Caribbean Stud Poker is a favorite for many casino gamblers. However, the real draw of the game is because of the progressive jackpot bet that can be found at virtually every casino. Online versions of this game also follow this tradition, with many casinos featuring progressive jackpots spread across entire networks of sites, leading to large jackpots that few live casinos can match!
- Basics of how to play
- Standard payout chart
- Progressive jackpot payouts
- Playing for real money
- Michael Shackleford’s Easy to Remember Strategy
- Play our free game
The object of Caribbean Stud Poker is to make a better five card poker hand than the dealer. A hand begins with each player making an ante bet. Each player this then dealt five cards face down, while the dealer is given a five card hand, with one card face up. Players may look at their hands, but they are not supposed to share information about their hands with each other (a rule that is sometimes violated between friends at live casinos).
At this point, each player must choose whether to fold or raise. If the player folds, they forfeit their cards and lose the ante bet. If the player raises, they must make a raise bet equal to twice the size of their initial ante bet.
Once all players have chosen to raise or fold, the dealer will reveal his hand. The dealer needs to have at least an ace/king high hand (like A-K-7-4-2) in order to have a qualifying hand. If the dealer does not qualify, all players remaining in the hand win even money on their ante bet, and push their raise bets.
If the dealer does qualify, the dealer’s hand is compared to the player’s hand. If the dealer’s hand is better, the player loses both their ante and raise bets. If the player’s hand is better, the ante bet pays even money, while the raise bet pays out based on the following pay chart (this one of the most common, though others are known to exist).
If you’ve played in a casino before, then you will be familiar with the table layout and game setup online
- Royal Flush: 100-1
- Straight Flush: 50-1
- Four 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
- Pair or Less: 1-1
Because of the huge appeal of it’s huge appeal, pretty much all casinos that offer real money Caribbean Stud Poker also include a progressive jackpot side bet. Players can choose to make this side bet at the beginning of each hand for $1, and it pays out based on the strength of the player’s hand. A typical pay table for this bet looks something like the following:
- Royal Flush: 100% of Jackpot
- Straight Flush: 10% of Jackpot
- Four of a Kind: $500
- Full House: $100
- Flush: $75
Caribbean Stud Poker is one of the few games where it can honestly be said that the strategy is both very simple, and very complex. This is because formulating a completely, 100% optimal strategy is extraordinarily difficult. However, coming to a very close approximation of that strategy is much simpler, and will come extremely close to offering the same odds as the fully optimal strategy – which would require a mammoth chart to utilize.
First of all, playing any sensible Caribbean Stud Poker strategy requires following two simple rules. Following just these two rules will eliminate all of the major errors you could make during a hand. The two rules are as follows:
- Always raise if you hold a pair or better.
- Always fold if you have a hand of less than ace/king high (in other words, any hand that wouldn’t qualify for the dealer).
That leaves only the hands of ace/king high to be considered. There have been many suggestions made as to how to play these hands, some of which come closer to approximating the optimal strategy than others. For instance, one simple rule to follow is to raise with ace/king high only if the dealer’s up card matches the rank of one of the player cards (thus reducing the odds of the dealer having a pair). This alone will reduce the house edge to within .11% of the optimal strategy (more on that below).
If you want to make even better decisions when it comes to choosing which ace/king hands to raise with, there are other rules you can follow as well. You should be more likely to raise if your cards are high, and especially if the dealer’s up card is lower than most or all of your cards.
Michael Shackleford has come up with a Caribbean Stud Poker strategy that only requires memorizing three extra rules. By following these rules, you can come within .001% of the optimal strategy. They are as follows:
- Raise if the dealer’s up card is a queen or lower, and matches one of your cards.
- Raise if the dealer’s up card is an ace or king, and you have a jack or a queen.
- Raise if the dealer’s up card doesn’t match any of your cards, but is lower than your fourth highest card, and you have a queen.
With a perfectly optimal strategy, Caribbean Stud Poker has a house edge of 5.224%. As we’ve said, however, it is effectively impossible to memorize that strategy entirely; the Shackleford strategy outlined above comes very close, however, and results in a house edge of 5.225%.
Other simplified strategies also do well. For instance, simply raising if the dealer’s up card matches one of your cards results in a house edge of just 5.33%. Even simply raising with only a pair or better only raises the house edge to 5.47%. As long as you follow the most basic rules, you really won’t do far worse than the optimal strategy! Just for the record, playing blind and raising every hand results in a house edge of about 16.61%.
The progressive jackpot is usually a bad bet for the player; when the jackpot is small, it will normally have quite a high house edge. However, large jackpots can sometimes turn this bet into a profitable one for the player. On most common pay tables, this occurs somewhere around the point when the progressive jackpot reaches $250,000.