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HoGaming Live Dealer (Amaya)

Over the last few years, Amaya has risen to become one of the biggest and most important names in the online gambling industry. This is primarily due to their purchase of PokerStars, and more broadly, their nearly $5 billion takeover of the Rational Group, the parent company of the mammoth poker site.

But while PokerStars may have become the core business for Amaya, that wasn’t always the case. Previously, the Canadian company was known primarily for their work in casinos, and had taken the time to slowly and surely build up their offerings through acquisitions and mergers (though, certainly, none were nearly as big as the Rational purchase).

Those moves included finding a way to break into the live dealer market. In 2012, Amaya teamed up with HoGaming, a company that had already been offering live gaming for some time, to begin producing games that could be played at a variety of European online casino sites. That partnership still exists today, and while this isn’t the biggest live dealer operation in this business, it is one that can still be found at a number of well-known and highly regarded sites.

Full Coverage of Classic Games

At the moment, HoGaming offers a selection of four different casino favorites that are being offered with live dealers. These include a couple different versions of baccarat, meaning a total of five distinct games are available on their platform.

Let’s start by taking a look at the blackjack tables that are offered. These games feature dealers at a multiplayer table that can handle up to seven different players at a time. Like many similar games, however, the interface can actually handle a lot more interaction: additional participants are welcome to bet behind existing players at the table in order to get into the action of each hand.

The HoGaming interface has some variation to it depending on where you play, but is largely very clear, simple to use, and non-intrusive. As usual, you’ll watch the games over a live interface, which takes place in a studio. The shots are wide enough that you can often see other dealers presiding over other games in the background, which helps to give the action an even more authentic look and feel.

In the blackjack games, the cards used include very large numbers and symbols so that there should be no confusion whatsoever as to what it happening at the table itself. Normally, you’ll only see the table itself, as well as the virtual chips you’ve placed on your betting spot. When it becomes your turn to act, a small bar appears at the bottom of the image, allowing you to make your choices to hit, stand, split or double. Other versions of the software provide a smaller video of the live dealer in the upper center of the playing area, while using a more traditional online casino interface for you to actually make your bets.

Next up is baccarat, which is actually offered in two different varieties by HoGaming. You can think of this as being similar to the mini-baccarat games you’d find on the main floor of a resort, and then more exclusive full table baccarat games found in VIP areas. The multiplayer version is fit for seven players to participate at the same time, and comes not only with the necessary live video stream of the action, but plenty of stats and everything you need to keep track of what cards and numbers have been coming out of the shoe. There are also side bets available on player and banker pairs (each of which pay 11-1) if you’re looking for even more action.

Alternately, there is a single player baccarat table that expands the video to a full screen experience. This version of the game is known as Grand Baccarat, and carries a lot more of the atmosphere that you’d expect to see in a high stakes live game. Other than that, though, the rules are the same, with the same side bets available as in the multiplayer version.

Roulette is also offered in a multiplayer mode. The game of choice is European, single-zero roulette. As with many other games from HoGaming, we’ve seen different layouts available at various sites: some versions offer an extremely clean interface, with just a small video screen and a large betting area, while others offer more information on the screen, everything from historic results to alternate betting layouts, including the French bets.

Finally, HoGaming also offers Sic Bo, though only out of its Asian studio (we’ll talk more about the two different studios in a moment). This game includes a standard array of betting options, as well as a live feed of the three dice being used to determine the results of each bet.

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Studio in Europe Joins Asian Headquarters

For many years, HoGaming was exclusive targeting the Asian market. Despite holding a license in the Isle of Man, their games were presented out of a studio based in the Philippines, and while there were definitely ways to access these games at sites in other parts of the world, the focus was clearly on the Asian market, with many of the studio staff being pulled from Macau.

That changed in late 2012, when the company opened a second studio based in Europe. The idea was to provide more dealers that were native to the continent, making it easier for players throughout Europe to take part in their live offerings. The move made HoGaming one of the first firms to actively target both major markets at once, though that tactic has become more popular in the past few years.

Unfortunately for those who want to give these games a try without paying, there aren’t any free versions available. The good news is that there are a variety of stakes levels offered, making these games accessible to everyone from casual players to high rollers. We’ve seen roulette games with minimum bets of as little as $1, and blackjack that starts at just $5. The maximum bets are more likely where you’ll see variation: while some sites top out at a few hundred dollars (or pounds) per wager, other games have been seen where the maximum bets are as high as £25,000 or more, particularly in baccarat and sic bo.

A Solid Live Gaming Experience

Overall, HoGaming and Amaya have put together a very solid platform for live dealer games, even if there aren’t any aspects to the overall package that stand out as spectacular. Despite the lack of eye-popping features, though, this remains one of the better implementations of live gaming that we’ve seen at an online casino in a while.

Why is that? The secret is in some of the details. The games work brilliantly, with high quality video that never seems to suffer from buffering or slowdowns (though that, of course, will depend on your Internet connection as well). The software is very dependable, and we haven’t run into any bugs while playing. The gaming experience is also greatly enhanced by the ease with which you can play: all the information you need is readily available, with large betting areas that ensure you won’t be making any mistakes.

Where the interface doesn’t impress as much is in the presentation. There isn’t much glitz or glamour: the studios are pretty static and relatively uninteresting, and the dealers – while perfectly professional and competent – aren’t the most engaging we’ve seen. Nothing here is substandard, but it also fails to be inspiring or provide an additional reason for players to get excited about these games.

What does that mean for you? Well, our take is that your experience with HoGaming’s live options will depend heavily on what you’re looking for. If the technical and gameplay side of the equation is more important to you – as we expect it is for most of our readers who are serious gamblers – then you’ll be perfectly happy here. All of the important games are covered with standard rules, and the range of betting limits should be enough for just about every player.

On the other hand, players who are more interested in immersion and the social aspects of live dealers – as we imagine many of the more casual players in our audience would be – may not find this to be the best possible choice for these types of games. That’s not to say that HoGaming’s operations are poor in these respects, but rather run-of-the-mill, so if you’re looking for something more spectacular, you’ll have to search elsewhere.

Still, the combination of all these features make this a very good platform in general, and we doubt anyone will be particularly unhappy with the quality that Amaya has delivered. We’re not sure many people will go out of their way to find these offerings, but if they are part of a casino site that you’re already playing on, we strongly recommend taking the time to try them out, as we think most players will find these games to be highly enjoyable.

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