5 Fun Facts About Caribbean Stud Poker

Poker Cards Spread Out, Caribbean Stud Poker Logo
Long before hybrid table games like Let It Ride, Mississippi Stud, and Three Card Poker revolutionized the gambling industry, it was Caribbean Stud Poker that took casinos by storm.

If you ever gambled during the late 1980s through the 1990s, you’ve probably encountered this simple table game. At one point back in the day, Caribbean Stud was a casino staple.

As the name implies, Caribbean Stud Poker combines the essential elements of traditional Five-Card Stud Poker with house-banked table gaming. Instead of squaring off mano a mano with an opponent, you place your bet(s), take five cards, and assess the situation.

From there, you can elect to raise it up (known as making the “play” bet in Caribbean Stud Poker), or fold your hand away and live to fight another day. Players still have to see their own five-card poker hand prevail against the dealer.

To cap off the exciting gameplay, your hand is scored against an escalating pay table (more on this to come) offering anywhere from even money to a 100 to 1 “jackpot.”

Caribbean Stud Poker only takes a minute to learn, and achieving mastery is attainable after a few sessions. Its simplicity may explain why it has all but died off in recent years. But if you’re interested in learning more, look no further.  Below, you’ll find five fun facts about playing Caribbean Stud Poker that even expert players are surprised to learn.

1 – David Sklansky Claims to Have Invented the Game

Before poker pros like Dan Harrington and Barry Greenstein were writing strategy books, David Sklansky was the industry’s most prolific author.

In just two summers between 1982 and 1983, Sklansky bagged three gold bracelets at the annual World Series of Poker (WSOP). He went on to write “Hold’em Poker” (1984) one year later, before publishing his masterpiece “The Theory of Poker” (1999) a decade and a half later.

But while Sklansky was busy terrorizing the poker tables in 1982, he found time to invent a completely new way of gambling on table games he dubbed “Casino Poker.”

In Sklansky’s game, players placed an Ante bet before taking five cards at random. The dealer also took five cards, and two of them were exposed to give the player partial information to work off. From there, the player could opt to fold weak holdings, or make a “play” bet for twice the size of their original ante. At showdown, the dealer needed an A-K or better to qualify, which prompted juicy payouts from an escalating pay table.

Poker Player David Sklansky

Sound familiar? Well, it should, because Sklansky says his Casino Poker innovation was the precursor to Caribbean Stud Poker as you know it today.

Back in 2007, Sklansky took to the Two Plus Two poker forum to pen a post titled simply “I Invented Caribbean Stud.” In the post, Sklansky explains how his Casino Poker transformed into Caribbean Stud Poker thanks to a series of unfortunate events:

“In 1982 I invented the game that became Carribbean Stud. I called it Casino Poker. Except for the fact that I exposed one card rather than two, and had no progressive jackpot betting option, the rules were the same. Ante one, bet two more, dealer qualifies with AK. Plus there were bonus pays for high hands.

I was told I couldn’t patent the game but I trademarked the name and put it on trial at Vegas World. I didn’t follow through because my girlfriend died during that time and I wasn’t up to it.

A few years later, a poker player asked me about the game because he knew a casino owner in Aruba. He brought the rules down there, they added the progressive, exposed only one card and got it patented. There is ongoing controversy about that patent and I was asked to give a deposition about it a few years ago.”

While the accuracy of this account can’t be verified, and Sklansky’s name doesn’t appear on the 1988 patent for the game, there’s little reason to doubt his story. Poker players have long been known for dabbling in outside entrepreneurial interests, often with disastrous results due to their lack of business experience and willingness to trust fellow gamblers.

Whether Sklansky truly invented Caribbean Stud Poker will remain an open debate, but in any event, poker players and gamblers alike owe the man a debt of gratitude in more ways than one.

2 – Caribbean Stud Poker Offers Unique Casino Pay Tables

As Sklansky mentions in his post, Caribbean Stud Poker offers “bonus” payouts when your hand beats the dealer’s qualifying (A-K high or better) hand.

These bonus payouts are attached to the “play” bet, which is more commonly known as the “raise” bet amongst regular players because you must double the Ante bet to force a showdown.

