Interest in casino-style poker games is up if you believe Google search trends and gambling forum posts. My pet theory explaining this is that during tough times, people turn to easily-digestible entertainment. You didn’t see many serious movies coming out of Hollywood during the Second World War. People turn to games like Cajun Stud when the economy is bad or when national politics are a headache – and I think we all identify with those last two.
Let’s talk about how to play Cajun Stud.
I see lots of people in casinos trying to learn how to play these games on the fly, with live money on the table. I think that’s a huge mistake. Learning how to play Cajun Stud doesn’t take more than a few minutes, and if your first time learning how to play is with your cash in your hand, you’re far less likely to have a good time.
What Is Cajun Stud?
Cajun Stud is a house-banked poker-style casino table game. The dealer does not participate. Players are competing not against other players or the house but against a paytable. Cajun Stud is known for its many bonus bets.
You won’t find this game in Vegas or Atlantic City. Originally released in Louisiana and Mississippi, the game has leaked out to smaller casino jurisdictions in Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Iowa.
Why Should I Play Cajun Stud?
This isn’t the game to choose if you’re into hardcore poker strategy and advantage gambling. This one is for people who like to have fun.
Cajun Stud is a little more complex than other casino table games based on the rules of poker, but only in that, it allows more bets and a bigger outlay than those games.
I love games like Cajun Stud when I’m in the mood for some social gambling, people-watching, and light-hearted casino fun. When I want to gain an edge on the casino, I play video poker or maybe a few rounds of blackjack.
Cajun Stud, and other casino-style poker games, are light eating, something I don’t have to spend too much energy playing.
Cajun Stud – How to Play
Cajun Stud involves several rounds of playing and betting.
Here’s a breakdown of a typical game, step by step.
Step 1 – Ante and Play Wagers
To start the game, players make an ante bet, typically $5 or $10. At this time, players can also make the optional Pocket Bonus, Board Bonus, Lo-Ball, or All-Six side bets, which are typically equal to the size of the player’s ante.
Step 2 – The First Four Cards
The first four cards from the shoe are placed face down in the designated All Six area on the board.
Step 3 – Player Hole Cards
The dealer gives each player their two hole cards, face down.
Step 4 – The First Decision
Players can either raise or fold. Raise wagers must be equal to the ante, or double or triple. Players who fold at this point surrender their ante wager, though any side wagers the folding player made aren’t paid out yet.
Step 5 – The First Community Card & Another Decision
The dealer reveals the first community card. Each player who hasn’t folded can either raise or fold. The second raise is identical to the first – it can be 1x, 2x, or 3x their ante. Players who fold at this point surrender their first ante and their first raise bet.
Step 6 – The Second Community Card & Another Decision
The dealer reveals the second community card. Each player who hasn’t folded can either raise or fold a final time. This raise and fold is identical to the first two.
Step 7 – The Final Community Card & Payouts
The dealer reveals the third and final community card and examines each player’s hand, paying out any winnings for the base game. The dealer also evaluates any side wagers and pays them out based on their paytables.
Cajun Stud Payouts
You’ll find a few different pay tables on live dealer games around the country, though some are considered standard.
Here’s a typical pay table for Cajun Stud:
- Royal Flush – 500:1
- Straight Flush – 100:1
- Four-of-a-Kind – 40:1
- Full House – 10:1
- Flush – 6:1
- Straight – 4:1
- Three-of-a-Kind – 3:1
- Two Pair – 2:1
- Face Card Pair – 1:1
- Low Pair – Push
The base game payouts are unremarkable – only 500:1 for a Royal Flush? It helps if you realize that the base game isn’t the real draw here. The game’s bonus payouts are much bigger and tend to draw in more players.
Cajun Stud Bonus Payouts
The three bonuses outlined below are the most common, though I’ve heard of other side bets offered at various casinos around the country. If you understand the three below, you’ll be familiar enough with the rules of the game to understand any other bonuses you find on offer.
