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A Beginner’s Guide to Caribbean Stud Poker

An Introduction to Caribbean Stud Poker 

Caribbean Stud Poker is one of the best known and most played casino poker variants. While the origins of the game are not clear, the well-known poker writer David Sklansky claims that he invented it in the early 1980s. Whether this is true or not, the game has become hugely popular and can be found both online and in land casinos around the world.  

The game is extremely easy to play and can provide players with hours of fun. Essentially, it requires players to beat the house by building the better poker hand. In this guide, we will teach you everything you need to learn in order to start playing and we will also offer a few tips of strategy to help you improve your success.  

How to Play Caribbean Stud Poker  

If you have ever played any form of poker in the past, then it will take you no time at all to get to grips with the basics of Caribbean stud poker. Players begin a round by placing the Ante bet in the designated area. The dealer then deals the player five cards. The dealer also receives five cards, four of them are face down and the final one is face up.  

This is where you need to make your first decision. You can choose to Fold, which means you abandon your hand and lose your ante bet. Alternatively, you can Call, which means that you continue with the round and you place a second bet that is equal to twice the Ante bet. After you have made a decision, the dealer will reveal their cards.  

If your hand is stronger than the dealer’s is, then you will be paid at 1:1 for your Ante bet. However, you will only win on your Call bet if the dealer qualifies. This means that the dealer’s hand must contain at least an Ace-King. If the dealer does not qualify, then you will be paid for the Ante bet, but the Call bet will be returned as a push. Assuming that the dealer does qualify and you have a stronger hand, then you are paid 1:1 for the Ante bet and an additional payout for the Call bet.  

The Call bet payout may vary slightly from game to game; however, typical payouts are 100:1 for a Royal Flush, 50:1 for a Straight Flush, 20: for Four of a Kind, 7:1 for a Full House, 5:1 for a Flush, 4:1 For a Straight, 3:1 for Three of a Kind, 2:1 for Two Pair, 1:1 for a Pair, and 1:1 for High Card. 

Caribbean Stud Poker Hands 

As should be clear, this really is a very simple game. However, when deciding whether to Call or Fold, you will need to be able to spot what type of hand you have in order to decide whether it is worth continuing. This means that you need to be very familiar with the different types of poker hands. However, there are just ten of them and it will take you no time at all to understand them. From strongest to weakest, the winning hands in Caribbean Stud Poker are:  

  • Royal Flush – This is the strongest hand possible and it contains the cards 10, J, Q, K and A all from the same suit.  
  • Straight Flush – This is five cards from the same suit in numerical order; for example, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack of Clubs. 
  • Four of a Kind – This is a hand that contains four cards with same value, such as 5 Diamonds, 5 Clubs, 5 Spades, 5 Hearts.  
  • Full House – This is a hand that contains three of a kind and a pair, for example, three 7s and two Jacks, the suit is irrelevant.  
  • Flush – This is a hand of five cards from the same suit, for example, 2, 4, 10, Queen and King of Clubs. 
  • Straight – This is five cards in numerical order, regardless of suit. For example, 4 Diamonds, 5 Clubs, 6 Hearts, 7 Diamonds, and 8 Spades 
  • Three of a Kind – This is three cards of the same value and two unrelated cards. For example, 4 Diamonds, 4 Spades, 4 Hearts, 9 Clubs and Queen Diamonds. 
  • Two Pair – This is a hand that contains two separate pairs of cards and one unrelated card. For example, 2 Diamonds, 2 Spades, Queen Clubs, Queen Hearts, 6 Hearts. 
  • Pair – This is a hand that contains two matching cards and three unrelated cards. For example, Jack Clubs, Jack Diamonds, 3 Hearts, 5 Diamonds, 10 Spades.  
  • High Card – If a hand does not contain any of the above, then it is judged according to the highest value card in it. 

It is important to remember that when the player and the dealer have the same type of hand, such as a Pair, then the hand with the higher card value will win. For example, a pair of Jacks beats a pair of 5s.  

Caribbean Stud Poker Side Bets 

It is very common for Caribbean Stud Poker games to offer a progressive jackpot side bet. In most games, the side bet is just €/$/£1, so it is not very expensive to play, and between 70% and 80% of this money is added to the jackpot pool. If you place the side bet, then you will win the jackpot if you are dealt a Royal Flush. Many games will also offer smaller payouts for other hands through the side bet. For example, a Straight Flush may award 10% of the jackpot, Four of a Kind may award 500x, a Full House may award 100x, and a Flush may award 50x.  

It should be noted that the odds of being dealt a Royal Flush with no draws are 1 in 649,740. For comparisons sake, the chances of being struck by lightning in any given year are around 1 in 700,000. However, this doesn’t mean that you should not place the bet. You can look at it as an inexpensive bit of fun, and just ensure that you don’t waste your entire bankroll on it.  

Caribbean Stud Poker Strategy 

The optimal strategy for Caribbean Stud Poker is very complicated and it would take an average person a very long time to memorise. However, this does not mean that there aren’t simple strategies that can be used to try to improve returns. Of course, it is still gambling and the game is largely decided by luck, so there can be no guarantees.  

To start with, there are two very basic rules that you can stick to that will help increase your winnings: 

  1. Always Call if you have a pair or better 
  1. Always Fold if your own hand ranks worse than the dealer’s minimum qualifying hand of Ace King high 

While these rules will cover most situations, there are hands where things are not quite as clear-cut. For example, if you hold an Ace King high together with three other random cards. Assuming you are not looking at an optimal strategy chart, there are three basic rules you should learn for these situations: 

  1. When holding Ace King high, you should Call if the dealer’s up card is a 2 through Queen AND it matches one of your other three cards 
  1. When holding Ace King high, you should Call if the dealer’s up card is Ace or King AND you hold a Queen or a Jack in your other cards. 
  1. When holding Ace King high, you should Call if the dealer’s up card rank does not match any of yours AND you hold a Queen in your hand AND the dealer’s up card is worse than your fourth highest card. 

This rules may sound a little bit complicated, but you should be able to memorise them in no time at all, and you can quickly return to them when you are dealt Ace King high.  

By following the five rules listed here, you will significantly reduce the house edge and give yourself the best possible chance of winning. You may also want to incorporate a simple betting system to help you manage your bankroll; however, this is not really necessary. Proper bankroll management is essential, but it can be done very easily. All you need to do is keep your bets small enough to ensure that you can keep playing for as long as you wish. For example, if you know you have €100 and you want to play for an hour, it is possible that you will play as many as 120 rounds in that hour, or even more. This means that you shouldn’t bet more than about €0.82 per hand. It will ensure that you do not deplete your bankroll too quickly and that even if you are incredibly unlucky and hit a massive losing streak, you will not run out of funds.   

To Conclude 

Caribbean Stud Poker is a hugely enjoyable game and one that you can have fun with for hours on end. While it is not a complicated game, it is perfect for poker players looking to play against the house, and it does give you the chance of hitting some huge payouts. The game’s strategy will take you no time to grasp, and by following it, you should be able to maximise your returns. Take some time to memorise the rules discussed above, and then you will be ready to dive straight into the action.   


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