And as you can see with the pay table below, Caribbean Stud Poker’s dual pay tables for the ante and raise bet make the game quite unique indeed:

Caribbean Stud Pay Table

Hand Ante Raise*
Royal Flush 1 to 1 100 to 1
Straight Flush 1 to 1 50 to 1
Four of a Kind 1 to 1 20 to 1
Full House 1 to 1 7 to 1
Flush 1 to 1 5 to 1
Straight 1 to 1 3 to 1
Three of a Kind 1 to 1 2 to 1
Two Pair 1 to 1 1 to 1
One Pair 1 to 1 1 to 1
High Card 1 to 1 1 to 1

*Only paid when dealer has a qualifying hand of A-K high or better

Right off the bat, seasoned table game players will notice some odd stuff going on up there…

First, you don’t even need to make one pair or better to earn a minimum even money payout, just any high-card hand that is better than the dealer.

On the raise bet, bonus payouts stay at even money through two pair, before climbing to 2 to 1 at three of a kind. And of course, that 100 to 1 payout for landing a royal flush is the hook that keeps players coming back for more.

3 – Caribbean Poker Strategy Is Binary, So Its Easy to Master

Far too many table game players pass up on Stud-based games because they conflate “poker” with the Texas Hold’em they see on TV.

But while the tournament heroes and cash game wizards rely on intricate strategies to survive, anyone can learn to play Caribbean Stud Poker perfectly in a matter of minutes.

Here’s how it works..

The basic Caribbean Stud Poker strategy boils down to a binary decision for the vast majority of hands you’ll see:

  • With one pair or better, you should ALWAYS raise.
  • With anything worse than A-K high (A-Q high, K-high, etc.) you should ALWAYS fold

You’ll see some sites out there offering a detailed strategy chart for playing your A-K high hands, and if you use that resource, the house edge comes to 5.22%.

i
But that chart is a bear, with hundreds of different options to memorize, so most Caribbean Stud Players simply use A-K-J-8-3 as their baseline.

In other words, when you have A-K-J-8-3 or better, ALWAYS make the raise bet, while hands like A-K-J-8-2 or worse (A-K-10-x-x, A-K-J-7-x, etc.) should ALWAYS be folded.

Using this strategy shortcut increases the house edge ever so slightly to 5.31%, but that difference is statistically negligible over short-term sessions.

4 – Caribbean Stud Poker Has a Cousin Called Caribbean Draw Poker

When playing your favorite online casino, you might see a game labeled as “Caribbean Draw Poker,” and it can be easy to confuse that with Caribbean Stud as described on this page.

But in reality, Caribbean Draw Poker is an offshoot offering slightly different rules and gameplay.

Poker Cards in a Pile

To make a long story short, Caribbean Draw Poker lets players discard two cards from their hand and draw replacements, hence the name, in an effort to improve. Other than that, the games are essentially the same, but that drawing element completely changes basic strategy considerations.

5 – Progressive Side Bets May Be Tempting, But It Was Built for Suckers

This final fact may not be very fun to learn, but it’s important nonetheless: NEVER play the progressive side bet option if you like money.

Sure, when you see a big-time progressive jackpot of six-figures or more advertised for landing a royal flush, tossing a measly $1 chip on the side bet to take a shot seems like a fine idea.

?
And why not, what with a 10% progressive payout for straight flushes, $500 for four of a kind, and $100 for a full house up for grabs as well?

Unfortunately, when using five cards and no draws, you’ll only make a royal flush on 1 in 649,740 deals, or 0.0001% of the time.

That makes the progressive on Caribbean Stud Poker one of the very worst in all of real money gambling, with an obscene house edge of 26.46%. That’s keno territory, so no table game player worth their salt should waste their time or $1 chips on this ultimate sucker bet.

Conclusion

Caribbean Stud Poker may have seen better days in terms of popularity, but for table game enthusiasts of a certain vintage, it’ll always hold a special place in gambling lore. Game inventors who saw how popular Caribbean Stud Poker became in the 1990s used its Stud Poker structure as the inspiration for classics like Mississippi Stud, Let It Ride, and Three-Card Poker. And as the five fun facts presented here prove, not many casino games have the long and winding history that this one boasts.