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The Greatest Gambling Guide to Live Holdem Online

Texas Hold’em is now the most popular variant of poker in the world.  It wasn’t until the last 15 years that it had much public traction.  For a long time it was a favorite of professional players and seasoned gamblers in Las Vegas but had little awareness outside of this ecosystem.  That’s changed and most everyone has at least a passing familiarity with the game devotees call ‘The Cadillac of Poker’.  Poker players are fond of saying that Texas Hold’em takes ‘just a few minutes to learn but a lifetime to master’.  For casino players who want to enjoy a similar experience without the learning curve there’s now a game with many of the same concepts as Texas Hold’em available on the casino floor.

Casino Hold’em has become a popular attraction at land based, online and live dealer casinos.  It’s almost reached the point where you can expect to find it in every casino.  It’s not quite reached the popularity level of blackjack but no matter where and how you want to play you won’t have much trouble finding it.  In reality, the game only bears a superficial resemblance to the Texas Hold’em you find in the poker room.  Unlike that version, Casino Hold’em matches players against the dealer—and not each other.  The good news is that you don’t need to understand much about Texas Hold’em or even know the rules to enjoy Casino Hold’em.

The Fundamentals

Casino Hold’em actually began as a training tool for professional poker players.  Over time, it morphed into a casino game and was launched in 2000 first appearing in Eastern Europe and South Africa.  It made its initial North American appearance at the World Gaming Congress Expo in Las Vegas in 2001 but it would be several more years before it was approved for play in Nevada.  Nevada approved the game in 2006 while it was approved in the UK in 2007.  Since then it has become very popular and is now played in over 100 land based casinos and in excess of 1000 online and live dealer casinos.

Since Casino Hold’em has only tangential similarity with the Texas Hold’em game you’ll find in the poker room we’ll give you only the information you need to know.  Some familiarity with poker and specifically Texas Hold’em never hurts but even if you’re a rank newcomer you can learn and enjoy Casino Hold’em very quickly.

Poker Hand Rankings

Before we turn to the Casino Hold’em game itself you’ll need to understand the various poker hands and how they are ranked.  We’ll list the hands in descending order of value and go from the strongest to the weakest hand.

Royal Flush

A royal flush is the strongest possible poker hand.  It consists of the Ace, King, Queen, Jack and Ten in the same suit. 

Straight Flush

A straight flush is any other group of five cards in sequence in the same suit.  As noted above a hand of A-K-Q-J-10 of the same suit is a royal flush.  Any other sequence of five cards in the same suit is considered a straight flush.

Four Of A Kind

Four cards of the same rank such as four queens or four tens.  The fifth card is called the ‘kicker’ and is used as a tiebreaker in some poker game variants.

Full House

A full house is a three of a kind and a pair.  Suits don’t matter.  For example, 10-10-10-5-5 would be a full house. 


Five cards from the same suit such as five hearts or five diamonds regardless of value.  While suited cards of any rank can make up a flush the highest card in the hand is considered the ‘tiebreaker’ in the event that more than one player has a flush.  In other words, a hand with the K-10-7-6-3 of diamonds would beat a hand with Q-9-8-4-3 of clubs.


Five cards in sequence though not of the same suit.  As noted above, if five sequential cards are from the same suit they’re called a straight flush.  Once again, the high card is used as a tiebreaker.  For example, a straight of Q-J-10-9-8 would beat a straight of 9-8-7-6-5. 

Three Of A Kind

Three cards of the same rank regardless of suit.  For example, a hand with the eight of clubs, eight of diamonds and eight of hearts would be a three of a kind.

Two Pair

Two pairs of different ranks irrespective of suit.


Two cards of the same rank irrespective of suit.

High Card

When none of the players at a table have any of the above referenced hands the outcome of the pot is determined by the player holding the highest rank card.

Texas Hold’em 101

We’re not going to get too far in depth with the poker room version of Texas Hold’em since it isn’t necessary to play or enjoy Casino Hold’em.  What we will do is explain the common characteristic between the two games.  The information below is all you need to know about Texas Hold’em to enjoy the game of Casino Hold’em.

Hole Cards

The game begins with two cards dealt face down to each player.  These are known as the ‘hole cards’. 

Community Cards/The Flop

After each player has received their hole cards the dealer proceeds to deal three cards face up in the center of the table.  These cards are known as ‘community cards’.  The object of the game is to make the best five card poker hand with the two hole cards and the community cards.  The player with the best hand wins the game.  In Texas Hold’em there are betting rounds after the flop and before each of two more cards are dealt.

