This game is a variation of poker played on a blackjack sized table. Following is how the game is played:
Play starts with each player making an ante bet in a designated square. Each player then receives five cards face down. Players may examine their own cards but may not share information with each other. The dealer also receives five cards, four face down and one face up. At this point each player has two options: raise or fold. If the player raises he puts twice his ante bet in the raise box. If the player folds he must relinquish his cards to the dealer, who will collect his ante bet. After all players have made their plays the dealer exposes his own cards. If he does not qualify with at least an ace and king then all remaining ante bets pay even money and all raise bets push. If the dealer does qualify then each remaining player hand is individually compared against the dealer’s hand, and the best poker hand wins in each case. If the dealer has the higher hand the player loses both ante and raise. In the unlikely event the two hands are equal in value then both ante and raise push. If the player has the higher hand the ante pays even money and the raise pays according to the following pay table.
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
Pair 1 to 1
Ace/King 1 to 1
The player should raise on any pair or better, fold on anything less than ace/king, and should sometimes raise and sometimes fold on ace/king. To play Caribbean stud perfectly would involve memorizing the charts in my appendix on when exactly to raise on ace/king. Of course nobody is going to do that so a more simplified strategy is clearly called for. By studying the appendix you will notice certain paterns of when the odds favor raising and when they don’t. I have summarized these patterns in the following suggested rules of thumb on when to raise on ace/king:
Raise if the dealer’s card is a 2 through queen and matches one of yours.
Raise if the dealer’s card is an ace or king and you have a queen or jack in your hand.
Raise if the dealer’s rank does not match any of yours and you have a queen in your hand and the dealer’s card is less than your fourth highest card.
This strategy is unique to this page but is not the only strategy I have heard of. Following are various other strategies, their total loss based on all possible 19,933,230,517,200 combinations of hands, the house edge, and the “element of risk” (defined below). The “matching rank” strategy calls for raising on any pair or better and on ace/king when one of the player’s cards matches the rank of the dealer’s up card (which lowers the odds of the dealer forming a pair).
Strategy Statistics in Caribbean Stud Poker
Strategy Total loss House edge Element of risk
Perfect strategy 1,041,372,912,372 5.224% 2.555%
Three rules of thumb (above) 1,041,417,758,724 5.225% 2.554%
Raise on ace/king/jack/8/3 or better 1,059,715,400,580 5.316% 2.596%
Matching rank 1,063,176,931,284 5.334% 2.616%
Raise on any pair or better 1,090,272,101,460 5.470% 2.738%
Raise on any ace/king or better 1,132,600,203,540 5.682% 2.672%
Playing blind (raise on everything) 3,310,360,338,060 16.607% 5.536%
House Edge, Element of Risk
Any respectable book will tell you that the house edge in Caribbean stud poker is about 5.2%. This is true but I have always felt it unfairly makes the game look like a bad bet. The reason is in how the house edge is defined, the ratio of average money lost to the original bet. In Caribbean stud the player will roughly wager just as much in WildCasino.ag Review raises as in antes, and this additional money bet is not considered in the house edge statistic.
For purposes of comparison to other games I think it is better to consider the ratio of money lost to total money wagered, which I refer to as the “element of risk.” The element of risk using perfect strategy is 2.555%, which makes is look more competitive compared to other games, although still not one of the best. It is interesting to note that the element of risk for my three rules of thumb is better than for perfect strategy! That is because raising on slightly suboptimal plays is actually a better bet than the game as a whole and brings down the average expected loss.
Credit should be given to Stanley Ko, Professor John M. Gwynn Jr, and the late Peter Griffin for being the first to do a thorough study of Caribbean stud poker. Due largely on the complexities of when to raise on ace/king this is one of the most complicated casino games to analyze. Thanks to their analysis, which they kindly shared with me, I had something to check my work against.
The following tables shows the various possible outcomes in caribbean stud poker, their net return per initial bet, their probability, and their total return (product of probability and net return).
