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Caribbean Stud Poker

Introduction

Caribbean Stud Poker (also known as Cyberstud Poker and Five Card Poker) is a casino poker game, meaning that it’s derived from classic player vs player poker, but instead the player plays against the house. Specifically Caribbean Stud Poker is a derivative of the Five Card Stud game. Caribbean Stud Poker is played with a standard 52 card deck.

We are currently aware of Caribbean Stud Poker being offered by the following online casino softwares – BetSoft, Bwin/Party, Cryptologic, DGS, Dragonfish, Microgaming, Net Entertainment, OpenBet, PlayNGo, Playtech, RealTime Gaming, Rival, SkillOnNet and WagerWorks

Play Structure

Initially the player places an ‘Ante’ wager and the dealer will deal out 5 cards to the player and themselves. All but one of the dealers cards are dealt face down (often referred to as ‘Hole’ cards). The player then has to make the decision to either Fold their hand – losing their Ante wager – or ‘Call’. If the player chooses to Call they have to place a bet twice the size of the Ante wager then the dealer’s hole cards are revealed and the hands are compared.

Hand Comparison

Caribbean Stud Poker ranks hands according to a hierarchy common to poker games which is explained below (strongest to weakest);

* Royal Flush – The Ace, King, Queen, Jack and Ten cards all of the same suit.

* Straight Flush – five numerically adjacent cards of the same suit (Example – 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 of Diamonds). Where both the player and dealer hold a Straight Flush the hand with the highest card is considered the winner.

* 4 of a Kind – four cards of matching rank (Example – 7 of Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds and Spades). Where both the player and the dealer hold 4 of a Kind the hand with the higher rank is considered the winner.

* Full House – three cards of the same rank and two cards of a different but matching rank (Example – 8 of Hearts, Clubs and Diamonds and Jack of Spades and Hearts). Where both the player and dealer hold a Full House, the hand with the higher rank 3 of a Kind is considered the winner.

* Flush – five cards of the same suit (Example – Ace, 8, 5, 2 and Queen of Spades). Where both the player and dealer hold a Flush the hand with the highest card is considered the winner. Where the highest card is matched the second highest is consider and so on.

* Straight – five numerically adjacent cards ignoring suit (Example – 7 of Spades, 8 of Spades, 9 of Clubs, 10 of Diamonds and Jack of Diamonds). Where both the player and dealer hold a Straight the hand with the highest card is considered the winner.

* 3 of a Kind – three cards of the same rank with 2 unmatched cards (Example – 9 of Spades, Clubs and Hearts with any two other cards that are not the 9 of Diamonds or a matching pair). Where both the player and dealer hold a 3 of a Kind, the hand with the higher ranked 3 of a Kind is considered the winner.

* Two Pairs – two sets of two cards of matching rank with one unmatched card (Example – 4 of Clubs and Hearts, 8 Clubs and Spades and a fifth unmatched card). Where the player and dealer both have two pairs, the hand with the highest pair is considered the winner. If both hands have matching top pair, the higher of the two lower pairs is considered the winner. Where both pairs are matched, the hand with the higher ‘Kicker’ (final unmatched card) is considered the winner.

* Pair – two cards of matching rank with three unmatched card (Example – 6 of Clubs and Hearts and any three other cards that are not the six of Spades or Diamonds and are not of matching rank). Where the player and the dealer hold a matching pair, the hand with the highest Kicker card wins. If the Kicker also matches, the hand is decided by the second Kicker then the third if the second Kickers also match.

* High Card – any five unmatched cards ranked as the highest card (Example – 5 of Spades, 9 of Clubs, 7 of Clubs, 2 of Hearts and Ace of Diamonds would be considered ‘Ace High’).

In the instance where both the dealer and player have hands of matching value by the above table the hand is considered a push and the player’s bets are returned.

Payouts

As with many other poker based casino games, there is a qualification hand for the dealer to play. As such payouts vary depending on whether the dealer qualifies or not. The dealer qualifies if their hand is Ace/King or better.

