How To Play Caribbean Stud Poker: Rules, Tips and Strategy

Everyone seems to like poker. If not to play it themselves than to watch others play it. Back in the 1980s, casinos wanted to tap into the public’s interest by offering a table game that resembled poker. Thus was born Caribbean Stud Poker.

The game is found in land-based casinos around the world, though it’s predominant in U.S. venues. It can also be found at the top online casinos, such as Bovada Casino and Slots.lv.

Below, you’ll find a tutorial for Caribbean Stud Poker. We’ll cover the rules of play and discuss the house’s edge on the game. We’ll also talk about strategy and the progressive jackpot. By the time you finish reading this guide, you’ll know everything you need in order to have a great time playing the game. And with a little luck, you might increase your bankroll in the process.

First, let’s cover how to play Caribbean Stud…

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Caribbean Stud Poker Rules

The Caribbean Stud Table Layout

The Caribbean Stud Table Layout


The rules are simple. If you’ve ever played 5-card stud, they’ll seem intuitive.

You need to place an ante to start each hand. Once you do so, you’ll receive five cards and the dealer will receive five cards. The dealer’s hand will be comprised of four hole cards and one card dealt face up.

At this point, you must decide whether to fold or raise. If you fold, you lose your ante. If you raise, the amount must be twice your ante. (Example: if your ante is $5, your raise must be $10.)

If you raise, the dealer’s four hole cards are immediately revealed. Your hand and the dealer’s hand are then compared to see which one outranks the other.

Two things must be true in order for you to win. First, your hand must beat the dealer’s hand. Second, the dealer’s hand must qualify with an Ace/King or higher.

If the dealer’s hand fails to qualify, you’ll be paid even money (1:1) on your ante and your raise will be pushed back to you. If the dealer qualifies and you possess the higher-ranking hand, you’ll be paid even money on your ante and receive a payout according to the casino’s pay table. If the dealer qualifies and holds the higher-ranking hand, you’ll lose both your ante and raise.

A tie results in a push; you’ll receive back your ante and raise.

Here’s the pay table used at Bovada Casino and Slots.lv:

  • 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
  • One pair – 1:1
  • High card – 1:1

You can also place a $1 bet on a progressive jackpot. We’ll talk more about this jackpot in a few moments.

Odds And House Edge On Caribbean Stud Poker

If you play according to a basic strategy, which I’ll show you in the following section, you’ll give up a house edge of 5.22%. That’s relatively high compared to blackjack, craps, and baccarat. But it’s manageable, coming in slightly higher than the house edge on roulette with a double-zero (00). (here are casino games with best and worst odds)

It’s helpful to appreciate the odds of making specific hands in Caribbean Stud Poker:

Caribbean Stud Poker Odds Of Making A Hand

  • Royal flush – 1 in 649,351
  • Straight flush – 1 in 72,202
  • Four of a kind – 1 in 4,167
  • Full house – 1 in 694
  • Flush – 1 in 526
  • Straight – 1 in 246
  • Three of a kind – 1 in 47
  • Two pair – 1 in 21
  • One pair – 1 in 2

Don’t let the odds for the top-ranked hands scare you. You don’t need them to win. If you’re holding a single pair, you can expect to beat the dealer a significant percentage of the time.

Basic Caribbean Stud Poker Strategy

Raise with any pair or beteter - Fold anything else.

Raise with any pair or beteter – Fold anything else.

There are two parts to a basic Caribbean Stud strategy. Both are straightforward and easy to remember:

1. Fold if you have less than a pair.

2. Raise if you have a pair or higher.

Those two simple guidelines will keep the house edge near 5.22%. A lot of players enjoy this approach because they can make quick decisions regarding whether to raise or fold. They can tell at a glance whether their hands have a fair chance of beating the dealer’s hands.

That said, let’s say you’d like to take Caribbean Stud strategy a step further…

Advanced Caribbean Stud Poker Advice and Tips

Caribbean Stud experts use a strategy that addresses three, rather than two, potential hands:

1. a hand with less than an Ace/King

2. a hand with a pair or better

3. a hand with an Ace/King

The first two scenarios are simple. Fold if you have less than an Ace/King and raise if you have a pair or better.

The third scenario is the dicey one. This is where advanced strategy comes into play. The experts recommend you raise if any one of the following three circumstances are true:

1. the dealer’s upcard is a 2 through Queen, and equals one of your own cards

2. the dealer’s upcard is a King or Ace, and you’re holding a Queen or Jack

3. the dealer’s upcard doesn’t match any your own cards, is ranked lower than your second-to-lowest card, and you’re holding a Queen.

