Caribbean Stud Poker is a popular casino table game, which plays out, and features rules very similar to another poker-based game called Five Card Stud. While Caribbean Stud Poker features many similarities with poker itself, the main difference between the version played against other players, and Caribbean Stud Poker, is that in the latter, you play against the house (casino), rather than against other players.
There’s no interaction involved, and the ‘human aspects’, such as bluffing, hiding emotion, and many decision-making processes are eliminated, making the game a popular alternative for poker players who fancy a break from the intense nature of playing against others!
How to Play Caribbean Stud
Playing Caribbean Stud Poker is relatively easy, although it can appear confusing at first, particularly to those who lack experience playing conventional poker. To begin playing, you must first select your stake – this is placed on what’s called ‘ante’ bet, and this bet must be placed in order for the hand to begin. Once you’ve chosen your stake, you simply press the ‘Start’, or ‘Deal’ button, and gameplay will commence.
Once the game’s begun, you will receive five cards, and the dealer will also receive five cards. One of the dealer’s cards will be exposed, with the remaining four hidden from view until later. The general objective of the game is to make a better 5-card hand than the dealer, and the game uses Texas Hold ‘em poker hand rankings to determine hand values, as detailed below:
- Royal Flush – 10, Jack, Queen, King, Ace of the same suit
- Straight Flush – Five cards in consecutive order of the same suit
- 4 of a Kind – Four cards of the same value
- Full House – Three of a kind, and one pair
- Flush – Five cards of the same suit
- Straight – Five cards in consecutive order (not suited)
- Three of a Kind – Three cards of the same value
- Two Pair – Two pairs
- One Pair – A singular pair
- High Card – Used when no other hand is made
Folding or Raising Your Hand
Once you’ve taken a look at your hand, you then have two options:
- Folding your hand: If you believe your hand has little chance of winning, you can fold your hand here, at which point you automatically forfeit your ante bet, and any side bets you’ve chosen to place.
- Raising your hand: If you believe your hand has a good chance of beating the dealers, you can make what’s known as a raise. This is where you place an additional wager – twice the amount of your ante – and play your hand.
If you opt to fold your hand, the game ends there and then, and a new hand is begun.
If you choose to raise your bet, the game is also over, but the dealer will then expose his/her hand, and if yours beats theirs, you get paid out using the following pay table:
- Royal Flush – 100:1
- Straight Flush – 50:1
- 4 of a Kind – 20:1
- Full House – 7:1
- Flush – 5:1
- Straight – 4:1
- Three of a Kind – 3:1
- Two Pair – 2:1
- One Pair or Less – 1:1
Your ante bet is paid out at even money, regardless of your hand value. Now, the dealer must make a certain hand in order to qualify. This means, if his hand is less than Ace, King high, he won’t qualify.
For example, if the dealer’s cards were 2, 3, 4, 9, and Queen, he would have Queen high, and wouldn’t qualify. When the dealer doesn’t qualify, your raise bet is automatically returned, and your ante bet is paid out at even money, regardless of your holdings. It’s important to note at this stage that when the dealer doesn’t qualify, you won’t be paid out on your raise hand, no matter what your hand is.
Caribbean Stud Game Variations
There are two main variations of Caribbean Stud Poker, and a wide selection of side bets. First, we’ll look at the two game variations themselves.
- UK Caribbean Stud Poker – Largely the same as regular Caribbean Stud Poker, UK Caribbean Stud Poker’s only real difference is that the payouts are slightly worse; a Royal Flush pays 50:1, instead of 100:1. For that reason, it’s always best to try and play regular Caribbean Stud Poker, as opposed to the UK version.
- Oasis Poker – Oasis Poker is relatively common online these days, and can be found in a large number of online casinos. The rules of the game are exactly the same as Caribbean Stud Poker, but players have the chance to exchange their cards before they make a raise or fold. A player can choose to exchange 1 card, or all 5 – and all numbers in-between, although doing so comes at a cost.