If the player loses all bets placed are lost. If the player Folds they lose their Ante bet. If the player wins payouts are decided as follows;

* If the player wins and the dealer does not qualify the Ante bet is paid out at 1 to 1 while the Call bet pushes.

* If the player wins and the dealer does qualify the Ante bet is paid at 1 to 1 and the Call bets is paid according to the following paytable;

HandPayout
Royal Flush100 to 1
Straight Flush50 to 1
Four of a Kind20 to 1
Full House7 to 1
Flush5 to 1
Straight4 to 1
Three of a Kind3 to 1
Two Pairs2 to 1
Pair1 to 1
Ace/King1 to 1
House Edge2.56%

Alternative Payouts

Several online software providers over alternative pay tables for the Call bet which are shown below;

HandBetsoft**/****Bwin/Party****CryptologicDGS*Dragonfish****Microgaming***Net EntertainmentOpenbetPlayNGoPlaytechRealTime GamingRival*/**SkillOnNet*****WagerWorks
Royal Flush200 to 1100 to 1200 to 1100/200 to 1100 to 1999 to 1200 to 1100 to 1100 to 1100 to 1200 to 1800 to 1100 to 1200 to 1
Straight Flush50 to 150 to 150 to 150/100 to 150 to 1199 to 150 to 150 to 150 to 150 to 150 to 1200 to 150 to 150 to 1
Four of a Kind20 to 120 to 120 to 120/50 to 120 to 199 to 120 to 120 to 120 to 120 to 120 to 125 to 120 to 120 to 1
Full House7 to 17 to 17 to 17/14 to 17 to 114 to 17 to 17 to 17 to 17 to 17 to 110 to 17 to 18 to 1
Flush5 to 15 to 15 to 15/7 to 15 to 19 to 15 to 15 to 15 to 15 to 15 to 17 to 15 to 16 to 1
Straight4 to 14 to 14 to 14 to 14 to 15 to 14 to 14 to 14 to 14 to 14 to 15 to 14 to 14 to 1
Three of a Kind3 to 13 to 13 to 13 to 13 to 13 to 13 to 13 to 13 to 13 to 13 to 13 to 13 to 13 to 1
Two Pairs2 to 12 to 12 to 11 to 12 to 11 to 12 to 12 to 12 to 12 to 12 to 12 to 12 to 12 to 1
Pair1 to 11 to 11 to 11 to 11 to 11 to 11 to 11 to 11 to 11 to 11 to 11 to 11 to 11 to 1
Ace/King1 to 11 to 11 to 11 to 11 to 11 to 11 to 11 to 11 to 11 to 11 to 11 to 11 to 11 to 1
House Edge2.56%2.56%2.56%XXX2.56%2.46%2.56%2.56%2.56%2.56%2.56%1.64%2.56%2.36%

* At Rival casinos Caribbean Stud Poker is called ‘Five Card Poker’.
** Rival and Betsoft casinos do not offer a Jackpot Bet
***At Microgaming casinos Caribbean Stud Poker is called Cyberstud Poker.
**** Dragonfish, Bwin/Party and Party casinos call Caribbean Stud Poker ‘Caribbean Poker’.
***** We do NOT recommend playing with any SkillOnNet casinos due to software fairness issues that were previously detected on their Video Poker games. The House Edge figures are only accurate if the game operates fairly

GameSys Alternative Rules

Casinos running on the GameSys software platform offer an alternative version of Caribbean Stud Poker called ‘Caribbean Advanced Poker’. The mechanics of the game are identical other than the dealer shows 2 out of their five cards at the start of the round and the paytable for the game is as follows;

HandGameSysGameSys*
Royal Flush100 to 1100 to 1
Straight Flush50 to 150 to 1
Four of a Kind20 to 125 to 1
Full House7 to 18 to 1
Flush5 to 15 to 1
Straight4 to 14 to 1
Three of a Kind3 to 13 to 1
Two Pairs2 to 12 to 1
Pair1 to 11 to 1
Ace/King1 to 11 to 1
House EdgeXXX XXX 

*The better paytable is only available on the ‘Without House Edge’ version of the game. It should be noted that at the end of any winning session the casino charge a 10% of win fee when playing Without House Edge games.

