A Quick Guide to Caribbean Stud

by J. M. Pressley
First published: September 27, 2007

It's like a friendly game of five-card stud against the house, if you don't mind the prohibitive house advantages.

Caribbean Stud defies logic in its popularity. It's like a friendly game of five-card stud against the house, only with a healthy house edge of close to 5%. That's before you take into account the progressive bet (more on that later), which adds both a bonus jackpot and an additional house edge averaging north of 25%. It's little wonder, then, that the game is even more popular with casinos.

The Rules

Players bet an ante of at least the table minimum to play the hand. During the ante, players may also bet a $1 progressive bet to be eligible for the bonus. The deal is five cards; players' cards are dealt face down, while the dealer's hand is the first four down, last one up. Following the deal, a player has two choices: stay in or fold. To stay in requires a raise bet equal to twice the ante. Players who fold surrender their antes. At that point, the dealer reveals the house's cards, and it's each player versus the house for the best poker hand. That is, if the dealer's hand qualifies.

The dealer has to hold a minimum of an Ace-King for the hand to qualify. If not, remaining players get paid even money on their ante and receive their raise bets back. Otherwise, each player either wins, loses, or pushes depending upon their hand. If the house wins, the player forfeits the entire bet and ante. If the event of a tie, the player gets a push on the ante and raise. Winning players receive even money on their antes and are paid on the raise according to their hands as follows (U.S. pay table):

Pair or less: Even money
Two pair: 2-1
Three of a kind: 3-1
Straight: 4-1
Flush: 5-1
Full house: 7-1
Four of a kind: 20-1
Straight flush: 50-1
Royal flush: 100-1

Of course, every player of Caribbean Stud has at least one story of the great hand that went for nothing because the dealer didn't qualify. It's always frustrating to settle for that 1-1 ante payout when you're holding a straight and the dealer doesn't have that Ace-King combination.

The Progressive Bet

For that extra $1 at the beginning of the round, players hope for an additional jackpot payout based on the value of their hand (requiring a flush or better):

Flush: $50
Full house: $100
Four of a kind: $500
Straight flush: 10% of jackpot
Royal flush: 100% of jackpot

The house will always encourage players to plunk down that progressive bet. However, the odds of drawing a flush mean that you would theoretically spend $508 on average to win $50. There's a lot of arguments against playing the progressive bet at all—it's mathematically worse than playing Keno or the Big Six Wheel—but if you're determined to play it, make sure the jackpot is worth at least $150,000.

Strategy

There is virtually no strategy to Caribbean Stud, so enjoy the free drinks. Raise on any pair or better, and raise an Ace-King if you're holding the dealer's up card in your hand. Otherwise, fold.

The Standard Disclaimer

Never walk into a casino with more money than you're prepared to lose, and don't bet what you can't afford. Cut your losses whenever possible, and don't just throw your money at the house.

Sources

How to Win at Casino Gambling (Roger Gros, 2000); The Wizard of Odds