Caribbean Poker


Caribbean Stud poker is one of the most popular forms of poker played in the Caribbean Island and on cruise ships.

The game is not a competition between players. It is played between a participant and the dealer to see who has the highest ranking hand.

Everyone around the table receives five cards. The dealer places four of his cards faced down and one card faced up. The players need to decide whether to place a bet or fold according to what chances they think they stand of beating the dealer’s hand. When winning a sum will be given to the player in accordance to the quality of his hand.

How to play the game

The game begins with every player placing an ante (a fixed wager).
Then, the dealer gives out five cards to every player, including himself. One of the dealer’s cards is put on the table faced up, and the rest are put faced down.

The players look at their personal cards and try to decide whether they have a chance of beating the dealers hand. If a player thinks his chances are low, he can fold. A fold makes the player lose his ante for good. If a player wants to have a go at winning, he must bet double the amount of the ante.

After all the bets are made, the dealer unfolds his cards. If the dealer’s hand is lower than a single Ace and King hand, the players win automatically. They will get back their ante and bet plus a sum equal to the ante.

If the dealer’s hand is higher than an Ace/King single, the two hands will be compared. If the dealer has the higher ranking hand, the player loses both his ante and his raise. If, however, the player has the higher ranking hand, he will get back his ante, plus a sum equivalent to the ante, plus a payoff according to the following chart:

Hand Payoff
Royal flush 100 to 1
Straight flush 50 to 1
Four of a kind 20 to 1
Full house 7 to 1
Flush 5 to 1
Straight 4 to 1
Three of a kind 3 to 1
Two pair 2 to 1
Pair 1 to 1
Ace/King 1 to 1


The origin of Caribbean poker is, how surprising, in the Caribbean Islands. It was played both on the Islands and on cruise ships that went to and from the Islands.

When casinos in Las Vegas started playing Caribbean poker, they added the progressive Jackpot bet to attract more players. It has since become part of other gambling scenes, like in Nevada.

Caribbean poker is actually a version of a three card game played in Europe in the 16th century, called “Primera” in Spanish. In Primera players would bet on the rank of their hand, which could have been a pair, three of a kind or three of the same suit (called “flux”, or today flush).

In the !8th century, Primera influenced and was influenced by other famous card games: the English Brag. The German Pochen and the French Poque. It is then that those games became five-card games who use bets and bluffing.

The French who came and settled Louisiana brought the game to America sometime in the 18th century, and from Louisiana it spread along the Mississippi and into the West. Later on it became one of the leading games of classical Western movies.

In America the game was played with a full deck, not including jokers. Descriptions of the game can be found in game books starting from the mid 19th century.

Both the number of betting rounds and the ranking system have altered through the years. Straight and Flush hands were incorporated to the ranking system later than the other hand ranks.


The only decision a player has to make in a game of Caribbean poker is whether to fold or raise after he has received his hand. We would recommend to you the following strategy guidelines.

  • If your hand is lower than an Ace/King, fold it.
  • If you have a hand of one pair or higher, call a bet.
  • This is true also if your pair is relatively low. (You stand a 42% percent chance to get a pair every round.)
  • If you have an Ace/King hand or higher plus a card that is similar to the dealer’s face up card, call a bet.
  • If you have an Ace/King hand you should bet and not fold if:
    A. the dealer’s up card matches your card, and is in the ranking range of 2 to Queen
    B. the dealer’s up card is an Ace or a King and you are holding a Queen or a Jack.
    C. the dealer’s up card doesn’t match your cards, is lower than the your fourth highest card and you are holding a Queen or higher.

Statistics chart for Caribbean poker

If you are interested in strategy statistics, take a close look at the following chart.

Strategy Total loss House edge Element of risk
Perfect strategy 1,041,372,912,372 5.22% 2.56%
Three rules of thumb (above) 1,041,417,758,724 5.23% 2.55%
Raise on ace/king/jack/8/3 or better 1,059,715,400,580 5.32% 2.60%
Raise on any pair or better 1,090,272,101,460 5.47% 2.74%
Raise on any ace/king or better 1,132,600,203,540 5.68% 2.67%
Playing blind (raise on everything) 3,310,360,338,060 16.61% 5.54%
Matching rank 1,063,176,931,284 5.33% 2.62%

Chart explanations:
“House Edge”: The ratio of the average sum which is lost to the initial bet. Raises do not count in the ratio.
“Element of Risk”: The ratio of the average sum which is lost to the total sum of bets (including raises).

Notice that in perfect strategy the house edge is 5.224% where as the element of risk is 2.555%.

The Progressive Jackpot Side Bet

Caribbean poker offers the players to place a side bet of $1 dollar, which goes into a Jackpot that can be won if a player receives a hand rank of Flush or higher. This winning sum is called progressive payout schedule. We would advise you to make this bet only when the size of the pot is big enough to make the risk worth your while.

If two players have Royal Flush hands (a very rare occasion), there are two ways to go about it. The first is to simply split the pot between them, fifty-fifty. The second way is to give the Jackpot to the player sitting closest to the left of the dealer, leaving the other player the sum of money that the Jackpot will be re-seeded with by the casino. This sum is not small – it may be $10,000 or even $20,000 dollars.

