Caribbean Stud Poker: How to Play

Caribbean Stud Poker is a table game in which you play against the house instead of against other players. This form of poker has become one of the most popular games on the casino floor, but with a house edge of 5.2 percent, Caribbean Stud Poker strategy is often necessary because you get out as soon as you get up. With potential payouts as high as 100 to 1 on a wager, Caribbean Stud appeals to just about every type of in-person or online casino player. 

What are the Caribbean Stud Poker Rules?

It’s become so popular because it’s a very easy game to play, yet there is still player involvement in the gameplay. Caribbean Stud Poker rules insist that players must make the decision in a hand or fold out, leaving your ante bet (the ante is when each player bets the same amount) behind you if you fold. Dealers must qualify for the hand by making at least ace - king or higher, otherwise the hand is dead and the player wins EVEN money on the ante bet.

Once the dealer’s hand qualifies, the player has to beat the dealer’s hand in order to get paid on their bet. If the player wins against the dealer, they will be paid odds based on the strength of the hand. This will vary in each casino, but most payouts for Caribbean Stud Poker are as follows (and you can see by the difference between the payout and the probability why this game carries such a big edge for the house).

Are there Alternate Rules for Caribbean Stud?

Generally speaking, only the payables change, not the general rules and strategy. Outside the US you can find alternate paytables for Caribbean poker.

Caribbean Stud Poker Betting

Payouts and betting limits for Caribbean Stud poker will vary by location, but generally the betting process is the same for all games:

  • Each player places their ante on the table in a designated area
  • If there are side bets or progressive jackpots involved, the player may then participate if they choose to.
  • Wagers must be placed before the dealer announces “no more bets”
  • After the cards are dealt, the players can then choose to play (raise) or fold.
  • If the dealer wins, players lose both the ante and wager
  • If the player and dealer tie, then all bets push
  • If the dealer’s hand doesn’t qualify, the ante bets of all players get paid out evenly, but the raise bets all push

House Edge in Caribbean Stud Poker

Every casino and casino game has a house edge, meaning the ratio of the initial amount bet to the expected player loss. It’s never a perfect measure and each game is different, but it’s useful in helping players understand potential losses and wins over time.

Caribbean Stud poker has a house edge of 5.224% using typical US rules as a return table, but some experts suggest that this number may be flawed, especially when taking into consideration optimal poker strategy.

How do you Determine a Winning Hand in Caribbean Stud?

If you’re familiar with other variations of poker like Omaha, Five Card Draw or Texas Hold ‘em, the hands rank from a high card hand to a royal flush. There’s no difference in the suit of the cards.

So, simply put, the highest ranking hand that beats the dealer’s hand will be determined the Sportsbook. In the event of a tie, all bets push.

Caribbean Stud US Pay Table

  • One Pair pays EVEN money (1 in 2 hands probability)
  • Two Pair pays 2 to 1 (1 in 21 hands)
  • 3 of a Kind pays 3 to 1 (1 in 47 hands)
  • Straight pays 4 to 1 (1 in 246 hands)
  • Flush pays 5 to 1 (1 in 526 hands)
  • Full House pays 7 to 1 (1 in 694 hands)
  • 4 of a Kind pays 20 to 1 (1 in 4,167 hands)
  • Straight Flush pays 50 to 1 (1 in 72,202 hands)
  • Royal Flush pays 100 to 1 (1 in 649,351 hands)

Caribbean Stud Poker Strategy & Tips

Caribbean Stud Poker strategy involves following one simple rule to lower the house edge as much as possible: Raise the hand if you’ve been dealt a pair or higher. Experts have fine-tuned this strategy down to when you’ve been dealt A, K, J, 8, 3 or better. Anything less should be folded. When following this out properly, other odds can be determined.

If you fold your hand every time you have less than the above, you should, on average, fold your hand 47.5 percent of the time. That leaves you with 52.5 percent of the hands you are dealt as raising hands. Dealers will always keep A, K, so they will qualify for the hand a little more than 53 percent of the time. The dealer will not qualify 23 percent of the time that you raise, or one in every four hands.

Caribbean Stud Poker odds, if you have raised correctly, will predict that the dealer will win, on average, 13.5 percent of the time and the player will win 16 percent of the time that they qualify to play the hand. The dealer will also not qualify on hands that you raise 23 percent of the time. A push hand will occur on average every 62,500 hands, or roughly 0.0016 percent of the time.