Statistics for Caribbean Stud Poker
Event/winning hand Pays Number Total return Probability Average return
Ace/king 3 18,505,682,208 55,517,046,624 0.00092838 0.00278515
Pair 3 2,324,742,321,600 6,974,226,964,800 0.11662647 0.34987941
Two pair 5 488,012,139,360 2,440,060,696,800 0.02448234 0.12241170
Three of a kind 7 234,242,908,320 1,639,700,358,240 0.01175138 0.08225964
Straight 9 43,805,516,100 394,249,644,900 0.00219761 0.01977851
Flush 11 21,856,990,280 240,426,893,080 0.00109651 0.01206161
Full house 15 16,624,475,280 249,367,129,200 0.00083401 0.01251012
Four of a kind 41 2,832,435,800 116,129,867,800 0.0001421 0.00582594
Straight flush 101 156,929,720 15,849,901,720 0.00000787 0.00079515
Royal flush 201 16,759,740 3,368,707,740 0.00000084 0.00016900
Ante only 1 4,532,514,033,720 4,532,514,033,720 0.22738482 0.22738482
Push 0 321,623,100 0 0.00001614 0
Fold -1 9,523,005,974,460 -9,523,005,974,460 0.47774524 -0.47774524
Dealer wins -3 2,726,592,727,512 -8,179,778,182,536 0.13678629 -0.41035888
Total 19,933,230,517,200 -1,041,372,912,372 1 -0.05224306
At the Star City casino in Pyrmont NSW Australia a royal flush pays 250 to 1. At Starnet online casinos a royal flush pays 200 to 1. This lowers the house edge to 5.20% at the Star City casino and 5.21% at Starnet casinos.
Progressive Jackpot Side Bet
In Caribbean Stud Poker the player has the choice to make a side bet of $1 which pays for hands of a flush or better. The specific payoff tables vary from place to place but always feature a progressive jackpot, paying 100% of the jackpot meter for a royal flush and 10% for a straight flush. In the very unlikely event that two players had a royal flush in the same hand at most places the first one to the dealer’s left would win the jackpot and the second would win whatever the jackpot is reseeded to, usually $10,000 or $20,000. Some places would split the jackpot between the two players. In the event that two players received a straight flush at the same time the first one to the dealer left would get 10% of the meter and the second would get 10% of what was left after the first player was paid. In other words it pays to sit as close as possible to the dealer’s left.
While the expected return varies depending on the size of the jackpot it is a sucker bet the vast majority of time. The average house edge is 26.46%.
A manager at Casino Niagara kindly explained how the jackpot meter works. For every dollar bet 71 cents goes into the jackpot and the casino keeps the other 29 cents. This rate of contribution can vary from place to place. All payoffs are paid right out of the meter. Every time somebody hits a royal flush the house contributes $10,000 (called the seed) to the next jackpot. The house edge is just under the cut per bet because the casino puts up the initial seed to start a new jackpot after somebody wins the previous one. At the Casino Niagara the house can expect to recieve 18.84 times as much money from the 29% cut as it pays to seed new jackpots.
The table below shows four different payoff tables I have seen. It should not be interpreted that a casino with a payoff table that pays more for a flush, full house, and four a kind is being generous. Since these payoffs come out of the meter the casino is indifferent to any win other than a royal flush (causing them to have to reseed the meter). The money in the meter can be considered the players money because it is only a matter of time before somebody wins it all.
Caribbean Stud Progressive Jackpot Side Bet
Table 1 Table 2 Table 3 Table 4 Table 5 Table 6 Table 7
Royal flush 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
Straight flush 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10%
Four of a kind $100 $150 $500 $500 $500 $500 $500
Full house $75 $100 $100 $150 $75 $100 $150
Flush $50 $50 $50 $75 $50 $75 $100
Below is a key to some of the casino where each payoff table above can be found. Unless otherwise stated the casino is in Las Vegas.
Table 1: Ballys, Paris, California, Las Vegas Club, Hilton
Table 2: Luxor, Excalibur, Mandaley Bay, Monte Carlo
Table 3: Bellagio, Venetian, Rio, Every casino in Atlantic City, Casino Niagara (Niagara Falls, Ontario), Grand (Tunica), Gold Strike (Tunica), Ballys (Tunica), Sheraton (Tunica), Isle of Capri (Tunica), Hollywood (Tunica), Harrah’s (Tunica)
Table 4: Harrah’s, Circus Circus
Table 5: Flamingo Hilton
Table 6: Imperial Palace, Horseshoe (Tunica)
Table 7: Star City (Pyrmont NSW, Australia)
To calculate an exact payback use the following formulas where j equals the jackpot meter:
Table 1: (598,600+7.6*j)/2,598,960
Table 2: (723,400+7.6*j)/2,598,960
Table 3: (941,800+7.6*j)/2,598,960
Table 4: (1,256,700+7.6*j)/2,598,960
Table 5: (848,200+7.6*j)/2,598,960
Table 6: (1,069,500+7.6*j)/2,598,960
Table 7: (1,384,400+7.6*j)/2,598,960
The next table shows what the jackpot level would have to be for various rates of return. For example to have a break even chance at the side bet at a casino with payoff table 1 the meter would have to be at least $263,205. One visit to a casino should illustrate the typcial jackpot levels are extremely far from the breakeven point and hopefully will convince you to avoid this bet.