For a bet equal to your ante, you can make yourself eligible for the Board Bonus. This is an interesting wager since it has nothing to do with your own hand, and it is entirely based on the luck of the draw.
Here’s how it works.
Your Board Bonus bet is a wager that the three community cards will form a winning poker hand.
Here’s the pay table for a typical Board Bonus bet on casino Cajun Stud:
- Mini Royal – 50:1
- Straight Flush – 40:1
- Three-of-a-Kind – 30:1
- Straight – 6:1
- Flush – 3:1
- Any Pair – 1:1
This bet has about a 26% chance of paying off, and you’re far more likely to earn a 3:1 payout for a flush or a 1:1 payout for a pair than you are to qualify for those big 50:1 and 40:1 payouts at the top of the paytable.
Similar to the Board Bonus, the pocket bonus is based on the strength of a limited number of cards in play. The quality of your two hole cards determines the payout for a pocket bonus. You have to place a bet equal to the size of your ante to make yourself eligible for it.
Here’s the pay table for the Cajun Stud pocket bonus side bet:
- Pair of Aces – 25:1
- Suited Ace & Face Card – 20:1
- Unsuited Ace & Face Card – 10:1
- Any Pair – 5:1
This bet gives the casino an edge of just about 7%, provided you follow optimal strategy. Players not using basic strategy can add 3-4% to that number.
Lo Ball Bonus
The lo ball bonus pays out on qualifying hands. You make yourself eligible for this bonus by placing a bet equal to the size of your ante. The goal with this bonus is to have the worst possible hand.
Here’s the lo ball bonus pay table so you can see what I mean:
- 7 high – 100:1
- 8 high – 50:1
- 9 High – 15:1
- 10 High – 5:1
- Jack high – 1:1
This bet only pays out 10% of the time, and it’s the worst odds bet you can make in Cajun Stud. Even at optimal strategy, the casino’s edge is about 7%.
Cajun Stud Strategy
The first and most obvious piece of strategy advice for players looking to do better at Cajun Stud is to never place any of the side bets.
That’s no fun, of course. I acknowledge that. However, if you want to increase your edge against the casino on this game, you need to avoid placing anything but the standard wagers in the base game.
Knowing how much to bet is an important plank of Cajun Stud strategy.
Here’s a quick guide to raising strategy in Cajun Stud:
- For the first bet (on third street), you should only raise 3x your ante if you hold a pocket pair. If you’re holding at least one 10-point value card, double your ante. You should also double your ante if both of your cards are ranked between 6 and 10. The optimal strategy says to fold any hand with two cards lower than a 6, provided you don’t have suited 5-6. Double your ante if you hold suited 5-6.
- Once you see the first community card, triple your ante if you’ve got a made hand, meaning any winning hand. If you’re a draw to a Royal Flush or Straight Flush, you should also triple the ante. Double the ante if you hold a flush draw, three cards between 6 and 10, or a draw to a straight. Otherwise, fold the hand.
- After the second community card, triple the ante with any made hand or a draw to a flush or outside straight. Double your ante with a draw to an inside straight, or with a low pair, or any four cards between 6 and 10.
Remember, Cajun Stud is a slow game. Each hand takes a while to play out. Combined with optimal strategy play and avoiding any side bets, the payback percentage for Cajun Stud’s base game is 98.6%, which at $5 a hand means average hourly losses of about $2.
Placing the side wagers, which seems to be the whole point of the game, and the only thing that sets it apart from a house-banked game of Mississippi Stud, destroys those good odds, even though placing those bets also makes you eligible for the game’s most exciting payouts.
Casino table games that have a house edge in the range of Cajun Stud are always going to be popular. The house has about a 4.9% edge against players who follow optimal strategy, which isn’t the best bet on the floor but is far from the worst. Even the worst of the game’s bonus payouts gives the house an edge of no more than 8 or 9%.
Cajun Stud is growing in popularity, and I can totally see this game catching on in Vegas or one of the other major gambling markets. Learning how to play now, before you see it in the casino and decide to give it a try, will set you up for success and increase the entertainment value of your bankroll.