Caribbean Stud Poker

By Henry Tamburin
Ten years ago you couldn't find a Caribbean Stud Poker table in any casino in the USA. Nowadays, virtually every major casino has at least one Caribbean Stud Poker table and in fact, most casinos have two or more tables. What led to its explosive growth? First, it's based on the All-American game of five-card stud poker that is familiar to most players.  Secondly, all players compete against the dealer which eliminates the intimidation of playing against other players that occurs in regular table poker. Thirdly, the game features a progressive jackpot that sometimes reaches $100,000 and more. And fourthly, and most importantly, the game is easy to play.

Objective: To beat the dealer's five-card poker hand. There are no draw cards in Caribbean Stud Poker. Every player and the dealer are dealt five cards and if your five-card hand has a higher poker rank than the dealer's five-card hand, you win.

Play of the Game: The game is played on a table similar to a blackjack table with up to seven player spots. One standard deck of 52-cards is used.  The cards are usually shuffled by an automatic shuffle machine which speeds up the game  (while one deck is being used, the other deck is being shuffled by the automatic shuffler). There are two betting areas in front of each player. One is labeled ante and the other is labeled bet. Above the ante bet is a slot where players can drop a dollar coin to become eligible for the progressive jackpot.

Play begins with all players making the mandatory ante wager and, if they wish, dropping a coin into the progressive jackpot slot. The dealer deals five cards face down to each player and to himself, four cards face down and one card face up for all players to see. Each player then picks up his five cards, and based on the strength of his hand and the value of the dealer's upcard, makes one of two decisions.

Decision one: If the player does not believe he will beat the player's hand, he can fold by laying the cards face down on the layout. When a player folds, he automatically loses his ante bet and the dealer will remove the cards from the layout (without facing them).

Decision two: If a player decides to play out his hand because he thinks he has a chance to beat the dealer, the player must make a call bet equal to twice the amount of the ante. For example if your ante was $5, your call bet must be $10.

After all players have decided to either fold or call, the dealer exposes his cards on the layout. Now comes the most important rule in Caribbean Stud Poker. In order for players to win both of their bets, the dealer's hand must qualify. This occurs if the dealer's hand contains at least an ace and king or better. This is an important rule because based upon whether the dealer's hand qualifies or not determines how the round is brought to closure.

If the dealer's hand does NOT qualify: Players who did not fold win even money on the ante bet. The secondary call bet is returned (a push). The dealer removes all the players' cards from the layout without facing the cards. Essentially the dealer folds and there is no comparing of the dealer's hand vs. the player's hand to see which hand is the highest.

If the dealer's hand does qualify: If the dealer's hand contains at least an ace and king, he will "call" all the player's hands. Player's lay their cards on the layout and the dealer compares his hand with the players hands to determine which hand has the highest poker rank. If the dealer's hand is higher than the player's hand, the dealer wins both the player's ante and call bet. If instead the player's hand out ranks the dealer's hand then the player wins even money on the ante wager and the call bet is paid according to the following payout odds.


Call Bet

Payoff Odds

Royal Flush

100 to 1

Straight flush

50 to 1

Four-of-a-kind

20 to 1

Full House

7 to 1

Flush

5 to 1

Straight

4 to 1

Three-of-a-kind

3 to 1

Two pair

2 to 1

One pair

1 to 1

Ace-king

1 to 1

Progressive Jackpot Bet: This optional bet is separate from the ante and call bet and independent of the dealer's hand. In other words, no matter what the rank of the dealer's hand or for that matter even if he qualifies, you will be eligible for a payout if you make the optional dollar jackpot bet and are dealt one of these hands.

Typical Progressive Jackpot Pay Schedule


Royal Flush   

100% of jackpot

Straight flush

10% of the jackpot

Four-of-a-kind

$500

Full House

$100

Flush

$50

Please note the jackpot pay schedule may be slightly different from one casino to the next especially in the amount of the payoff for the four-of-a-kind, full house, and flush. The jackpot grows as players feed coins into the jackpot slot (casinos put anywhere from 25 to 75 cents out of every dollar bet into the jackpot pool).  The house edge for the Progressive Jackpot is roughly 25% and this bet should be avoided.

Playing Strategy: Two of the most common playing mistakes made by players is to fold when they have a small pair or to bluff the dealer by making a call bet when they have a weak hand.

First, never fold your small pairs. You will be dealt a pair about 42% of the times and you'll win more (or lose less) in the long run by making the call bet rather than to fold (the casino has about a 7% edge against players who fold on small pairs). Also, never try to bluff the dealer! Some player's mistakenly believe they can win more hands by making the call bet when they have a weak hand. They figure that the dealer who doesn't qualify pays off the ante wager for player's who stay in (i.e. make the call bet) regardless if the player has a strong or weak hand. The problem with this strategy is that when the dealer does qualify (and he will about 56% of the time), the player loses not only the ante bet but also the call bet (which is twice the ante bet). Mathematically a player who bluffs with a weak hand will lose 25% more of his ante over the long run than if he folded. Bottom-line - don't bluff!

Here is a simple basic playing strategy to get you started.

Basic Playing Strategy

  • Fold if you have less than Ace-King.
  • Make a call bet if:
  • You have at least any pair or higher.
  • You have at least an Ace-King and one of your other cards is the same as the dealer's face card

The casino's edge is about 5.2% based on the player's ante wager (or 2.6% based on the ante and call bet).

If you want to play Caribbean Stud Poker, remember to play it smartly by following the basic playing strategy, avoid bluffing on weak hands & folding on low pairs, and do not make the progressive jackpot bet unless the amount of the jackpot justifies it.    


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