a look at what some of that
equipment is, and its purpose in the production of live dealer table
Obviously, in order to broadcast the action at
the tables, there must be at least one video camera aimed at it. The
quality of a camera will determine what video resolution(s) the end
user is able to view the game in. The cheapest variety are destined
to appear only in low-resolution, such as 480p or 720p at best. The
higher the quality of the camera, the higher the resolution (from
1080 up to 4k), therefore the clearer the image on the viewer’s
Many studios will employ multiple cameras at
some of their tables, especially roulette. One camera is generally
trained on the roulette wheel from an aerial perspective. Another
will be aimed at the croupier and wheel.
In more engaging titles, like Evolution’s
Immersive Roulette, a series of hi-def cameras are installed from
multiple angles. Each time the wheel is spun, players are entranced
by a series of stationary and mobile camera angles, presented in a
mixture of real-time and slow-motion action that genuinely captivates
The microphones employed by live dealer studios
may look like the same tiny, easily-hidden clip-on mics used by the
average at-home vlogger. In some cases, they may be. But major
studios spend a lot more money on these tiny microphones to ensure
they deliver clean sound while buffering out any white noise.
I’ve no doubt some live operators set up the
old-style boom-mics overhead, but most have upgraded to the smaller
line of audio equipment, if for no other reason than to avoid those
big, fluffy mics accidentally appearing in a camera shot.
Optical Character Recognition (OCR)
One of the most important pieces of technology
involved in live dealer gaming is a sophisticated camera lens that
performs Optical Character Recognition, or OCR for short. OCR
is capable of interpreting a wealth of information and relaying it to
another piece of equipment known as the GCU (see below).
Think of an OCR as a highly complex speech-to-text program. It turn spoken words into written text, and is also capable of things like observing and converting real-time sign language into written and spoken text.
Such technology is highly valuable to the live
gaming sector. A dealer can make a hand motion that the OCR
interprets as a message, then displays that message on the screen of
each player at home. A wave of the hand over the center of the table
can translate to “no more bets”. The dealer will also say this
out loud (assuming the casino utilizes dealer audio – not all of
them do), but for players who cannot hear, or who have their volume
turned down, the message is displayed textually, too.
OCR is also the technology that reads the cards. If you’ve ever noticed the cards in a live game being over-sized, anywhere from 1.5x to 4x standard size, it is intentional. The enlargement helps both players and the OCR to recognize them without err.
These cards also contain a bar-code, similar to
the bar-codes scanned by a grocery store clerk when you go shopping.
These bar-codes are read by the OCR to determine exactly what card
has been turned. Which brings us to the…
Game Control Unit (GCU)
The Game Control Unit (GCU) is only about the
size of a shoe box, yet it is perhaps the most important piece of
equipment at the table. The GCU is the complex computer system that
receives and translates information from all sides of the game. It
interprets information from the OCR and provides it to the players.
At the same time, it collects the information from players and sends
it to the dealer’s prompt monitor (see below).
As an example, the GCU, in tandem with the OCR,
is what displays a player’s cards when they cannot be turned face up,
as is the case in PvP style live poker games. An OCR sensor in the
table reads the bard-codes of all face-down cards that are slid over
it, then relays that information to the GCU. In this way, players at
home can see their cards without them being revealed to anyone else.
Televised poker broadcasts like the WSOP use the same technology in
their tables to show the audience at home each player’s hole cards.
Dealer Prompt Monitor
I’m honestly not sure what to call this
particular piece of equipment. It is, in essence, the same as a
teleprompter used by live television news stations. But this one is
built specifically to relay information to the dealer, who must
quickly absorb and use this info to keep the games moving without the
players even realizing it’s happening.
For instance, at a live dealer blackjack table,
the decisions of the currently acting player are displayed on this
screen. The dealer will immediately react to the information the
screen by splitting or hitting the hand if called for, or closing the
hand and moving on to the next player. In addition to this, the
dealer will see the usernames of all new players who take a seat at
the virtual table, welcoming new comers to the game. If live text
chat is available, the dealer can communicate with the players as
well, responding to questions and comments as they come in.
No doubt, the more information the dealer is
required to observe and respond to, the more difficult their job
becomes. It really makes you appreciate the level of professionalism
required to work at some of the industry’s top-rated live dealer
Card Tables & Roulette Wheels
If you’ve been paying attention so far, no
doubt you realize that a live casino studio cannot possibly utilize
the same basic tables and wheels found in most bricks-and-mortar
casinos. Most of the tables are embedded with high-tech OCR lenses.
The roulette wheels are built with special sensors that detect the
winning number and relay that information to the GCU, which sends it
to the dealer’s prompt monitor and the users at home.
Live Casino Technology Doesn’t Come Cheap…
As you can imagine, the cost of live dealer
blackjack technology adds up quickly. The exact cost of a single
table is hard to pin-point since the quality of video, audio and
table equipment can vary so widely. But let’s remember that it’s not
about setting up a single table, or even 3-5 tables and wheels. It’s
about investing in an entire studio warehouse worth of tables and
wheels. It’s about upgrading those tables each time better technology
comes along in an effort to stay ahead of the competition. After all,
if you’re not leading the pack, you’re trailing it, and there’s no
prize for stragglers.
is our jack of all trades here at DBC. She is a skilled coder, gambler, writer and webmaster. She lives in Manitoba where she enjoys the lush landscapes and camping near Tulabi Falls. Nature gives her inspiration to write. When she's not immersed in nature, her favorite words are "game theory". She lives with her husband and their two Labradors, Kophy and Whisper.
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Adalene Lucas: is our jack of all trades here at DBC. She is a skilled coder, gambler, writer and webmaster. She lives in Manitoba where she enjoys the lush landscapes and camping near Tulabi Falls. Nature gives her inspiration to write. When she's not immersed in nature, her favorite words are "game theory". She lives with her husband and their two Labradors, Kophy and Whisper.