Back in the 1990s, Caribbean Stud Poker was all the rage. The clever little fusion of traditional Five-Card Stud and house-banked table gaming took the industry by storm after being introduced in the late ‘80s.
At one point, you couldn’t reach your blackjack table without bumping into a crowd of rabid Caribbean Stud Poker fanatics.
Over time, the game’s popularity waned, thanks in large part to a “new wave” of hybrid table games that expanded on the classic Caribbean Stud template. Popular table games of the modern era like Mississippi Stud Poker, Three-Card Poker, and Let It Ride all owe their inspiration to Caribbean Stud Poker.
Today, you’ll only find the game spread in two Las Vegas casinos, the Venetian and the Palazzo. Fortunately, the best online casino platforms out there have Caribbean Stud Poker.
To help you play your best game, I’ve compiled three Caribbean Stud Poker rules and strategies that most modern players don’t know much about.
1 – That Second Raise Bet Only Gets Paid When the Dealer “Qualifies”
Once, when I was enjoying a Caribbean Stud Poker session by my lonesome, a hotshot businessman wearing Armani from head to toe sat down in the next seat over. I was betting $5 red chips and he pulls out $100 black chips from his pocket, giving me a little look of derision as he upped the table ante.
A few hands passed by in silence before the following deal took place.
Mr. Hotshot gets his five cards and immediately makes the raise bet for $200 more, his hands almost shaking as he slides the stack forward. My cards are trash, and the dealer is showing the ace of spades anyhow, so I fold quickly, anxious to see what’s in store on the showdown.
Sure enough, Mr. Hotshot turns over the mother of all poker hands, A-K-Q-J-10, all in hearts, for a natural royal flush.
“Yeah, baby! Gimme the money! That’s a royal, gimme my 20 grand!”
I catch the dealer’s eye for a moment, then see a sly smirk flash for just an instant, and I know instantly what’s coming next. The dealer turns over his hand one card at a time, adding the lowly 2-5-7-Q combo in rainbow suits to his ace of spades.
“Dealer doesn’t qualify sir, it’s a push on the raise bet. But you did win $100 on the ante bet. Congratulations.”
The “congrats” was delivered with nothing but contempt, and I could’ve sworn Mr. Hotshot’s head was going to explode.
He berated the dealer, unleashing a stream of obscenities. Like I said, one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen…
So, here’s what happened. If you scan the following pay table, Mr. Hotshot’s $200 raise bet was indeed eligible for a $20,000 payout at 100 to 1 odds.
Caribbean Stud Pay Table
|Royal flush||1 to 1||100 to 1|
|Straight flush||1 to 1||50 to 1|
|Full house||1 to 1||7 to 1|
|Flush||1 to 1||5 to 1|
|Straight||1 to 1||3 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
But as the all-important asterisk makes clear, those raise bet “bonus” payouts are only awarded when the dealer shows down a qualifying hand. And in Caribbean Stud Poker, a qualifying dealer hand must be ranked at A-K high or better.
That might not seem quite fair if you’re just now learning the game, but Caribbean Stud Poker can be a cruel mistress.
Of course, after he calmed down a half-hour later, I eventually pointed out to Mr. Hotshot that his royal flush could’ve been worth even more. Had he tossed a measly $1 chip down on the progressive jackpot side bet, that lightning strike longshot of a hand would’ve paid out $125,000 and change.
He didn’t though… And now that I think back on it, that was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen on the casino floor.
2 – The Best Strategy Is to Avoid the Progressive Jackpot Side Bet
Speaking of the progressive jackpot side bet, all it takes is an extra $1 chip to become eligible for the following commonly found pay tables:
Common Caribbean Stud Poker Progressive Jackpot Pay Tables
|Hand||Table 1||Table 2||Table 3||Table 4||Table 5|
|Four of a kind||$100||$150||$500||$500||$500|
Many newcomers to Caribbean Stud Poker bet on the progressive by default, seeking a safeguard against the nightmare scenario Mr. Hotshot likely never lived down. And indeed, this optional wager removes the dealer qualification caveat, so if you hit gin with a royal flush or straight flush, the dealer’s hand doesn’t matter, you’re a massive winner.
Unfortunately for players, this side bet is truly awful in terms of expected return. With a house edge of 26.46%, it’s among the worst offered in all of casino gambling. I’m talking “as bad as keno” worse, or “three times as bad as the hard eight in craps.”
If you want to play Caribbean Stud Poker strategically, skipping the progressive jackpot side bet every time out is a great place to start.
3 – Playing Perfect Strategy Involves a Simple Three-Rule System
Based on your five-card starting hand’s relative worth, you should always know whether a fold or a raise bet is the right play.
And here’s how you do it.
- With any hand ranked at A-K-J-8-3 or better (one pair; A-K-Q-x-x; A-K-J-9-x; etc.), you should ALWAYS make the raise bet.
- And with any hand ranked at A-K-J-8-2 or worse (A-Q-x-x-x; A-K-10-x-x; A-K-J-7-x; etc.), you should ALWAYS fold.
Yep, believe it or not, that about does it for Caribbean Stud Poker’s optimal strategy.
When you play using these guidelines, the house edge and element of risk for the game come to 5.32% and 2.60%, respectively.
As you can probably tell if you made it this far, I really do love Caribbean Stud Poker. The game just has an elegance that its later derivatives simply can’t match.
It’s a shame to see my favorite “fun” table game go by the wayside of late, but with a rebirth in the offing thanks to online casinos, I hope learning about the rules and strategies presented here serve you well down the road.