If two players have Straight Flush hands, the player sitting closer to the dealer’s left will receive 10% percent of the meter and the other player will receive 10% percent of what is left.

One thing is clear: if you can sit closer to the left of the dealer, make a go for it!

Jackpot Side Bet Payoff Chart

Different games have different payoff charts, however all of them progress from paying 10% for a Straight Flush to paying 100% for a Royal Flush.

Table 1 Table 2 Table 3 Table 4 Table 5 Table 6
Royal flush 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
Straight flush 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10%
Four of a kind $100 $150 $500 $500 $500 $500
Full house $75 $100 $100 $150 $75 $100
Flush $50 $50 $50 $75 $50 $75

Casino Chart

These are the casinos that play by the different tables*:

  • Table 1: Ballys, Paris, California, Las Vegas Club, Hilton
  • Table 2: Luxor, Excalibur, Mandaley Bay, Monte Carlo
  • Table 3: Bellagio, Venetian, Rio, Every casino in Atlantic City, Casino Niagara (Niagara Falls, Ontario), Grand (Tunica), Gold Strike (Tunica), Ballys (Tunica), Sheraton (Tunica), Isle of Capri (Tunica), Hollywood (Tunica), Harrah’s (Tunica)
  • Table 4: Harrah’s, Circus Circus
  • Table 5: Flamingo Hilton
  • Table 6: Imperial Palace, Horseshoe (Tunica)

If not stated otherwise, the casino is in Las Vegas.

A Jackpot’s Meter

Jackpots have a “meter”, of usually 70-75% percent. This means, for example, that for every 1$ bet made $0.71 goes to the Jackpot and $0.29 is collected by the casino. This is not the casino’s profit: the payoffs are paid out of the meter, so eventually that money is won back by the players.

When a player with a Royal Flush scoops the pot, the casino will automatically put in the Jackpot $10,000 dollars (know as the “seed”). The meter enables this action.

It is important to remember that though 25-30% percent of every bet is collected by the house, the house will need to seed the Jackpot only on the rare occasion of a Royal Flush. (In all other situations winning players will receive only part of the Jackpot.)

Payoffs Chart

This chart shows different payoff tables. (The letter J refers to the Jackpot meter.)

  • Table 1: (598,600 + 7.6 * j) / 2,598,960
  • Table 2: (723,400 + 7.6 * j) / 2,598,960
  • Table 3: (941,800 + 7.6 * j) / 2,598,960
  • Table 4: (1,256,700 + 7.6 * j) / 2,598,960
  • Table 5: (848,200 + 7.6 * j) / 2,598,960
  • Table 6: (1,069,500 + 7.6 * j) / 2,598,960

Average Return Jackpot Meter Chart

This chary shows the Jackpot level in comparison with different rates of return.

Table 1 Table 2 Table 3 Table 4 Table 5 Table 6
25% 6,729 -9,692 -38,429 -79,863 -26,113 -55,232
30% 23,827 7,406 -21,331 -62,765 -9,015 -38,133
35% 40,926 24,505 -4,232 -45,666 8,084 -21,035
40% 58,024 41,603 12,866 -28,568 25,182 -3,936
45% 75,123 58,702 29,965 -11,469 42,281 13,162
50% 92,221 75,800 47,063 5,629 59,379 30,261
55% 109,319 92,898 64,162 22,727 76,477 47,359
60% 126,418 109,997 81,260 39,826 93,576 64,457
65% 143,516 127,095 98,358 56,924 110,674 81,556
70% 160,615 144,194 115,457 74,023 127,773 98,654
75% 177,713 161,292 132,555 91,121 144,871 115,753
80% 194,812 178,391 149,654 108,219 161,969 132,851
85% 211,910 195,489 166,752 125,318 179,068 149,949
90% 229,008 212,587 183,851 142,416 196,166 167,048
95% 246,107 229,686 200,949 159,515 213,265 184,146
100% 263,205 246,784 218,047 176,613 230,363 201,245
105% 280,304 263,883 235,146 193,712 247,462 218,343
110% 297,402 280,981 252,244 210,810 264,560 235,442
115% 314,501 298,079 269,343 227,908 281,658 252,540
120% 331,599 315,178 286,441 245,007 298,757 269,638
125% 348,697 332,276 303,539 262,105 315,855 286,737


Many Caribbean Poker players incorrectly advise that A-K-J-8-3 is the borderline hand for raising on an ace/king. The advice they give is to raise with this hand or better and fold with less, ignoring the dealer’s up card. In fact it is unwise to ignore the dealer’s up card. If you had this hand and the dealer had a queen showing your expected loss would be 1.17108 units, which is much worse than losing 1 unit by folding.

Many question have been asked about ‘playing blind’ or always raising regardless of what your hand is. This is not an advisable strategy if you don’t have a qualifying hand! The dealer will qualify 56.3% of the time, thus the expected return by raising when you have nothing is .563*(-3) + .437*(+1) = -1.252 which is much less than the -1 you would have by folding.


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