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Caribbean Stud – Rules, Strategy & Free Games

Caribbean Stud Poker is a popular form of table poker played in brick-and-mortar and online casinos. The best online and mobile casinos offer some variation of Caribbean Stud. The main bet is based on 5-card stud poker, though the player has to beat the dealer instead of another player. A $1 side bet on a progressive jackpot is the game’s most distinctive feature. In most casinos, Caribbean Stud is one of the only progressive table games.

In this guide to Caribbean Stud Poker, you’ll find basic rules, an overview of a typical hand, strategy tips for beginners, and expert strategy. I’ll discuss the best ways to play for real money and in free-play mode, while giving a review of Mobile Caribbean Stud. The guide ends with odds and payout charts. For now, let’s start with a quick overview.

How to Play Caribbean Stud Poker

The following rules are typical of most Caribbean stud games, although betting limits and payouts may differ from one location to another. Before you start wagering money, always be sure to know the details of the game.

Caribbean stud poker is played with a dealer and one or more participants.

  1. To begin the game, each player places an ante onto the table where indicated.
  2. The required ante will differ from casino to casino, and games within the same establishment may require different size antes.
  3. A progressive jackpot feature is also offered, and each player can choose to make an additional wager in order to be eligible for this prize.
  4. The standard bet for the progressive jackpot is $1, but players should always check with the dealer to make sure. At land-based casinos, the $1 chip is often deposited into a slot in front of the player.
  5. Once the dealer announces “No more bets,” the initial deal begins. Each player, as well as the dealer, receives five cards. All cards are distributed face down, with the exception of one upturned dealer card.
  6. Each participant may look at their own cards, but they are not allowed to discuss their hand with others. If a player violates this rule, their hand is declared dead and they forfeit all wagers.
  7. Players must keep their cards within view of the dealer at all times. Once they have examined their hands and placed them back on the table, they are not allowed to touch the cards again.
  8. Each player now has the option to either fold or raise. If they choose to fold, the player loses their ante and progressive side bet (if they made it) and sits out the rest of the hand.
  9. If the player chooses to continue, Caribbean stud rules dictate that he or she must raise. This amount is equal to twice the money put up for the ante, and it is placed in front of the player in a box marked “bet.”
  10. The dealer reveals their four hole cards and compares each five-card hand. In order to qualify for this portion of the game, the dealer must have at least an ace and king in their hand. If the dealer doesn’t qualify, players with superior hands win even money and receive a push on the raise. In the case of a tie, both the raise and ante bets push.
  11. If the dealer qualifies and has a better hand than the player, both the ante bet and raise will be lost. If the player has a superior hand, they receive even money on the ante and their wins on a raise are determined by a pay table.
  12. The dealer examines the hands of each player who made the progressive side bet. If the strength of their hand is enough to qualify, the player receives a payout based on the pay table.

How to Play for Free

To play Caribbean Stud for real money, choose an online or mobile casino’s free-play version of Caribbean Stud Poker. Most sites have a practice version. Go to the table games section of the site and click on “Caribbean Stud”. Then choose either the option that says “Play for Free” or “Practice Mode”. You can learn the controls and master the game’s rules before playing for real money.

Switching From Play Money to Real Money Caribbean Stud

When you’re ready to play Caribbean Stud for real money, simply change to the real money mode and start wagering. The game interface will be the same. A typical hand of Caribbean Stud Poker begins with the player placing an “Ante” bet. Also, the player has the option to place a $1 side bet on a progressive jackpot. Players make these decisions before the dealer says “No More Bets”.

  1. Make an Ante Bet: The size of this wager determines all other rounds of betting in Caribbean Stud.
  2. Progressive Side Bet: Decide whether to place a $1 progressive side bet.
  3. The Deal: Once everyone places bets, the dealer deals five cards apiece face-down to each player at the table (and the dealer).
  4. Hole Cards: The dealer turns over one card in his or her hand. The players then can look at their cards.
  5. Raise the Ante: They must decide whether to make an additional bet, which is double the original ante bet. This wager is placed in the “Bet” circle of the layout.
  6. Or Player Folds: The player also can fold after seeing their cards, but loses their ante bet if they fold.
  7. Dealer Qualifies: Next, the dealer must qualify for the hand with an Ace-King or better. If the dealer doesn’t qualify, then all players win the ante bet, but not the second bet.
  8. Compare Hands: If the dealer qualifies, then the dealer’s hand is compared to all players at the table, beginning with the player left of the dealer.

Playing Mobile Caribbean Stud

The best online casinos have a Caribbean Stud poker app for Android and iOS smartphones and tablet computers. Sites sometimes are designed with a mobile app download, while others allow access through the web browser using a desktop computer, laptop, Android phone, iPhone, or iPad. When you see a link which says “Mobile”, “Android”, or “iPhone/iPad”, click the link to begin playing.

What Are The Odds of Winning?

The house edge for Caribbean Stud’s ante bet is 5.224%, if you play using optimal strategy. Optimal strategy for Caribbean Stud is complicated and difficult to use when playing in a noisy casino environment. Many players use a simpler strategy of raising when they hold an Ace-King-Jack-8-3 or better, which produces a 5.316% house edge.

The house edge on the progressive side bet is higher, but is more difficult to quantify, because of the various pay charts used and the contribution rate each casino might use. For instance, one Las Vegas dealer said that the contribution rate (of the side bet to the progressive jackpot) is 65% at their casino. Any other percentage would produce a different house edge. For strategy purposes, pay attention to the likely breakeven point when a progressive jackpot is worth playing.

Caribbean Stud Rules

Seeing how a hand of Caribbean Stud Poker plays out, you’re already familiar with some of the rules of the game. While playing Caribbean Stud, you’ll need to keep the following few rules in mind. Below is a short overview of those rules.

