Some people prefer to play poker. But for whatever reason, they may not be able to.
Maybe there aren’t enough players. Maybe the tables are full. Or maybe they have a lousy poker face.
The good news is that there are poker alternatives. You can play casino poker games instead. One good example is Caribbean Stud.
This game is similar to five-card stud. You’re dealt five cards and have the objective of beating the dealer by having the best five-card poker hand.
But that’s where the similarities end.
We’ll cover the differences in a few minutes. Let’s first look at where Caribbean Stud comes from.
Who Created Caribbean Stud?
Caribbean Stud’s background isn’t clear. There are numerous stories as to how it got started and who the creator is.
David Sklanksy Claims He’s the Creator
One claim comes from poker and gambling expert David Sklansky.
He says he invented the game “Casino Poker” in 1982.
However, he says some aspects of the game were different.
One difference is that the dealer reveals two hole cards instead of only one. Another difference is that his version didn’t have a progressive jackpot. (Because someone else added the jackpot later on – at least according to the next story.)
Sklansky says he tried to patent Casino Poker but was unable to.
A few years later, he was approached by someone who brought the game to Aruba and patented it. That person, along with a casino owner, changed the rules slightly to the Caribbean Stud game we’re familiar with today.
Caribbean Stud Developed on an Island in the Caribbean Sea
Another story – people say they played the same game, but under a different name, on a cruise ship headed to Aruba.
The owner of the Excelsior Casino (then The King International) is thought to have bought the game after it was discovered.
Unsurprisingly, rumor has it that lots of people now play this game so they can say they played Caribbean Stud where the game originated.
Another Slight Connection to The King International
This story’s odd for a couple reasons.
Apparently, some broke gambler offered to teach gambler James Suttle how to play the game back in 1987 in exchange for $5,000.
James Suttle denies this, which is odd considering the story continues with him in it.
As the story goes, Suttle knew he could sell the game to his friend Danny Jones. Jones owned The King International (mentioned in the last story). This casino was a favorite layover spot for many cruise lines and seemed like a great spot to market a new card game.
So that’s what Danny did. But he had little success.
He didn’t start to get traction until he chatted with Michael Titus, a computer software engineer, about the game’s strengths and weaknesses.
They determined the game favored the house too much. That players needed more incentive to play. So they decided to add a progressive jackpot.
A progressive jackpot looks like a great opportunity to players. For only a buck, they have the chance to win tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. For casinos, progressive jackpots are a great addition and marketing tool that often pay for themselves.
Progressive jackpots are usually a good idea, which is the conclusion Jones and Titus came to.
Once they added one to Caribbean Stud,
the game started to gain traction.
Not long after they added the jackpot, Titus went to work for the company Progressive Games. The company eventually split into two, between Florida and Nevada. The Florida branch started to distribute the game, while Dane Jones, Danny’s son, operated the Nevada branch. While he was there, he made a distribution deal with D.P. Stud for $1 million.
Jones was never paid in full, though. And because of licensing issues, non-payment continued for years later, even though D.P. Stud continued to (illegally) copy and distribute the game.
Apparently, this is one of the reasons why the game’s history is murky. Though the game never was licensed or gained traction in Nevada, the Florida branch continued to distribute the game and did so for a couple years until Progressive Games was acquired by Mikhon Gaming in 1998.
Which story’s right? Who really created Caribbean Stud?
Caribbean Stud isn’t a difficult game to learn how to play. The rules are pretty simple.
This game is like five-card stud except you’re playing against the house instead of other players. And you’re given only one hand of five cards. There are no discards or drawing of new cards except for in some of the variations we list later on.
Your main objective is to have a better five-card hand than the dealer.
The round starts with you placing your bet. There are two betting rounds. The first – the ante – is mandatory. You need to make this bet to receive any cards. You can also make the optional progressive jackpot side bet. This usually costs $1 and this is the only time you can place that bet.
Once you make your bet(s), you’ll receive five cards face down. The dealer will also receive five cards. Then the dealer will flip over one hole card, which you can look at and use to decide what to do with your hand.
You’ll have two decisions at this point.
You can fold. If you fold, you lose the hand and automatically forfeit your ante bet.
Or you can raise. If you raise, you must double your ante bet. For example, if your ante bet is $1, your raise must be $2, for a total of $3.
Once everyone has played their hand, the dealer will flip over his remaining four cards. Then the dealer’s hand is compared to each players’ hand.
The dealer’s hand only qualifies if he has AK or better. If the dealer’s hand doesn’t qualify, he automatically loses. You’ll receive 1:1 on your ante bet and you’ll receive your raise bet back. No additional payouts are made if the dealer’s hand doesn’t qualify.
For example, if you bet $1 on the ante and $2 on the raise ($3 total) and the dealer didn’t qualify, you’d receive $4 – your original $3 wager plus an extra $1 for the ante bet (even money) payout.