Swapping 1 card costs 1X the ante, swapping 2 cards costs 2X the ante, with 3 and 4 cards costing 3X, and 4X the ante respectively. If a player chooses to swap all 5 cards, they simply raise automatically, and pay 1X the ante bet. After the cards have been swapped, providing the player didn’t choose to swap all 5 cards, they then have the option to either fold, or raise the hand as normal, and payouts remain the same, with the raise bet paid according to the table above, and the ante bet paid at even money.
- Bonus Bet – This is by far the most common, and desirable side bet within Caribbean Stud Poker, and this acts much like the Pairs Plus bet found in Three Card Poker. The bonus bet requires a player to wager an amount before the hand begins, and is independent from the main hand, meaning the payouts aren’t affected by the dealer’s hand. The bonus bet pays when the player hand makes 3-of-a-kind or higher, and while the payouts vary greatly depending on the casino table rules, Royal and straight flushes generally pay very well, with some casinos offering upwards of 250:1! The benefit of this bet is that it pays even when the dealer doesn’t qualify.
- Super Power – Super Power is an optional side bet that pays 20:1 if the dealer has a pair or higher, AND the player has two pair or higher. It’s also worth noting that the player must win the hand in order for this bet to pay out. The house edge on this side bet is a whopping 25.33%, so it’s best avoided for your bankroll’s sake!
- Power Play – Like the Super Power side bet, the Power Play bet pays 6:1 and wins when the dealer has a pair, and the player wins – that’s it. With a house edge of 12.41%, it’s not quite as bad as the Super Power bet, but it’s a high house edge regardless.
Optimal Playing Strategy
While Caribbean Stud Poker strategy is generally easy to follow, the Wizard of Odds reports that it’s ‘unlikely anyone truly knows the best playing strategy’. That said, there are a couple of simple strategies you can follow while playing to lower the house edge, and it’s good to use such strategies, as it means you know what to do in tricky situations, especially online, where you don’t have players round you can ask!
- If you have a pair in your hand, you should always make a raise. This is because your hand stands a good chance of winning.
- If you have a hand less than the dealer’s qualifying hand (Ace-King high), you should always fold.
- If you have exactly Ace-King high, generally you’ll always raise, unless they show an Ace or a King, and your hand is Ace-King and three low cards (below 7). In any other situation, it’s generally worth playing Ace-King high, although stay away from Ace-Queen, and Ace-Jack high, no matter how tempting they may appear, at first.
History of Caribbean Stud
The history of Caribbean Stud Poker is a little confusing, with no definitive creation date or creator. This is rare, especially as it’s a new game (appearing in casinos around the early 1980’s), but David Sklansky – a leading mathematician, and poker expert – claims he invented the game, making the claims in various online forums. According to Sklansky, he was unable to patent the game due to patent laws (a similar occurrence to Pai Gow’s creator, who in turn, lost out on millions of pounds in licensing fees), although Sklansky’s claims have never been verified, so the validity of this information can’t be confirmed.
What is clear, however, is how the game has developed since it first originated, and in 1987, a gambler named James Suttle learned of the game, and sold the rights to use it to his friend, Danny Jones, a casino owner and game developer who held many high-up contacts within the gambling industry. The game went down well with players, and begun gaining popularity around the United States, and it wasn’t long until a progressive jackpot feature was added to the game, and once this happened, the game rapidly grew in popularity, with casinos all over the world paying fees to use the game in their card rooms. Since then, the game has remained largely the same, and while casinos have occasionally added their own touch (in the form of side bets), Caribbean Stud Poker remains the same as it was in the 1980’s.
Online casinos have helped grow the popularity of Caribbean Stud Poker even more, and it’s become almost as commonplace as Roulette and Blackjack being featured in almost every major online casino today. Some casinos also offer Caribbean Stud Poker in their Live Dealer casinos, and although this isn’t the case with every online operator, it’s becoming more common, as players look for a different type of casino card-game than Blackjack or Baccarat.