Caribbean Stud Poker Guide

Caribbean Stud Poker is a poker-based card game played one-on-one between the player and dealer that is often tied to a progressive jackpot bonus. It is often referred to in the UK and Europe as Casino Five Card Stud Poker. There are some variations on classic poker in this game, but the goal of the game is the same - beat the dealer by forming the better hand. If you play your cards right and make the requisite progressive jackpot bet, you can also win what is usually a pretty hefty jackpot. Many find this to be a very entertaining, fast-paced game, lauding it for the quick turnaround between hands.

An online Caribbean Stud Poker table
In this hand our pair of Kings beats the dealer's pair of Sevens

Origins of Caribbean Stud Poker

Accounts of the origins of the game are conflicting, although most accounts trace it back to either the trade cruise ships of the 16th century or the 1980s. The former holds that it evolved from the Spanish card game Primera (also known as Primero, Brag, Pochen, and Poque) and was invented on ships sailing the Caribbean in the 1500s. Some claim that it was on a cruise ship headed for Aruba, which leads many to make the pilgrimage to the island today to play the game where it originated from. Gambling icon David Sklansky also claims to have created the game when he invented "Casino Poker" in 1982. Still others trace it back to Michael Titus and Danny and Dane Jones, who allegedly learned of the game from an anonymous down-and-out gambler in Las Vegas in the 1980s.

How to play Caribbean Stud Poker

Caribbean Stud Poker is a very fast and direct game. The object of the game is to form a better hand than the dealer using poker-based hands. Begin by making your bet. There is usually a progressive jackpot in play with Caribbean Stud Poker. This is activated by putting down an extra $1 chip at the beginning of the game as a separate side bet.

Once you have decided on your wager, you will be dealt five cards face down. The dealer will also receive five cards, but one of his cards will be shown to you face up. Now, you can fold and surrender your ante bet; or you can raise and double your ante bet.

At this point, a number of scenarios may unfold:

  • The dealer fails to qualify: If the dealer does not 'qualify' by having at least an ace and a king, you win regardless of your hand and take home twice your initial ante, but you win nothing on the raise portion of your bet.
  • The dealer qualifies, but you have a better hand: You receive twice your ante bet and a payout on the raise bet that varies in accordance with the pay table shown in the game. The stronger the hand, the greater the payout.
  • The dealer qualifies and you tie: Both the ante and raise push. You're back to square one.
  • The dealer qualifies and beats you: You lose your ante and raise, i.e. twice your original wager.

Caribbean Stud Poker payouts

As mentioned above, payouts usually correspond to the ante made at the beginning of the game. If you win when the dealer has qualified, you also receive an amount in accordance with the pay table which is usually displayed somewhere on the screen. The standard US pay table is:

  • Royal flush: 100 to 1
  • Straight flush: 50 to 1
  • 4 of a kind: 20 to 1
  • Full house: 7 to 1
  • Flush: 5 to 1
  • Straight: 4 to 1
  • 3 of a kind: 3 to 1
  • Two pair: 2 to 1
  • All others: 1 to 1

In order to win the progressive jackpot that usually goes hand-in-hand with Caribbean Stud Poker, you must have played side bet and put together the ever-elusive royal flush. Other versions will award percentages of the jackpots for high hands, usually from flush or better.

House edge in Caribbean Stud Poker

Most text books will tell you that the house edge of Caribbean Stud Poker is around 5.22% when played with perfect strategy. However this number does not take into account the player's choice of when to raise. By executing an optimal strategy the player bets a little over twice their normal ante per hand on average. This means the house edge per unit wagered is closer to 2.56%, and is sometimes called the "element of risk" as opposed to the house edge.

Caribbean Stud Poker optimal strategy

The perfect Caribbean Stud Poker strategy is extremely complex due to the number of possible hand permutations. However there is a relatively straightforward strategy that comes very close to being optimal:

  • Always raise if your hand is an Ace-King-Jack-8-3 or higher.

A slightly more complex system devised by the Wizard of Odds will reduce the house edge by a further 0.04%:

  • Always raise with a pair or higher.
  • Always fold with a hand lower than Ace-King high (i.e. the dealer's qualifying hand).
  • If you have an Ace-King high hand then raise if:
    • the dealer's card is a 2 to Queen and you have a matching card in your hand.
    • the dealer's card is a King or Ace and you have a Queen or Jack.
    • the dealer's card does not match any of yours and you have a Queen in your hand and the dealer's card is less than your fourth highest card.

Playing Caribbean Stud Poker online

Most online casinos have a Caribbean Stud Poker game available, albeit under different names like Cyberstud Poker at Microgaming casinos or Island Stud Poker at RTG casinos.

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Current Caribbean Stud Poker jackpots

One thing to look out for is the progressive jackpot value if you are a fan of the side bet. Different casinos have wildly different jackpots so it pays to maximise your expected return by playing at a casino with the largest current jackpot. Below we list the current top 10 Caribbean Stud Poker jackpots available online.

All Jackpots Casino Microgaming$283,627€283,627£283,627
All Jackpots Casino Microgaming$161,350€161,350£161,350
NordicBet Casino Net Ent → NordicBet€147,766
Aladdin's Gold Casino RTG$143,978
Bovada Casino RTG → Bovada$120,482
JackpotJoy Casino Gamesys£94,515
Betsson Casino Net Ent → Betsson€94,583
Mr Green Casino Net Ent → Mr Green€92,734
CasinoEuro Net Ent → CasinoEuro€88,939
Bovada Casino RTG → Bovada$96,649

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