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The last couple of weeks I discussed the game Let It Ride. I referred to it as the granddaddy of proprietary table games. A reader reminded me that Caribbean Stud Poker might take offense to this as it is about as old as Let It Ride. So, I started to investigate the history of Caribbean Stud Poker. I knew it got its name because it either started on cruise ships that sailed the Caribbean or it started on a Caribbean island. I decided to turn to Wikipedia for some insight.

It would appear that Caribbean Stud has quite a history. Wikipedia lists at least two ‘rumors’ about the beginnings of the game, both of which it dismisses. It then recounts the ‘true’ history which reads a little like an Agatha Christie novel. There were deals. There were broken deals. This one owned the rights in this part of the world. That one owned the rights in this other part of the world. I don’t know for sure which story is the truth. What I do know is that if we want to stick with the theme, Let It Ride remains the granddaddy and Caribbean Stud would appear to be the illegitimate offspring of an eccentric great-great uncle!

So, while its early years are surrounded in intrigue, somehow it came to be owned by Progressive Gaming, which in turn sold it to Shuffle Master a few years ago. While the game is probably past its peak, there are still hundreds of tables all over the place and few large casinos don’t have at least one table. Caribbean Stud is a significant game in terms of what it brought to the casinos, or perhaps I should say, what the players decided they would accept in game features.

Caribbean Stud is a head to head game. Players get five cards. Dealer gets five cards and turns one over for everyone to see. Initially the player makes a single unit wager called the ANTE. After reviewing his cards, the player must make a second wager that is TWICE his original wager called the BET, or he may fold, surrendering his ANTE. After all players have acted, the dealer reveals his hand. If he does not have at least an A-K high hand, then his hand does not qualify. The player receives even money on his ANTE and his BET wager pushes. If the dealer’s hand DOES qualify, then if the dealer’s hand outranks the player’s hand, the player loses both wagers. If the player’s hand outranks the dealer hand, he is paid even money on the ANTE and the BET is paid according to the paytable pictured at left.

There is also a sidebet that pays based on the player’s 5-card hand, regardless of the dealer’s hand. I’ll leave this for another day.

So, Caribbean Stud was the first ‘new’ game that played head-to-head against the dealer. Let It Ride is a paytable game. It also introduced the idea of ‘qualifying.’ In Caribbean Stud, when the dealer’s hand does not qualify, the game is over. The player is paid even money for a portion of his wager and the rest pushes.

Three Card Poker continued this concept. In many of the newer games, a portion of the player’s wager pushes, while the rest stays in play. This means that every hand that is not folded gets at least some amount of action.

Also, unlike Three Card Poker, which pays the player his Ante Bonus if dealt a strong hand even if the dealer does not qualify, in Caribbean Stud, you can be dealt four aces, but if the dealer doesn’t qualify, you can forget about that 20 to 1 payout. You’ll win even money on your ANTE and that’s it.

Next week, I’ll review the strategy of Caribbean Stud, which is pretty easy. I’ll also review what you can expect from the game when you play it.

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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