Casino Canberra: I have heard the Canberra Casino follows pay table 7 but also pays $50 for a “dead man’s hand” consisting of AA88x, where x is any other card. For the side bet to have no house edge in this game the meter would need to reach $149,389.47. For a $5 minimum game to have no house edge the meter would need to reach $238,716.85, and for a $10 game $328,044.23.
Caribbean Stud Progressive Jackpot Side Bet
Return Jackpot Meter
Table 1 Table 2 Table 3 Table 4 Table 5 Table 6 Table 7
5% -61,665 -78,086 -106,823 -148,257 -94,507 -123,625 -165,059
10% -44,566 -60,987 -89,724 -131,158 -77,408 -106,527 -147,961
15% -27,468 -43,889 -72,626 -114,060 -60,310 -89,428 -130,863
20% -10,369 -26,791 -55,527 -96,962 -43,212 -72,330 -113,764
25% 6,729 -9,692 -38,429 -79,863 -26,113 -55,232 -96,666
30% 23,827 7,406 -21,331 -62,765 -9,015 -38,133 -79,567
35% 40,926 24,505 -4,232 -45,666 8,084 -21,035 -62,469
40% 58,024 41,603 12,866 -28,568 25,182 -3,936 -45,371
45% 75,123 58,702 29,965 -11,469 42,281 13,162 -28,272
50% 92,221 75,800 47,063 5,629 59,379 30,261 -11,174
55% 109,319 92,898 64,162 22,727 76,477 47,359 5,925
60% 126,418 109,997 81,260 39,826 93,576 64,457 23,023
65% 143,516 127,095 98,358 56,924 110,674 81,556 40,122
70% 160,615 144,194 115,457 74,023 127,773 98,654 57,220
75% 177,713 161,292 132,555 91,121 144,871 115,753 74,318
80% 194,812 178,391 149,654 108,219 161,969 132,851 91,417
85% 211,910 195,489 166,752 125,318 179,068 149,949 108,515
90% 229,008 212,587 183,851 142,416 196,166 167,048 125,614
95% 246,107 229,686 200,949 159,515 213,265 184,146 142,712
100% 263,205 246,784 218,047 176,613 230,363 201,245 159,811
105% 280,304 263,883 235,146 193,712 247,462 218,343 176,909
110% 297,402 280,981 252,244 210,810 264,560 235,442 194,007
115% 314,501 298,079 269,343 227,908 281,658 252,540 211,106
120% 331,599 315,178 286,441 245,007 298,757 269,638 228,204
125% 348,697 332,276 303,539 262,105 315,855 286,737 245,303
The house edge will depend directly on the progressive meter at any given moment. However over the long haul the casino will enjoy a healthy house edge from the Caribbean Stud side bet. It is typical for the casino to put about 70% to 75% of money bet in the jackpot meter and hold onto the rest. Every casino I have asked reseeds the jackpot meter with either $10,000 or $20,000 after somebody hits a royal flush which will cost 1.539% of money bet per $10,000 the meter is reseeded with. So the house edge will be 1.539% or 3.078% less than whatever cut it keeps for every dollar bet. At the Casino Niagara for example where they keep 29% the house edge will be 27.461%.
Caribbean Stud Online
Microgaming, Starnet, and Cryptologic online casinos offer Caribbean Stud Poker. They use different names but the rules are almost the sames. Microgaming calls the game Cyberstud Poker and Starnet and Cryptologic call it Caribbean Poker, removing the word Stud. Starnet uses the same paytable as used in real casinos. Cryptologic doubles the royal flush payoff to 200:1. Microgaming changed almost every hand, making a two pair pay only even money but increasing the payoff on everything from a straight to a royal flush. The following is the Microgaming payoff table.
Microgaming Payoff Table
Royal flush 999:1
Straight flush 199:1
Four of a kind 99:1
Full house 14:1
Three of a kind 3:1
Two pair 1:1
The house edge under the Microgaming rules is 5.01%. Under the Cryptologic rules the house edge is only slightly better at 5.21%.