Community Cards/The Turn

The fourth card dealt face up in the center of the table is known as ‘the turn’ or alternately ‘fourth street’.  In Texas Hold’em, a betting round is held before and after ‘the turn’. 

Community Cards/The River

The final card dealt in Texas Hold’em is called ‘The River’.  Once it has been dealt there each player will make their best hand from a total of 7 cards consisting of their two ‘hole cards’ and the five ‘community cards’.  A major difference between the way the cards are dealt in Texas Hold’em and Casino Hold’em is that in the Casino Hold’em variant the five cards are dealt in two steps with the flop followed by the dealing of the final two cards.

Casino Hold’em Basics

The fundamental objective of Casino Hold’em is very simple:  to beat the dealer’s hand with a better poker hand.  In addition, there are several bonus bets and rules that we’ll get into later in this article.  Keep in mind that you’re only playing against the dealer and not the other players.  There will likely be multiple players at your Casino Hold’em table but they’ll all be playing against the dealer as well.  The game is played with a standard 52 card casino deck that is shuffled after every game.  You will be trying to make the best five card poker hand from your two hole cards and the five community cards in the middle of the table.


Ante And Opening Deal

We’ll start by going through a typical round of Casino Hold’em.  After that, we’ll go over everything and break down the process in detail.  To begin a Casino Hold’em game you place an ante bet.  After all bets have been made the dealer will give each player two cards face down.  He’ll then deal himself two cards face down. If you’re playing at an online casino you might encounter a ‘head to head’ Casino Hold’em variation where you’ll play alone against a computer dealer.  In this case, you’ll place your ante and then hit the ‘Deal’ button to get your cards.  At a land based casino or a live dealer casino all you need to do is place your bet and wait for the dealer.

The AA Bet

You have the option to make a bonus bet prior to your deal and it’s usually a good idea to do so.  The ‘AA’ bet will have it’s own circle near the ‘Ante’ betting box.  To play the ‘AA’ bet you place an amount equal to your ante in this space.  Note that the AA bet is based *only* on your hole cards and the flop (first three community cards). We’ll talk about how the AA bet is graded later in this article.

The Flop And Playing Your Hand

After betting at the table is complete and each player has received their two hole cards the dealer will begin to deal the community cards with ‘the flop’.  He’ll deal three cards in the middle of the table face up.  If you’ve bet the ‘AA’ bet you’ll see if you’ve won or lost at this point though most casinos including online software based casinos won’t pay this wager until the end of the hand. 

You now have a decision to make.  You can decide to proceed with the hand or fold.  If you want to fold you can toss your cards on the table and the dealer will take your bet.  At an online or live dealer casino you’ll have to press the ‘fold’ button on the screen.  If you want to proceed with the hand you will have to ‘raise’ or ‘call’.  Note that these are the same thing for purposes of Casino Hold’em but some casinos call the second round of betting the ‘raise’ while others refer to it as the ‘call’.  In a poker room Texas Hold’em game these are completely different things for in Casino Hold’em they’re identical.  In this guide we’ll refer to this bet as the ‘Call’ bet but keep in mind that you might find yourself at a casino that calls it the ‘Raise’ bet yet it is an identical bet.

Call/Raise And The River

If you decide to continue your hand you will need to make a call bet.  That requires placing 2X your original bet in the circle marked ‘call’ (or ‘raise).  For example, if your ante was $25 your call bet will be $50.  At this point, the dealer will deal the two remaining community cards face up in the middle of the table (called ‘The River’ in Texas Hold’em).  Your hand will consist of your two hole cards and the three community cards that give you the highest ranking five card poker hand.  At this point, the dealer will flip over his cards and the players flip over their cards.  The hands are compared and winning bets paid.

Grading The Ante And Call Bets

If your hand is better than the dealer’s hand you’re a winner.   You’ll be paid based on the Ante Payoff table that will be on the game felt, your wagering screen or some other easy to read location:


ROYAL FLUSH                                            100 to 1
STRAIGHT FLUSH                          20 to 1
FOUR OF A KIND                             10 to 1
FULL HOUSE                                                3 to 1
FLUSH                                                                       2 to 1
STRAIGHT OR LOWER                  1 to 1

The payoff on your ante bet is determined by this chart.  Any hand that beats the dealer’s hand will be paid at at least even money.  Also, if the dealer does not have a ‘qualifying hand’ (which we’ll explain in a moment) you also win. If you beat the dealer with a flush or better you get paid more based on the strength of the hand.  For example, if you bet $25 in the ‘Ante’ circle and beat the dealer with a full house you’ll get your $25 ante bet back plus $75 ($25 at 3 to 1) for the full house.

