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Rules & Strategy

Caribbean Stud Poker

A popular spin-off of poker developed for traditional casinos more than a decade ago, Caribbean Stud has taken a front-row-seat in casinos, owing its success both to the drastic rise in poker popularity and to its overwhelming simplicity. The basic rules for the game are as follows:

• All players must make an ante wager according to the limits of the table. An optional $1 progressive wager is also made at this time.
• The dealer and all players are dealt five cards. All player cards are dealt face down. The dealer receives four cards face down. The fifth card is exposed.
• After looking at the hand, players must decide whether to fold or bet. Hands values are based according to traditional poker rules. Players may not share information about their hands.
• Any player that folds forfeits the current wager.
• Any player that bets must wager an additional amount equal to twice (2x) the value of the ante.
• After all players have made and acted on their decisions, the dealer will expose his remaining cards.
• The dealer must have a minimum hand of Ace/King to qualify. If the dealer does not qualify, players will win even money on their ante and push with their bet.
• If the dealer’s hand does qualify and loses to the player, then the ante will pay even money and the bet will pay according to the table’s payout schedule.

Common Caribbean Stud Pay Table (US)
Hand / Pays
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
All other / 1 to 1

• If the dealer qualifies and wins, the player losses all monies wagered.
• The optional progressive side bet will be based entirely on the standard poker value of the player’s hand.

While the mechanics of the game are clearly easy to follow, optimal strategy for this game can get a little complicated. Unfortunately, providing a detailed strategy for each falls a little outside the scope of this book. However, at its most basic, the call strategy for this game involves two actions: always bet when dealt a pair, and Always fold with any hand below an Ace/King.

Finally, following optimal strategy, the best you can do with this game in terms of reducing the vigorish is about 5.2%.

Variations on a theme

Caribbean Stud is another game that has suffered few changes in overall structure after entering the online environment. In fact, the two biggest changes involve its name—which varies according to software provider–and the payout structure for both the bet and progressive jackpot. Alternative names include: Caribbean Poker, Island Progressive Stud Poker, and Cyberstud Poker.

Pay Table I
Payout structure variations for called hands
Hand / Pays

Royal Flush / 100-1
Straight Flush / 50-1
Four of a Kind / 20-1
Full House / 9-1
Flush / 7-1
Straight / 4-1
Three of a Kind / 3-1
Two Pair / 2-1
Pair or Less / 1-1

Pay Table II
Hand / Pays

Royal Flush / 200-1
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

Pay Table III
Hand / Pays

Royal Flush / 800-1
Straight Flush / 200-1
Four of a Kind / 25-1
Full House / 10-1
Flush / 7-1
Straight / 5-1
Three of a Kind / 3-1
Two Pair / 2-1
Pair or Less / 1-1

The pay structures for the optional progressive jackpot wager include:

Progressive Payout Variations
Hand Payout
Table 1 / Table 2 / Table3 / Table4

Royal Flush / 100% / 100% / 100% / 100%
Straight Flush / 10% / 10% / 10% / 10%
Four of a Kind / $500 / $500 / $150 / $100
Full House / $250 / $150 / $100 / $75
Flush / $100 / $75 / $50 / $50
Straight or Lower / $0 / $0 / $0 / $0

As you can see, there are some drastic variations for payout tables from site to site, so if Caribbean Stud Poker is your game, be sure to verify the pay schedules from each casino you visit. If given the opportunity when narrowing down your search, opt for the site that offers the best possible schedule.

Winning at Caribbean Stud

Even though Caribbean Stud is a simple game to learn, the strategy can actually get quite involved. In fact, whole books have been written about the topic, including one by this author.

At its most advanced level, the best you’ll be able to lower the house edge on this game is 5.22%, making it far from one of the best games in the house. A simplified, yet not overly costly strategy—hovering with a vigorish of about 5.5%–involves two actions. First, always bet/raise when your hand contains a pair (no matter how small) or better. Second, fold any hands that do not contain at least the minimum qualifying hand for the dealer: Ace-King.

Slightly more advanced strategy involves paying close attention to the dealer’s upcard. For example, if you hold an Ace-King in your hand and the dealer’s exposed card is below a king and matches one of your other cards, you should bet. Other factors that you should keep an eye out for include the remaining cards in your Ace-King hand (do you have a queen as well, while the dealer shows garbage?) and the comparative rank of the dealer’s card to your remaining cards.

While it’s usually suggested that player’s learn and master the optimal strategy for any game they play, in this particular instance beginners may want to avoid the hours of tedious study needed to drop the edge such a small amount in an otherwise expensive game, and concentrate solely on these basics. If you find that you have a real taste for the game, then invest the time to drop that edge down to its optimal level.


Caribbean Stud Poker.

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