The house edge in the game of Caribbean Stud Poker will differ based on how the player plays the game. If a player folds anything less than A, K, J, 8, 3, they can expect to give up a 5.3 percent house edge. Other common strategies include raising when one of the dealer’s up-cards matches (5.3% house edge), raising on a pair or better (5.4% house edge), raising on A, K or better (5.7% house edge).

Some players employ a strategy that sees them raising with every hand, but we don’t recommend that practice as it gives the house a whopping 16.5 percent edge. Even worse Caribbean Stud Poker odds can be found by betting on the jackpot. This bet can give the house as much as a 26.5 percent edge. Stick to the optimum strategy for the best chance to get ahead of the game and walk away when you find yourself up 10 winning hands or more.

Is there a Caribbean Stud Poker Strategy That Works?

Like any poker game, landing on the optimal strategy for Caribbean Stud is extremely difficult and would require you to memorize complicated tables (which can take hours). 

For regular players, most hands can be covered by using the following standard considerations in addition to your own poker learnings:

  • If your hand is less than the dealer’s qualifying hand, then fold.
  • Raise with a pair or higher, always. 

Some players use what’s called the Wizard’s Caribbean Stud Strategy which follows three rules:

  • Raise if the dealer has a 2-Q and it matches one of your cards
  • If the dealer’s card is an A or K, and you have a J or Q in your hand, raise. 
  • If the dealer’s rank doesn’t match your, you have a queen in your hand, and the dealer’s card is less than your fourth-highest card, then raise. 

Online Caribbean Stud Poker

Online casinos have gotten into the Caribbean Stud Poker business, giving players a chance to get together and try to beat the house. If all the players at a table shared their hole card information, they could increase the chances of predicting what the dealer is holding. However, even with an edge like that, the house will still hold an edge over the players, somewhere around 0.5 percent at a six-player table. Most online casino tables will not have that many players seated.

The game may sound a bit complicated to a new player but the reality is that it is very simple to play and takes only a few hands before it all becomes clear. New Caribbean Stud Poker players should take the time to play a free version of the game at an online casino to give themselves time to learn the ropes before investing in real money action.

History of Caribbean Stud Poker

The history of the game is much disputed. Some claim that Caribbean Stud Poker was invented in Aruba, which would seem plausible since Aruba is an island in the Caribbean. Many people also claimed that they’re the inventor of the game, like author and gambling expert David Sklansky. According to Sklansky, he invented the game in 1982 under the moniker of “Casino Poker.” Furthermore, Sklansky claims he brought the game to Aruba and the name was changed. Dennis King is another person who claims to have invented Caribbean Stud Poker when he owned a hotel in Aruba. With everyone and their moms laying claim to the creation of the game, it’s hard to pinpoint its actual origins. Most of us can agree that the game was created in Aruba but who actually invented it is a mystery.

Caribbean Stud Fun Facts

Here are some interesting facts about Caribbean Stud:

  • In the UK, it is officially known as “Casino Five Card Stud Poker”, but the large casino chains tend to offer jackpots on these games and refer to it as “Casino Jackpot Five Card Stud Poker”. This little detail may be useful if you find yourself across the pond.
  • In amongst all the other legends, it’s been said that this game originated on a Caribbean cruise ship and was so popular it quickly spread to local ports of call.

Other Stud Poker Games

The term “stud poker” refers to poker variants in which players play multiple betting rounds with cards that are dealt as a mix of face-down and face-up.

Stud poker differs from draw poker in that players hands’ consist of two kinds of cards—cards only the player can see and cards visible to all players. In Draw poker, player keep all their cards concealed from other players.

Five card stud is probably the most popular of the stud games, but here are a few other varieties you may enjoy:

  • Seven-Card Stud - this was the most widely played poker game in the US when it comes to home games and tournaments, until Texas Hold ‘em came along, that is.
  • Razz Poker - a variety of stud poker than is normally played with aces low. The object of the game is to make the lowest possible hand.
  • Mexican Stud - refers to various forms of Five Card Stud with stripped decks and wild cards included. Also referred to as Stud Loco.
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