The third circumstance is convoluted. Despite it being statistically sound, it’s difficult to remember. So some experts have boiled the above strategy down to a simple rule…

Raise if you’re holding an Ace-King-Jack-8-3 or better.

Don’t ask me how they arrived at this strategy. I assume they’re math wizards. The more salient point is that with this approach, you’ll raise 52.5% of your hands and fold the rest of the time. That’s not counting for draws, which are uncommon.

Believe it or not, you can take Caribbean Stud Poker strategy even further. The problem is, doing so requires having a memory like Rain Man, or a huge spreadsheet that takes into account every possible scenario. And at that point, you’re not even having fun.

I recommend starting off with the basic strategy outlined above. Then, once you’re comfortable with it, experiment with the three “Ace/King” scenarios used by the experts.

Or if you want to follow a simple guideline, raise whenever you have a Ace-King-Jack-8-3 or better.

Should You Bet On The Progressive Jackpot?

Caribbean Stud Poker allows you to bet on a progressive jackpot that rises by the second. If you place the wager and make certain high-ranking hands, you’ll win a portion of the jackpot – or the entire thing in the case of a Royal flush.

Here are the payouts for the progressive jackpot at Bovada Casino and Slots.lv:

Royal flush – 100% (you win the entire bucket of cash)
Straight flush – 10%
Four of a kind – $500
Full house – $100
Flush – $75

The jackpot grows based on how many people are playing the game and how much they’re wagering. Its size is based on how recently someone has won it (or a portion of it). At the time of writing, the jackpot is sitting at just under $28,000. If no one wins it, it can climb to several times that amount.

You might be thinking, “Wait a second. I can potentially win almost $30,000 by betting just $1? Count me in!”

Not so fast. Recall the odds of making the above hands. For example, you only have a 1 in 72,202 chance of making a straight flush. And doing so only guarantees you 10% of the pie. The odds of you making a royal flush are astronomical.

That being the case, it shouldn’t surprise you that the house edge on the progressive bet is a staggering 26.46%. That’s worse than Keno (that’s saying something).

Should you make the progressive bet? Sure, if you’re okay with throwing away your money. It’s only $1. Just don’t make the bet on every hand you play.

Speaking of dubious bets, let’s talk about some of the mistakes players commonly make when playing Caribbean Stud.

Common Mistakes Made In Caribbean Stud Poker

The first mistake is usually made by beginners. It so blatantly violates basic strategy that it’s a wonder people make it. But make it they do.

Here it is: they fold with a low pair (e.g. two or threes).

It’s understandable. There’s nothing exciting about holding a low pair. But it’s important to realize that the dealer will fail to qualify nearly half of the time. There’s a 56.32% chance the dealer will receive a Ace/King. There’s an even lower chance he’ll receive a pair or better. Remember, if the dealer fails to qualify, you’ll be paid even money on your ante. If he qualifies with an Ace/King and has nothing better, you’ll be paid on both your ante and raise.

So the rule is, if you’re holding a pair, even a pair of twos, raise.

The second mistake I’ve seen is another violation of basic strategy: raising with an Ace/Queen. To be sure, an Ace/Queen can seem promising if the dealer’s upcard is a low one. So it’s understandable that some folks would want to raise. But doing so is a terrible idea. More often than not, it’ll result in a complete loss; you’ll end up forfeiting your ante and raise.

A third mistake involves hands with an Ace/King. The unseasoned (and overly-optimistic) player will often raise by default. It’s easy to see why people commit this blunder. Situations with an Ace/King can be dicey. It’s not easy to know whether you should raise or fold.

But there’s one thing you can know for certain: raising every time you receive an Ace/King is a recipe for disaster.

To mitigate your risk, I strongly encourage you to use the basic strategy outlined above. It’s easy to remember and will prevent you from making bad decisions, particularly with respect to an Ace/King.

The fourth common mistake is to bet on the progressive jackpot. A lot of players – even those with experience – are seduced by the huge pool of money and the fact that they can take a stab at it for just $1. But remember, the odds of making a flush or better are low, which is why the casino’s edge on this bet is so high.

If you’ve never played Caribbean Stud Poker, I recommend giving it a try. It’s a lot of fun and doesn’t have to cost you a penny. Visit Bovada Casino or Slots.lv to play the game for free. See if you enjoy it. If you do, create an account, make a deposit, and start playing for real money payouts!

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