Caribbean Stud Basics
Caribbean Stud, also called Caribbean Poker, is an exciting casino game that pits your five-card poker hand against the dealer’s. Frequent bonuses are paid for certain hands, adding to the thrill of the game. You can also make an optional Progressive Jackpot wager, which can have staggeringly high payouts. As its name suggests, Caribbean Stud began in the Caribbean and has since spread to casinos throughout the world.
The Caribbean Stud Table
Caribbean Stud is played at a table specifically designed for the game. A typical Caribbean Stud table accommodates up to seven players and the dealer.
Each player’s space has areas for three bets:
• The Ante bet: this bet is placed in the small circle labeled “Ante”
• The Call bet: this bet is placed in the large circle labeled “Bet”
• The Progressive Jackpot bet: this bet is placed vertically in the slot farthest from the player
All of these bets are explained in How to Play Caribbean Stud. Next to each player’s space are payout schedules that indicate how much is paid if the player wins with particular hands. You will also see the Progressive Jackpot meter. This display is usually to the players’ left and indicates how much is paid for the Progressive Jackpot.
A small sign on the table indicates the minimum and maximum bets permitted for the Ante Bet.
How to Play Caribbean Stud
Caribbean Stud is significantly simpler than most other forms of poker. Like other types of poker, it’s played in a series of rounds, or hands. During each hand, you have a chance to bet and win based on the cards you’re holding. Unlike in other forms of poker, however, in Caribbean Stud you’re attempting to beat only the dealer, not the other players at the table. Also, there’s no bluffing or other psychology in this game; it’s simply your cards versus the dealer’s.
First Round of Betting
Before the cards are dealt, you can make two types of bets: the Ante bet and the Progressive Jackpot bet (explained below). A maximum and minimum for the Ante bet amount will be posted at the table at which you’re playing. Any Ante bets that you make must fall within the posted maximum and minimum. All casinos require that you make an Ante bet in order to also make a Progressive Jackpot bet. The amount of the Progressive Jackpot bet is fixed at $1.
The Ante Bet
The Ante bet is a required wager that once the cards have been dealt, your hand will beat the dealer’s. If your hand does turn out to be better, you win. If the dealer’s hand is higher, or if you fold, you lose. If your and the dealer’s hands are equal, you push the Ante bet, meaning that no money changes hands for the bet, and the bet that you made is returned to you.
Making an Ante bet gives you the right to make a Call bet later: You can make a Call bet—which occurs after the cards have been dealt (see later in this section)—only if you’ve made an Ante bet first.
To make an Ante bet, place the desired amount in the space marked “Ante” in your area of the table before the cards are dealt.
The Progressive Jackpot Bet
The Progressive Jackpot bet is an optional wager on whether the hand you’ll be dealt will be a flush or higher. The outcome of this bet has nothing to do with the dealer’s hand. If you get a flush or higher, you win the bet—and the better your hand, the bigger the payout. If you don’t get a flush or higher, you lose.
For a royal flush, you’re paid the amount shown in the progressive jackpot meter. For a straight flush, you’re paid 10% of this amount. The payouts for other hands vary from casino to casino, but a typical Progressive Jackpot paytable is below:
Your Hand Progressive Jackpot pays...
Royal flush 100% of the Progressive Jackpot meter
Straight flush 10% of the Progressive Jackpot meter
Four of a kind $100
Full house $75
To make a Progressive Jackpot bet, place a $1 coin vertically in the slit closest to the dealer. If you're looking for a big payoff, consider the Progressive Jackpot bet.
After the players at the table have made their Ante and/or Progressive Jackpot bets, the dealer deals five cards face down to each player and then four cards face down and one card face up to himself. Most casinos use a machine to automate and speed up the dealing process.
Though players technically aren’t supposed to discuss their hands with other players, few players attempt to hide their cards from the other players, since they’re trying to beat only the dealer, not one another.
The Call Bet
You now have the option to make an additional wager called the Call bet. You decide whether to make a Call bet after you look at the five cards you’ve been dealt and the dealer’s single upcard. To make a Call bet, place your cards face down in the area marked “Bet” on the table in front of you, then place your additional bet on top of your cards. The amount of the Call bet must always equal twice the amount of the Ante bet. For example, if your Ante bet is $5, your Call bet must be $10, no more, no less. If you don’t wish to make a Call bet, you must fold by sliding all five of your cards toward the dealer. When you fold, you automatically lose the Ante bet. You would also lose your Progressive Jackpot bet if you fold, but you should never fold a hand that would result in a Progressive Jackpot payout.
Qualifying Dealer Hands
The Call bet is similar to the Ante bet in that it pits your hand against the dealer’s. It’s different, though, in that the dealer must qualify in order for you to win the Call bet. Only dealer hands which are an AK or higher qualify for the Call bet. Any lower dealer hand does not qualify, which means that any Call bets that have been made automatically push, neither winning nor losing. This qualifying rule for Call bets gives the casino an advantage over you in Caribbean Stud—when the dealer has a low hand, she doesn’t have to pay Call bets. In contrast, you must pay whenever you lose, even if it’s on a very low hand.
If the dealer’s hand does qualify, the outcome of the Call bet is determined by who has the higher hand. If your hand is higher, you win the Call bet. If the dealer’s hand is higher, you lose the Call bet. And if the two hands tie, the Call bet pushes.
If you hold a pair or higher, you may be eligible for a bonus. This is an extra payout in addition to your regular Ante and Call winnings and does not involve a separate bet. To win the bonus, four conditions must be met:
1. You hold a pair or higher
2. You make the Call bet
3. The dealer qualifies
4. Your hand is higher than the dealer’s
Note that even if you have a hand high enough for a bonus, you must call and beat a qualifying dealer hand to be paid. The exact amount of this bonus depends on your hand.
One caveat: all tables have a limit on the amount they’ll pay on the bonus, regardless of your bet. For example, if you have a royal flush with a $50 Call Bet, you might expect to be paid $50 x 100 = $5000. If the bonus limit is only $2000, however, you’ll only be paid $2000.
Basic Strategies for Caribbean Stud
To play Caribbean Stud as effectively as possible involves two steps:
1. Call with the right hands
2. Know when to make the Progressive Jackpot bet
Call with the Right Hands
The optimal strategy in Caribbean Stud is complicated and would require a computer to play perfectly. Fortunately, you can come extremely close to this optimal strategy with one, simple rule:
Call with any hand AKJ83 or higher; fold everything else.
That’s it. It doesn’t matter what the dealer has, what the other players do, what they tell you to do, or what hunches you may have. Calling only with hands that are AKJ83 or higher is the best simple strategy.
Note that any hand that contains at least a pair is higher than an AKJ83. For example, a JJT95 is higher than a AKJ83 because the former hand contains a pair. Also note that higher cards in your hand take priority over lower cards. For example, a AKQ62 is higher than a AKJ83. Conversely, any hand that’s AQ or lower should always be folded.
The House Edge
The house edge is a measure of how favorable, or unfavorable, a game is to play, expressed as a percentage. For example, a house edge of 5.2% means that you can expect to lose 5.2% of all the money you wager. If you wager a total of $100, you can expect to lose about $5.20. In Caribbean Stud, the house edge is determined by your strategy and by which wager you’re making:
Bet Approximate House Edge
Ante and Call bets (basic strategy) 2.6%
Progressive Jackpot 20%, but you can win big