Jackpot Bet

The majority of Caribbean Stud Poker games also offer a side bet usually referred to simply as the ‘Jackpot’ bet. This side bet is optional but if the player chooses to place the Jackpot bet it costs $/€/£1 and the results are based only on the player’s hand. The payouts for the Jackpot bet vary from software to software, but most paytables for the major online software providers are provided below;

HandHand Probabilities Bwin/PartyCryptologicDGSDragonfishGameScale******GameSys**MicrogamingNet EntertainmentPlayNGo***PlaytechRealTime GamingSkillOnNet*****WagerWorks
Royal Flush0.00000153908JackpotJackpotJackpotJackpot100% of Jackpot1000JackpotJackpotJackpotJackpotJackpotJackpot25000
Straight Flush 0.000013851710% of Jackpot10% of Jackpot20% of Jackpot250010% of Jackpot50020000250010% of Jackpot10% of Jackpot10% of Jackpot10002500
Four of a Kind0.0002410050010% of Jackpot250500200500250500500500500750
Full House0.001441751005% of Jackpot1001007010010010010010050225
Flush 0.001965450502% of Jackpot255050502550507525150
Straight0.00392465 1040 10 5
Three of a Kind0.021128 525 5 3
Jackpot Range88240-14122050003-1600002206.80****55454-215028511NA53485-35683610000-1900007932.89****4990-15497010000-1233892500-28149NA
Break Even Value261945.19216796.867134349906.97NANA231914.01349906.97216796.86216796.86158566.42000000001NA
House Edge35.30-50.8%16.61-48.77%68.81%20.76-45.32%3.05%3.04%(-19.23%)-27.46%*24.61-52.31%61.08%****18.08-61.94%27.31-60.47%58.99-62.94%12.42%

*Negative House Edge values indicate that the player has an advantage.
** This paytable for the Jackpot bet at GameSys is used on both the normal and ‘Without House Edge’ versions of Caribbean Advanced Poker.
*** This game is called ‘Casino Stud Poker’
**** Limited information available on the Jackpot ranges at PlayNGo software.
***** We do NOT recommend playing with any SkillOnNet casinos due to software fairness issues that were previously detected on their Video Poker games. The House Edge figures are only accurate if the game operates fairly.
****** We do NOT recommend playing at any GameScale casinos. This group have various player issues and are associated with other disreputable behaviour.

Calculating the House Edge and Break Even value for the Jackpot Bet

It is possible calculate the House Edge and break even value for any paytable not included in the above table simply by using the Hand Probability figures. For example if the paytable was as follows;

HandHand ProbabilitiesNew Paytable
Royal Flush 0.00000153908Jackpot
Straight Flush 0.000013851710% of Jackpot
Four of a Kind 0.00024100
Full House 0.001441100
Flush 0.001965425
Straight 0.0039246515
Three of a Kind 0.0211285

To calculate the House Edge we multiply the Paytable values by the probabilities, sum the results and subtract the remaining possibilities. So if we have a Jackpot value of 168000, for the above paytable the calculation would be as follows;

168000×0.00000153908 + 16800×0.0000138517 + 100×0.00024 + 100×0.001441 + 25×0.0019654 + 15×0.00392465 + 5×0.021128 – (1-(0.00000153908 + 0.0000138517 + 0.00024 + 0.001441 + 0.0019654 + 0.00392465 + 0.021128))

0.25856544 + 0.23270856 + 0.024 + 0.1441 + 0.049135 + 0.05886975 + 0.10564 – (1 – 0.02871444)

0.87301875 – 0.971285559 = -0.0983

So the House Edge for this paytable and Jackpot size is 9.83%

To calculate the Breakeven point we multiply the Paytable values by the and probabilities  and subtract the remaining possibilities with the equation set equal to 0 and rearrange and solve for the Jackpot value (which we’ll refer to as ‘J’) . So for the above paytable the calculation would be as follows;

