Caribbean Stud Poker is possibly one of the best-known poker variations played against the house.
Origins of the game aren’t exactly clear, although the well-known poker books author David Sklansky claims he is the one who invented it back in the early 1980s.
History aside, there is no doubt Caribbean Stud attracts casual punters and also poker players who enjoy the fact the game contains some elements of “proper” poker but doesn’t require much thinking or effort.
Rules of Caribbean Stud are quite simple as you’ll find out in this article, and they’re quite easy to learn. In terms of skill and strategy, this game isn’t particularly demanding, and you’ll be able to play it close to the optimal with a few simple tips.
However, be warned that the house edge remains over 5% even if you play the best possible strategy. This is pretty bad in comparison to other table games like blackjack, roulette, Three Card Poker, or even Ultimate Texas Holdem.
That being said, Caribbean Stud poker can be a lot of fun, especially if you’re playing with a group of friends, and you can potentially win a big jackpot, but you should know that the entertainment will cost you a fair bit.
How To Play Caribbean Stud – Poker Rules
The only thing you really need to know before you sit down to play Caribbean Stud is poker hand rankings.
If you’ve ever played any high poker variation such as Hold’em, Omaha, Stud, or Five Card Draw, you should be good to go. Hands rank from a high card (lowest) to a royal flush (highest). Suits make no difference whatsoever.
Like other table games, this one is also played against the house. There can be more people at the table playing simultaneously, but their only goal is to beat the dealer.
So players can actually cheer each other on as someone making a huge hand helps them and doesn’t really hurt you at all.
At the start of a hand, you’ll need to place the ante in the designated box. After that, the dealer will deal all players five cards each, face down.
They will also take five cards for themselves, but one of their cards is turned face up for everyone to see. After that, you’ll have the opportunity to look at your cards and make your decision.
Before moving on to the decision part, it is important to mention that you aren’t allowed to show your cards to other players at the table. While most casinos won’t make a big deal out of it if you do it once accidentally or for fun, doing it repeatedly can get you in trouble.
Sharing your cards with other players is basically cheating in this game because you and other players can get the information they aren’t supposed to have.
So, when you look at your hand, you’ll have two very simple options:
- Fold – giving up your ante
- Play – placing the bet that’s two times the ante
Once everyone’s made their decision, the dealer will turn over the remainder of their cards, and they’ll proceed to pay the winners.
Caribbean Stud Poker Payouts
Once cards are on their backs, the dealer will compare their hand with the hand of each player at the table.
If you have a hand that’s stronger than the dealer’s, you’ll always get paid 1 to 1 on your ante. However, you’ll only get paid 1 to 1 on the ‘Play’ amount if the dealer “qualifies,” i.e., they have a hand that’s Ace-King or better.
If the dealer doesn’t qualify, you’ll get paid on the ante, but play bets are returned to the players without any profit.
You can get paid more than 1 to 1 on your ‘Play’ bet, though. If you’re dealt a hand that’s two pair or better, payouts are made according to the following table.
- Two pair pays 2 to 1
- Three of a kind pays 3 to 1
- Straight pays 4 to 1
- Flushes pay 5 to 1
- Full boats pay 7 to 1
- Quads are paid at 20 to 1
- Straight flushes pay 50 to 1
- Royal flush pays 100 to 1
These bets will only get paid if two conditions are met:
- The dealer has a qualifying hand
- Your hand beats the dealer’s hand
So, if you get dealt Aces’ full, for example, but the dealer shows quads, you will lose the hand and won’t receive any payouts.
Unlike some other casino poker variations, Caribbean Stud doesn’t have any standalone bets that pay regardless of the outcome, except for the progressive jackpot.
Caribbean Stud Poker Jackpot
Most casinos offer players a chance to bet on the progressive jackpot independently, and you can always find a game running if you choose the operator from the real casino list.
The bet to qualify for the jackpot for any particular hand is usually just $1, and it’s not connected to the stakes you’re playing in the game.
Around 70% of every dollar goes into the progressive jackpot pool while the casino keeps the rest.
This may sound worse than it is. While the casino does keep a fair bit of the jackpot money, they also have to use some of it to seed the next jackpot when someone wins. For example, a jackpot can start at $10,000, and that’s the money that the casino has to front.
To win the jackpot, you’ll need to get dealt a royal flush in any suit. Should you be so lucky, you’ll immediately win 100% of the jackpot. If you get a straight flush, you’ll get 10% of the jackpot.
Depending on the casino, smaller hands such as quads and full houses may also qualify for a payout, but these amounts are usually nothing to write home about.
As always, jackpot bets aren’t very mathematically sound, but they add to the excitement. Revealing four cards to a royal flush will surely get your hearts beating faster as you slowly squeeze the fifth card.
Nobody really plays Caribbean Stud Poker because it’s the game with best returns – they play it for fun, and the jackpot element adds a lot to it.
Strategy for Caribbean Stud Poker
Unlike some other games, Caribbean Stud only has one decision you need to make. Once you look at your cards, you need to decide if it’s good enough to continue, or you rather give up at once.
The only additional piece of information you have is the dealer’s up-card.
While developing and memorizing super-precise numbers for Caribbean Stud Poker would be quite a task, the good news is that you really only need to follow two simple tips:
- Always play with any hand that contains any pair or better
- Always fold any hand that’s weaker than Ace-King
This strategy only leaves one hand that needs to be discussed, and that’s Ace-King exactly. This is an important cutoff point in the game, and having a solid strategy for it can help decrease the house edge somewhat.
In a nutshell, you can follow these simple tips when you’re dealt Ace-King:
- If the dealer is showing any card between a 2 and a Q and you have one of the cards of the same rank in your hand – raise.
- When the dealer is showing an Ace or a King, only raise if you’re also holding a Queen or a Jack in your hand.
- If you have a Queen and the dealers up-card is lower than your fourth highest card, raise (i.e., you have A K Q 9 2, and they’re showing a 7).
As long as you stick to this simple and straightforward strategy, you won’t be losing anything more than what the house edge is.
As mentioned in the introduction, that edge is quite high, though, at 5.2%, so even with this Caribbean Stud Poker strategy, you can’t expect to come anywhere near to a breakeven point.
Conclusion: Caribbean Stud Poker Only For Fun
If you’re a fan of poker, Caribbean Stud can be an entertaining option for those times when you’re away from the action but feel the itch to try your luck.
It is a very simplified and dumbed-down version of the game, so it’s not something you’ll want to play if you want a challenge. If that is the case, then going over basic Texas Holdem strategy and hitting “normal” tables might be a better option.
However, if you decide to hit Caribbean Stud Poker tables, remember that the house edge can become quite costly if you play it too often.
On the flip side, with the right crowd, this game can be quite entertaining, and there is always a remote chance of winning that jackpot.
If you’d like to practice some of these Caribbean Stud Poker strategies or want to get a feel for the game before actually risking any money, there are many places online where you can do it for free.