Caribbean Stud Poker (or just "Caribbean Stud") is a table game found in nearly all casinos in the United States. It is not technically considered "poker" but the game clearly takes on many of the aspects and properties of a traditional poker game.

In this game each player player begins by placing a bet on a spot marked "ante" on the table layout. At most casinos this bet must be at least $5. Busier casinos sometimes have a $10 or $25 minimum bet.

Unlike traditional poker played in a poker room Caribbean Stud dealers use automatic card shufflers to provide a continuous stream of randomly shuffled decks. A standard deck of 52 cards is used. The dealer gives each player 5 cards face down in turn. The dealer then keeps 5 cards for himself -- one of which he places face up. Players are not allowed to share their hand's contents with any of the other players. (Most casinos don't care if the spectators see the hands and some don't enforce this rule at all).

After the cards are dealt each player must either: 1) "fold" by surrendering their hand back to the dealer and forfeiting the ante bet or 2) "raise" by placing an amount of chips exactly equal to twice the ante in the "raise" spot on the table's layout. In some casinos this spot is called the "call" spot instead of the "raise" spot. In either case the play is the same.

After each player has made their decision the dealer reveals his four face down cards. What happens next depends on the rank of the dealers hand. If the dealers hand is not ranked at least "no pair ace king high" or better then the dealers hand does not qualify and it is "folded". Each player is paid an amount equal to their ante. The players "raise" bets are returned as a "push". If the dealers hand is ranked above "no pair ace king high" then the dealer is said to have "qualified". If the dealer qualifies then his hand is compared to each of the players. If the dealer's hand outranks the player's hand he collects the player's ante and his raise bets. If the player's hand outranks the dealer's then the player's ante bet is paid back at 1-1 and his raise bets are paid out according to the rules table posted on the table. The typical payouts are listed below.

     Caribbean Stud Poker Payouts
     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                     1:1 
     No pair ace-king high    1:1 

Bonus Payouts

Most casinos have a Progressive Jackpot along with the Caribbean Stud game. To participate in the progressive jackpot the player must place a $1 chip into an acceptor slot in front of them before the cards are dealt. When the coin is placed in the slot a small light will light up next to the slot indicating that the player is participating in the jackpot.

By participating in the jackpot the player is entitled to the following additional bonus payouts based on the ranking of their hands. The player need not beat the dealer in order to claim the bonus payout.

     Caribbean Stud Poker Bonus Payouts
     Royal Flush        100% of jackpot 
     Straight Flush      10% of jackpot 
     Four of a Kind                $500 
     Full House                    $100
     Flush                          $50 

Note: This is just an example payout (from the Bellagio game). Every casino has its own bonus payout schedule that you should consult before playing.

The progressive bet is an exceptionally bad bet unless the jackpot amount is greater than $263,228. If the jackpot is less than $100,000, the house edge on that bet is more than 50% Typically, for every $1 bet just $.71 goes towards the jackpot amount and the casino keeps the rest. All payoffs including flushes, full houses, four of a kinds, straight flushes and royal flushes are made directly from the jackpot and that amount reduces the overall jackpot payout. When the royal flush hits, the casino puts up the money to start the next jackpot. It is usually started around $20,000.

Caribbean Stud Poker "Optimal Strategy"?

The "optimal strategy" for this game (like all other casino games) is DO NOT PLAY THIS GAME! Take whatever chips you have remaining and cash them in at the cashier cage. Caribbean Stud Poker is not a beatable game using any strategy over the long run (barring cheating).

If perhaps you should find yourself "forced" (by gunpoint or coercion) to play this game then the optimal strategy changes somewhat:

  1. Place a bet equal to the table minimum on the "ante" spot
  2. If the progressive jackpot is greater than $263,228 then place a $1 chip into the progressive jackpot slot in front of you.
  3. If your hand is less than "no pair ace-king high" then always fold
  4. If your hand is of rank "one pair" or higher you should always call.
  5. If your hand is "no pair" and contains both an ace and king then you should fold your hand unless one of your cards matches the dealer's face up card. If your ace-king hand contains a card of the same rank as dealers hand then you should go ahead and call.

Even with perfect play the casino's edge is 5.22% on the ante portion of your bet. The house edge on the progressive portion of the bet is variable, but typically you'll find it is very high. It averages close to 29% at most casinos. Even if the progress jackpot is above $263,228 you should avoid this game because you aren't allowed to place the $1 progressive bet unless you also play the regular ante portion of the game. You'll also notice that when the jackpot gets anywhere close to this high they will raise the table limits on the game. An increase from a $5 to $10 minimum is a whole lot in this game because you must place an amount equeal to twice the ante to play your hand out fully. At $30 per hand you can easily burn through $500 in as little as one hour chasing a jackpot that probably isn't even an even bet.


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