Jx0.00000153908 + 0.10xJx0.0000138517 + 100×0.00024 + 100×0.001441 + 25×0.0019654 + 15×0.00392465 + 5×0.021128 + (-1)x(1-0.02871444) = 0

0.000002924xJ + 0.024 + 0.1441 + 0.049135 + 0.05886975 + 0.10564 – 0.971285559 = 0

0.000002924xJ – 0.589540809 = 0

0.000002924xJ = 0.589540809

J = 0.589540809/0.000002924

J = 201621.34

So the break even size for this paytable is a Jackpot of 201622.

House Edge*

The House Edge of Caribbean Stud Poker using the standard paytable and across the full round of wagering (Ante and Call bet) and assuming that the player plays using the optimal strategy discussed below is 2.56%. If the player does not play optimally this figure will rise.

The House Edge for the GameSys Caribbean Advanced Poker is XXX.

The House Edge of the Jackpot bet is dependent on the paytable the casino is using and the size of the Jackpot, but our observations places the House Edge value between -19.23% and 61.94%.

For further information regarding the house edge for both the main game and the Jackpot bet see Beating Bonuses (http://www.beatingbonuses.com/stud.htm).

Optimal Strategy

The most important aspect of correct strategy while playing Caribbean Stud Poker is not to play the Jackpot side bet unless it is over the breakeven values listed above. Even when the Jackpot value is above the breakeven value you should be aware that this bet has an extremely high variance and it’s highly unlikely that the regular player will ever hit the Jackpot, meaning that realistically the regular player will be playing with a far higher house edge.

The Optimal Strategy for Caribbean Stud Poker is remarkably complicated and difficult to master perfectly.  A simplified version of this strategy would see the player Call with any hand of Ace/King/Jack/8/3 or better. This results in a house edge 0.1% higher than the full optimum strategy.

The general elements of Caribbean Stud Poker Optimum Strategy is fairly straight forward, the hands that create the difficulty are the player Ace/King hands. For full Optimum Strategy you can use our Strategy Calculator;

Fairness Calculator

Below you can find a calculator to allow you to check the fairness of your wins/losses when playing Caribbean Stud Poker.

*This fairness calculator will assume that you’ve been playing with the optimal strategy detailed above. If you have not then the calculator will NOT return accurate results.

History

Poker author David Sklansky claims to have invented Caribbean Stud Poker in 1982. At the time he called the game simply ‘Casino Poker’ and the game contained two substantive differences; the dealer played 2 of their 5 cards face up and there was no Jackpot progressive bet.

Sklansky states that there were several licensing issues that prevented him patenting the game and there appears to have been some legal wrangling regarding who owns the rights to the game.

In 1988 a patent was filed under the names of Daniel A Jones and James P Suttle for a progressive jackpot meter for table games, specifically referencing Caribbean Stud Poker. This would be the first occurrence of a network linked progressive jackpot on a table game allowing for a jackpot that is contributed to by players in many different casinos simultaneously.

The addition of the progressive jackpot seems to have been the necessary selling point for a game table game that otherwise has a low Return to Player, offering the possibility of a big win to compensate for the high House Edge.

Winning Strategies

Offline

Hole Carding, Steering or Sorting

Unlike Blackjack the techniques used to gain an advantage over the game of Caribbean Stud Poker in the offline environment are not nearly so widely discussed. Gaining information on dealer’s hole cards – be that via edge sorting, steering or hold carding – can produce a player advantage as long as the information is used to alter the player’s strategy. Even with information on up to two of the dealer’s hole cards and an optimised strategy the player still has a substantial disadvantage (nearly 2%) so you need to have knowledge of at least 3 of the dealer’s hole cards before this is a worthwhile game. With perfect knowledge of all four dealer hole cards the strategy is trivial – Call, any winning hand or hand where the dealer will not qualify – though it may be worth playing some losing hands to avoid unusual/suspicious folding decisions where you hold a strong hand. With knowledge of only three hole cards or imperfect knowledge of four cards the strategy is more complex.

