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Caribbean Stud Poker - Basics

One game that has been growing in popularity is Caribbean Stud poker. As the name implies, the game got its start in the Caribbean Islands, where blackjack and craps games with poor odds are the rule. So it is not so strange that a poker-style game with a strong house advantage would catch on.

What is strange is that the game would become so popular elsewhere in the world, and for some reason, it has.

Even playing with the incredibly simple basic strategy, Caribbean Stud poker still has a rather strong house advantage of about 4.5 percent. This assumes that you play the basic strategy perfectly. If you play like most players, who play by the seat of their pants, you’ll be fighting a house edge between 8 and 12 percent.

The game is rather simple and based on poker. After placing their “ante” bets, the players are each dealt five cards. The dealer is also dealt five cards, but only one, the last, is dealt face up. At this point, the player has two choices. The first is to play out the hand they were dealt, or the second is to surrender and give up their ante bet. Should the player decide to play their hand, they need to place a bet in the betting circle. This bet needs to be twice the value of their ante bet. After all the players have made their decisions, the dealer turns over his remaining cards and makes the best possible poker hand using his five cards.

The dealer’s hand must “qualify” with at least an Ace-King or the game is not fully completed. If the dealer’s hand fails to “qualify”, every player who has not surrendered gets paid on their ante bet, but not on their second bet. If the dealer’s hand “qualifies” with an Ace-King or better then the dealers hand is compared to each individual player hands. If your hand beats the dealer, you get paid on both bets. The ante bet is paid even money and the second bet is paid off at the odds being offered at that casino. If the dealer beats your hand, you lose both bets.


Typical Caribbean Stud Poker Payoff Odds

Hand Payoff
Pair or less 1-1
Two pair 2-1
Three-of-a-kind 3-1
Straight 4-1
Flush 5-1
Full House 7-1
Four-of-a-kind 20-1
Straight flush 50-1
Royal flush 100-1
(remember, the odds can vary from casino to casino)

The biggest problem with Caribbean Stud poker, from the player’s perspective, is the requirement that the dealer’s hand must “qualify” with an Ace-King. Many players have been frustrated by being dealt a great hand, only to have the dealer not qualify. Instead of getting the odds payoff, you only get one-to-one payout on the ante bet. It can be very frustrating.

The popularity of Caribbean Stud poker is likely do to the fact that you can win the progressive jackpot. For a $1 bet on each hand, you become eligible to win a progressive jackpot by drawing a royal flush, thus winning the top prize which generally exceeds $100,000. Of course the odds of hitting a royal flush at Caribbean Stud poker are 1 in 649 000. To say it is a long shot is putting it gently.

To make the progressive bet more palatable, however, the makers of the game added a couple of other payouts that sweeten the pot.

Typical Caribbean Stud Poker Progressive Jackpots Payoffs.

Hand Payoff
Pair or less none
Two pair none
Three-of-a-kind none
Straight none
Flush $50
Full House $75
Four-of-a-kind $100
Straight flush 10% of jackpot
Royal Flush jackpot

Caribbean Stud poker has spread far beyond the Islands. It can be found in almost all American casino jurisdictions, along with most cruise ships. The company responsible for marketing Caribbean Stud Poker, estimates that there are over 600 tables currently operating, including tables in Europe and Australia.

If you must play Caribbean Stud poker, do so at your own risk. But at least use the following basic strategy:

Do not bet the progressive wager unless the jackpot exceeds $150 000.
Bet every pair or more.
Bet Ace-King or better (if your hand contains the dealer’s upcard).

That’s it. It’s a simple game, but a poor one.

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