  • No Collusion: Players cannot exchange information about their hands. If caught, a dead hand is called and all wagers are lost.
  • One Hand Per Player: Only one hand per player. You can’t play two positions, because it would give you additional knowledge.
  • Dead Hand Rule: If an incorrect number of cards are deal, a dead hand is called.
  • Misdeal Rule: If a dealer receives four cards, then a fifth card is dealt to the house. In any other misdeal, a dead hand is called.
  • Handling Cards: Players must keep their cards in the view of the dealer. Once you look at your cards, you cannot touch them again.
  • Side Bet Rule: If you place a progressive bet, it’s your responsibility to make sure the indicator light is “On”.
  • Dealer Rulings: All rulings by the dealer/supervisor are final.

Caribbean Stud Beginner Strategy

Caribbean Stud beginner strategy is easy for most hands. When you hold an Ace-King combination, the strategy is a bit more complicated. We’ll start with the simple Caribbean Stud poker hands.

Always fold with an A/Q or worse. If the dealer qualifies, then you’ll lose automatically holding an A/Q or lower. Always raise when holding a pair or higher, because then you qualify to receive a 1:1 payout or better, if you beat the dealer.

Basic Strategy Chart

  • Always Raise – Pair or Higher: If you hold a pair or higher.
  • Always Fold – Ace/Queen or Less: If your hand is less than the dealer’s qualifying hand, always fold.

Expert Strategy: Caribbean Stud Poker

Basic strategy is not the same as optimal strategy, though the strategy discussed in the charts produces a house edge of only 0.1% lower than optimal strategy. Optimal strategy is complex, so almost no one plays optimally. Use the basic Caribbean Stud tips below to play using beginner strategy.

Deciding whether to raise when you hold an ace/king combination is more difficult. Follow the expert Caribbean Stud strategy chart below for the best results. The strategy tips are based on mathematical analysis, so they can be trusted to give the best results over time.

Raise on Ace/King

  • Dealer 2-Q: If the dealer is showing 2 through Queen and it matches one of your cards.
  • Dealer K-A: If the dealer is showing an Ace or King and you have a Queen or Jack in your hand.
  • Any Dealer Card: If the dealer’s card doesn’t match yours, then raise if you hold a Queen and your 4th-best card is better than the dealer’s card.

Expert Strategy: Progressive Side Bet

Expert Caribbean Stud strategy involves playing games with a positive expectation. If the Caribbean Stud jackpot gets high enough, then the payout is more than you would (on average) need to bet to win the jackpot. The break-even point for a Caribbean Stud side bet using a Las Vegas pay chart is $159,806.84.

If the jackpot on the side bet is $160k, then you are playing at a positive expectation. Though playing Caribbean Stud Poker beyond the breakeven point does not assure a player of winning — or change the odds of winning the jackpot — it means that a payout is a worthy betting proposition to an advanced player.

Caribbean Stud Pay Charts

The game of Caribbean Stud has several payout charts you’ll want to study. The main bet is the one you’ll use every single hand, but a variety of payout charts exist for the progressive side bet, too. While you might find an online casino with different winnings for main bet card combinations, I would compare any casino site’s payouts with the chart below to make sure you receive full pay.

Caribbean Stud Payouts – Main Bet

  • 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
  • One Pair or Less– 1:1

Caribbean Stud Jackpots – Side Bet Payouts

Three different regions pay out the Caribbean Stud side bet in much different ways. Las Vegas, Macau, and Australia (Adelaide) all have different pay charts, so I include all three below. The Las Vegas Caribbean Stud Poker payouts are most common in the online and mobile casino industry.

Las Vegas Side Bet – Caribbean Stud Chart

  • Royal Flush– 100% of Progressive Meter
  • Straight Flush– 10% of Progressive Meter
  • 4-of-a-Kind– $500
  • Full House– $100
  • Flush– $50

Macau Side Bet – Caribbean Stud Chart

  • Royal Flush– 100% of Progressive Meter
  • Straight Flush– 10% of Progressive Meter
  • 4-of-a-Kind– $5000
  • Full House– $1000
  • Flush– $500

Australia Side Bet – Caribbean Stud Chart

  • Royal Flush– 100% of Progressive Jackpot
  • Straight Flush– 10% of Progressive Jackpot
  • 4-of-a-Kind– $1250
  • Full House– $375
  • Flush– $250

Caribbean Stud History – Sklansky, Jones & Suttle

For such a new game, Caribbean Stud has a more complicated and colourful history than most casino games. Poker author David Sklansky of 2+2 fame claims he invented the game in 1982 as “Casino Poker” but couldn’t patent it due to US patent laws. Sklansky claimed a second player took the game to Aruba, changed its rules slightly, and patented the game there. A second story suggests that the owner of the “Excelsior Casino” (then known as the “The King International”) discovered it on a cruise ship headed to Aruba, bought the game, and introduced it to the casino there.

The accepted story of Caribbean Stud Poker is that gambler James Suttle bought the game from an unnamed down-on-his-luck player at Binion’s Horseshoe in 1987 in exchange for a $5,000 loan. Suttle sold the game for a profit to Danny Jones, who owned the King International Casino, which was located in the Holiday Inn on Palm Beach in Aruba at the time. Jones tried to market the game to Caribbean casinos and cruise ships to midling success, until computer software engineer Michael Titus advised Jones to include a $1 progressive side bet.

After this change, Caribbean Stud Poker took off in popularity, so eventually land-based Las Vegas casinos began to offer the game. 30 years later, Caribbean Stud has spawned a series of similar table poker games, including Caribbean Draw Poker and Caribbean Hold’em Poker.