The call/raise bet is graded somewhat differently.  To win this bet the dealer must have a ‘qualifying hand’ of a pair of 4’s or higher.  This will be marked clearly on the game felt or betting screen but it’s a good idea to commit to memory.  The ante bet is paid as described above regardless of whether the dealer has a qualifying hand.  If the dealer has a ‘qualifying hand’ of 4-4 or higher your ante bet will be paid off at even money.  If the dealer doesn’t have a qualifying hand the call/raise bet is a push and will be returned.  If you’ve played some other casino card games such as Caribbean Stud Poker you’ll be very familiar with the concept of a qualifying hand but otherwise it might take a while to wrap your head around it.  Here’s a couple more examples:

Let’s return to your previous hand where we’ve beaten the dealer with a full house.  Here are the two scenarios:

DEALER QUALIFIES WITH PAIR OF 4’s OR HIGHER:  If the dealer has a qualifying hand we’ll get our $25 ante back plus $75 win ($25 x 3 to 1).  We’ll also get our $50 call/raise bet returned plus a $50 profit on this bet.  All told, we’ll get back $200 with $125 of this profit.

DEALER DOES NOT HAVE A QUALIFYING HAND:  If the dealer does NOT have a qualifying hand we’ll get our $25 ante back plus $75 win ($25 x 3 to 1).  We’ll also get our $50 call/raise bet returned and this bet will be graded a ‘push’.

If the dealer’s hand is better than yours you’ll lose both the ante bet and the call/raise bet.  If the dealer qualifies and your hands are equal it is a ‘push’ and the ante and call bets are returned.

Grading The AA Bet

Now we’ll return to the ‘AA Bet’ (or bonus bet).  Remember that we said this bet is based on the result of your two hole cards and the flop (first three community cards).  Note that this bet is based exclusively on the five card hand made from these cards and operates independently of the other bets.  This means that if you have a winning ‘AA Bet’ you’ll still get paid on that even if you end up losing the hand itself.  To win the AA Bet you must have a pair of aces or higher from the first five cards dealt (your two hole cards and the first three community cards)

Winning AA Bets are also paid according to a table that will be on the layout felt, your betting screen or some other place where it’s easy to see:


ROYAL FLUSH                                                                     100 to 1
STRAIGHT FLUSH                                                  50 to 1
FOUR OF A KIND                                                     40 to 1
FULL HOUSE                                                                        30 to 1
FLUSH                                                                                               20 to 1
PAIR OF ACES TO STRAIGHT                   7 to 1

This will make more sense with a couple of examples.  Back to our previous winning full house hand.  Let’s assume that you were dealt the following hole cards:


and the flop comes


and the river comes


You’ll have a full house but your winning AA hand will be 7 to 1 since you only had two pairs after the first five cards were dealt.  That’s still a nice 7 to 1 payoff.

Now an alternate scenario:

Your hole cards:


and the flop comes


In this case you’ll also win your AA bet and will be paid 30-1.

Now our final scenario:

Your hole cards:


the flop comes:


and the river comes:


You still end up with a full house but you’ll lose your AA bet because you only had a pair of Jacks after the first five dealt cards.

Many beginning players get confused immediately since every Casino Hold’em bet is determined using different criteria.  You can win the hand and lose the AA bet or vice versa.  The important thing to remember is that these are three separate bets and aren’t necessarily correlated.

Putting It All Together

So now that we know how the game is paid and the various bets let’s look at some scenarios considering all three bets.


Your hole cards:


the flop comes:


and the river comes:


This gives you a solid hand—a J-J-J-K-K  full house.  But let’s say the dealer flips over:


That gives him a four of a kind to your full house!  Since you had only a pair of jacks after the first five cards you lose all three bets.


Your hole cards:


the flop comes:


and the river comes:


This gives you another solid hand, in this case—a K-K-K-J-J  full house.  This time let’s say the dealer flips over:


The dealer has a three of kind to your full house.  You win your ante bet and since he had a ‘qualifying hand’ you also win your call bet.  The AA bet is a winner since you had a K-K-J-J-5 two pairs after the flop.  Here’s how you’ll be paid:




The dealer will pay you a total of $400 of which $300 is profit since you made $75 on the ante bet, $50 on the call bet and $175 on the AA bet.