The rarity of being able to obtain information on 3 or more of the dealer’s hole cards and the high skill level involved ensure that only the most diligent of professional players are ever likely to come across this information and it should be emphasized that the risks involved in gaining less than perfect information are likely to be substantial.

The best source of information on how best to play with additional information can be found in James Grosjean’s ‘Exhibit CAA: Beyond Counting’.  The author provides the full and correct Optimal Strategy for Caribbean Stud Poker for each of the different scenarios where additional information can be gathered. This book is widely considered the Bible for the professional player and as such is not a worthwhile investment for anyone other than a full time professional Advantage Player (not to mention it requires a professional reference to obtain).

Optimum Strategy and Sharing Hand Information

Offline the rules of Caribbean Stud Poker prohibit players sharing information about their hands. Online it’s certainly possible to share hand information at multi-player tables without the casino being aware of it. However given the prohibited nature of this activity in the offline game we would not like to comment on the ethics of engaging in such activities. As such the following information is for use at the player’s own risk – we do not encourage players to share information while playing Caribbean Stud Poker.

While the House Edge of Caribbean Stud Poker can be reduced by sharing hand information and accordingly adjusting the Optimal Strategy to account for the additional information, the player cannot gain an advantage without being able to play more hands than we are aware of being available at a single table online.

According to James Grosjean you would need to have information on a full 7 hands and the dealer’s up card (36 cards in total) alongside a playing strategy optomized to the additional information to gain an edge of 2.374% over the house. 6 or less hands and the house retains the edge. Even with complete information the strategy required to obtain this edge is far too complicated for human application. Grosjean has developed a count system that couple be feasibly applied by a team of human players that achieves a player advantage of 1.34%. We have neither the desire, the inclination, nor the permission to republish the details of this count system, but interested parties should look to get hold of Grosjean’s book ‘Exhibit CAA: Beyond Counting’. It should be stated that the opportunities for application of this system are extremely rare and very likely not worth the effort for anyone but the most dedicated professional player.

In the Optimal Strategy section of this article you will find our ‘Strategy Calculator’. This calculator has an option to generate the Optimum Strategy when additional cards are known. Simply check the ‘Enter Additional Removed Cards From Deck’ option and AFTER you’ve entered your hand and the dealer’s upcard, click on the cards that you are aware of.

Online

There are several methods of legitimately gaining an advantage playing online Caribbean Stud Poker games. By and large these involve the use of promotions, bonuses and comp point systems as the games by themselves – assuming the game is functioning in a correct fashion and there are no errors in the paytable – will not provide any additional information about the cards and shuffles after every hand.

One potential opportunity for a player to gain an edge over Caribbean Stud Poker would be through the use of the progressive jackpots. The only progressive jackpot that we’re aware of that goes high enough to give the player an advantage is available at Microgaming casinos. Given a minimum bet of 1 and playing optimally the player will wager an average of 2.04 units per round on the main game of Caribbean Stud Poker with a House Edge of 2.46%. This gives a loss of 2.04×0.0246 = 0.050184 units/round. Any time the Jackpot produces a Player Edge of 5.02% or higher the player will have an overall advantage across both the main game and Jackpot bet. This occurs when the Jackpot is at $264520.50 or higher. It should be noted that while the player will have an advantage the variance of this particular game is likely to be extremely high.

It should be noted that online advantage play is not specific to Caribbean Stud Poker and in recent years the wagering requirements for player’s choosing to play any table game has inflated to the point that Caribbean Stud Poker is now often a sub-optimal choice for the player. For more information on beating online casinos see BeatingBonuses.com.

References

James Grosjean ‘Exhibit CAA: Beyond Counting’
http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect2=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-bool.html&r=1&f=G&l=50&d=PALL&RefSrch=yes&Query=PN%2F4861041
http://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/74/special-sklansky-forum/i-invented-caribbean-stud-641/

* All ‘House Edge’ figures in this article are based on the ‘loss per unit wagered’ rather than ‘loss per initial bet’.