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Two weeks ago, I discussed the history and rules of Caribbean Stud poker. It and Let It Ride are clearly the two old fogies when discussing proprietary table games. Where Let It Ride’s pedigree was easy to trace, it turns out that the history of Caribbean Stud is a bit murkier. So, I’ve decided that Let It Ride is the great-granddaddy of table games, while Caribbean Stud poker is clearly the illegitimate child of crazy Uncle Bob. Despite its more colorful history, Caribbean Stud is no doubt one of the most successful table games of all time.

I’ll do a quick review of the rules for those of you who missed my column two weeks ago. To begin play, you make an ante wager. You are dealt five cards and the dealer is dealt five cards. The dealer turns one of his cards face up. You now review your cards and either fold, forfeiting your ante or you make a bet wager equal to twice your ante. If you stay in, you go head-to-head against the dealer. If the dealer does not have at least A-K, his hand does not qualify. Your bet wager pushes and your ante wager is paid even money. Game over. If the dealer does have at least A-K and his hand outranks yours, you lose all your wagers. If the dealer qualifies and your hand outranks his, you win even money on your ante and the bet wager will win according to the pay table in use.

It is a very simple game going head-to-head against the dealer. Accordingly, our crazy Uncle Bob made sure that the strategy was rather simplistic as well. There are only 2½ rules to our strategy (okay, two rules plus a tiny exception to one of them):

1. We always bet if we have a pair or better.

2. The only non-pair hands we bet are ones that contain at least A-K and the dealer’s up-card.

The tiny exception is to rule 2. We also bet if we have A-K-Q-J-X.

That’s it! Go play!

Using this strategy, the player can expect to achieve a payback of about 97.4%. Given the simplicity of the strategy and the average wager, this is in-line with many other games out there. Newer games with more complex strategies offer theoretical paybacks over 99%, but will also require larger average wagers and far more effort in order to achieve anything close to the theoretical number.

The non-qualifying rate for the dealer is very high in Caribbean Stud at about 44%. Thus, there will be a fairly large number of hands where there is no action. In similar fashion, the payer will only make the bet wager about 56% of the time. This means that just over 31% of the time will the player make the bet wager and the dealer will qualify.

One of the frustrating aspects that you’re going to have to learn to deal with is if you’re dealt four of a kind and the dealer doesn’t qualify, your net win will be a single unit. This, of course, gives the player a good reason to make the side bet wager, which pays based solely on the player’s hand without regard to the dealer’s hand. It almost seems odd to be rooting for the dealer to have a halfway decent hand so he qualifies in these cases. However, you will find yourself doing this when you’re dealt a strong hand. You might just want to keep the rooting to yourself because other people at the table might be hoping the dealer doesn’t qualify.

Maybe Uncle Bob was hoping to stir up some casino fights when he dreamed up this one?

About the Author

Elliot Frome

Elliot Frome’s roots run deep into gaming theory and analysis. His father, Lenny, was a pioneer in developing video poker strategy in the 1980s and is credited with raising its popularity to dizzying heights. Elliot is a second generation gaming author and analyst with nearly 20 years of programming experience.

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