The slow demise of Caribbean stud

May 08, 2006 12:33 AM


Once upon a time, Caribbean Stud Poker was the most popular of the new generation of table games. Offering a massive progressive jackpot for a dealt royal with its sidebet, it brought in many new players who perhaps were not happy with blackjack’s top payout of 3 to 2 for a natural blackjack.

Blackjack’s overall payback is far superior to Caribbean Stud, but players are frequently willing to trade in payback for that chance to win big quickly. As the casinos would soon find out, volatility can bring in players if the top prize is large enough.

Caribbean Stud contained all the elements found in many of today’s newer games. The player makes an initial single unit, ante wager, and after reviewing his hand, must make a bet wager equal to two times his ante or he must fold, forfeiting his ante.

There is the concept that the dealer must qualify in order for all wagers to be in play. If the dealer does not qualify with at least A-K, all players win even money on their ante and the bet pushes. If the dealer qualifies and the player wins, then the player wins even money on his ante, and the bet wager wins according to the paytable in use. So, even without the optional sidebet, the player has the opportunity to win big.

The sidebet, which is a $1, pays the player based on the poker ranking of his hand, regardless of the showdown with the dealer. At the top of the scale is the royal flush, which awards the player the progressive jackpot, which can frequently reach near or above $100,000. You’re not going to win that type of money playing low-limit blackjack.

As newer table games have hit the casino floor, the popularity of Caribbean Stud Poker has steadily declined. I believe this is for a variety of reasons.

The first is that every game has its time in the sun. Eventually, some players get bored and begin to look for newer games to play. However, I also believe that there are features of Caribbean Stud that have been improved upon in some of the newer games.

The first is the requirement that the player make two times his initial wager when deciding not to fold. This can make Caribbean Stud a rather expensive game to play. Just a little under 50% of the hands should be folded, so a $5 minimum table really means the player has to be ready to wager $15 on almost half the hands or an average of roughly $10 per hand.

The second problem is that as a result of the betting structure, the player will fold more than 50% of the time. This essentially leaves the player out of the action (aka BORED) for a significant period of time. In Three Card Poker, the player folds closer to 33% of the time, keeping his interest more often.

Another issue with Caribbean Stud is that when the dealer does not qualify, the bet wager is a push. This means that you can be dealt a full house, and if the dealer has complete junk, you’ll win even money on the Ante and your Bet will Push. However, if the Dealer has A-K and junk, you’ll get 7 to 1 on your bet and even money on your ante. At a $5 table, this is a $70 turnaround just because the dealer did not qualify.

Some of the newer games will have features that will allow you to get paid odds if you get a strong hand, but the dealer does not qualify. Of course, some of these newer games will return your ante if the dealer does not qualify but will leave your wager in play and you still must beat the dealer’s hand. This would be a moot point in Caribbean Stud because you should NEVER stay in if you have a hand that is below A-K.

The last feature of Caribbean Stud that I believe has been improved upon is its sidebet. Caribbean Stud has a ”˜life altering’ jackpot capable of paying of tens of thousands of dollars on a single dollar bet, which makes it like no other sidebet.

At the same time, the payback of the sidebet is so bad, the odds of walking away a winner if you don’t achieve one of the top hands is quite slim. When the progressive jackpot is at $50,000, the payback of the sidebet is only 58%. Even if the jackpot goes all the way to $200,000, the payback would still only be 78%. The good news is that it is only a $1 wager, so the actual loss rate per hour would be comparable to a $5 sidebet paying in the low 90% at a $50,000 level.

Progressive Gaming has been tinkering with Caribbean Stud for a few years now, as I believe they recognize that this game has had its day in the sun. This does not mean that it will completely fade away. With hundreds of tables in the market, it will be around for a long time to come.