Your hole cards:


the flop comes:


and the river comes:


This gives you another solid hand, in this case—a K-K-K-J-J  full house.  This time let’s say the dealer flips over:


As in the first example, the dealer has four of a kind to your full house.  This time, however, since you had a full house after the first five cards you win the AA bet despite losing the ante and call bets.




The dealer will pay you a total of $700 of which $625 is profit.  You lost a total of $75 on the ante and call bets but won $750 on the AA bet ($25 x 30 to 1).  You also received your original $25 AA stake back for a total of $700.


The information above is based on the most common set of rules and pay tables. You might see a casino offering a different pay table from time to time.  You’re much more likely to find an outlier pay table at an online software based casino than at a land based or live dealer casino.  In addition, you might see a different AA pay table occasionally.  One variation of the AA table adds some uniformity to the payouts by paying out every hand flush or higher at the same price:


ROYAL FLUSH                                                                     25 to 1
STRAIGHT FLUSH                                                  25 to 1
FOUR OF A KIND                                                     25 to 1
FULL HOUSE                                                                        25 to 1
FLUSH                                                                                               25 to 1
PAIR OF ACES TO STRAIGHT                   7 to 1

The bottom payout is identical but notice how you’re getting a raw deal despite the improved flush payout (25 to 1 versus 20 to 1).  Every other hand above the flush gets paid at a lower rate, and the top hands get paid at a significantly lower rate.  This variation also significantly increases the house edge making it more difficult to leave the table with a profit.

Another variation that you might see involves a progressive jackpot.  This pays a scaled progressive jackpot on any full house or higher based on the following table:


ROYAL FLUSH                                                                     JACKPOT
STRAIGHT FLUSH                                                  10% OF JACKPOT
FOUR OF A KIND                                                     $100
FULL HOUSE                                                                        $10

The most common rule governing the progressive jackpot is that it is paid based on the 7 cards dealt (2 hole cards, 5 community cards).  This means that like the AA bet you can win the jackpot even if you don’t win the hand.  In theory, you’d receive the jackpot even if you folded but on a practical level no one would be folding a full house that early in the game.  

There have been a few other progressive jackpot formats that have been used with Casino Hold’em.  One interesting format paid a bonus on any hand straight through straight flush.  Where it gets interesting is the way the top jackpots are paid—for a six card straight flush the jackpot is $5000 while a 7 card straight flush wins the progressive jackpot.

In many ways, a progressive jackpot in Casino Hold’em should be viewed the same way as a video poker progressive jackpot in terms of strategy.  For example, in the format outlined above the jackpot would represent positive EV (expected value) when it reached just over $9,500.  If you’re playing with other players the expected return goes down a bit since there will be plenty of circumstances where the jackpot will be split.

House Edge And Strategy

House Edge

Like any casino game the house edge in Casino Hold’em is dependent on the rule set and payout tables used.  Based on the most common rules and payouts outlined in this article the house edge is roughly 2.5%.  Occasionally, a casino might use a different ante pay table that returns a higher payout for certain hands.  This might be done as a short term promotion or in the long term.  If this is done, the house edge can range from 2% to 3% depending on the rules.  This is a tough game to have a ‘one size fits all’ strategy for (as we’ll discuss below) but if a player implements an effective strategy he can lower the house edge to somewhere between 1.95% and 2.45%. 


Unlike blackjack where it’s easy to quantify a ‘basic strategy’ it isn’t possible in Casino Hold’em.  It has to factor a number of different variables including pay tables, hole cards and community flop.  There are some general guidelines that can help you play effectively.  Comparatively speaking, you want to raise/call the majority of the time unlike poker room Texas Hold’em.  In Texas Hold’em, you’ll fold most hands and be very selective.  In Casino Hold’em you want to do the opposite.  Analysis of several different strategies suggests that a player should raise/call somewhere between 80% and 85% of the time.  In other words, you should be folding only 15% to 20% of the time.  When you flop is essentially a ‘judgment call’–if you have a low single card and the ‘outs’ you have to make a flush or straight are minimal to non existent.   Based on this concept, you should call/raise if you have a single face card or higher.  There may be exceptions based on an unfavorable flop but this is a good general guideline.

The AA bet has a house edge slightly higher than 2.5% assuming that the casino is using the most common pay table.  Since this is a separate bet and not corrolated with the outcome of the hand playing it or not playing it won’t significantly impact your overall house edge.  Personally, I’d suggest playing it since it allows you to maximize your return in the event you pull an exceptional hand but it doesn’t reduce your overall house edge significantly.