If the dealer’s hand does qualify and your hand beats his, you’ll receive even money on the ante bet. How much you receive on the raise bet depends on what hand you beat him with.
Here’s how the payouts (on the raise bet) work:
If the dealer’s hand beats yours, he takes both your bets. If you fold, you lose your ante bet.
If your hand ties the dealer’s, you push – you’ll receive all your bets back.
If you bet the progressive jackpot side bet, you’ll also be paid out if you made a qualifying hand. Here’s what those payouts look like:
AUS (Adelaide) Payout
100% of Progressive Meter
100% of Progressive Meter
100% of Jackpot
10% of Progressive Meter
10% of Progressive Meter
10% of Jackpot
There are also common table or house rules. These are more common offline than online, but it’s a good idea to keep them in mind, anyway.
Only one hand per player. You cannot play multiple hands at the same time. This would give you a (major) unfair advantage in knowing when to raise or fold.
You may not discuss hands or exchange information with other players. Breaking this rule results in a dead hand and you forfeiting your bets.
If the dealer receives four cards of his five-card hand, he may deal himself an additional card. All other misdeals are considered dead hands/rounds.
You’re allowed to look at your cards once. After you put them down, you’re not allowed to touch your cards again.
Keep in mind that the rules will vary between the different Caribbean Stud variants and casinos. The rules will even be different between offline and online casinos.
You get the idea. The point is that you’ll want to give the rules a once-over whenever you play somewhere new.
Caribbean Poker Variations and Side Bets
There are a couple of Caribbean Stud variations. The rest are side bets. The following are details for each one.
UK Caribbean Stud – You’ll find this in the United Kingdom and other European countries. The game’s known as Casino Five-Card Stud Poker. Not all of them have a jackpot. Those that do call the game Casino Jackpot Five-Card Stud Poker.
The rules are pretty much the same. However, the payouts are different. The max bet’s usually $100 on the ante and $200 on the raise. A royal flush pays 50:1, which is the same as a straight flush. And if the dealer doesn’t show AK, hands playing the jackpot must be turned face up – otherwise, the cards aren’t shown.
Oasis Poker – This is a variation. The rules are the same as Caribbean Stud, but with one exception: the player is allowed to exchange cards before the raise/fold decision. You can switch cards at the following rates/prices:
1 card = 1x the ante
2 cards = 2x the ante
3 cards = 3x the ante
4 cards = 2x the ante
5 cards = 1x the ante
If you switch all five cards, you must also raise. And the bonus is paid on the value of your original hand.
Lunar Poker – A variation also known as Royal or Russian Poker. This is similar to Oasis Poker, where you’re able to switch out cards. However, there’s a variation where the player can force the dealer to draw. The idea is to try to make the dealer’s hand qualify, whereas he might not otherwise, so that the player can win on both bets.
According to the Wizard of Odds, someone took it a step further by adding an option to redraw any number of cards for the price of an ante.
But this gave players too much of an advantage. So they changed the rules yet again. You can read the Wizard’s article to learn more, as well as to read the strategy breakdown for this variant.
Bonus – A side bet. This pays on the poker value of the player’s hand. This pays upwards of 100:1 and has a 7.39% house edge.
Super Power – This pays 20:1 if the dealer has a pair or better, and the player has two pair or better, and the player wins. This has a 25.33% house edge.
Power Play – This pays if the dealer has a pair and the player wins. The payout is 6:1 and it has a 12.41% house edge.
Fuego – This is a side bet on consecutive winning hands. This pays anywhere from 8 to 40:1 for three to five consecutive winning hands. The house edge ranges from 48.5% to 65.1%
All of these side bets can be found at the Palms Casino in Managua, Nicaragua.
Optimal Strategy Advice
According to the Wizard of Odds, Caribbean Stud optimal strategy is complicated. The chances that someone knows it perfectly is slim to none.
Now, there are a couple strategies you can use. The most basic strategy is this:
Always raise with a pair or better.
Always fold with less than the dealer’s qualifying hand.
If you want to play AK profitably, here’s what you need to look for:
The dealer’s up card is an ace or king. You can raise with AKQ or AKJ since you share the same cards, making it slightly less likely that they have a pair.
The dealer’s up card is an ace or king. You can raise with a queen or jack. The explanation for this isn’t clear, but our guess is that it’s a blocker to potential straights and flushes (if you share the same suit).
If the dealer’s face card is a 2-Q. You’ll want to raise with AK if you have the same up card – for the same reason mentioned above. You have a blocker card.
If the dealer shows a 2-5, you can raise with AKQ or AKJ, as you’ll often have the best AK hand.
Playing AK well – according to experts – is really the only way to reduce the house edge in Caribbean Stud. The standard house edge is 5.224%. However, the Wizard says your expected loss is closer to 2.55%. And by using the tips above, you can get that down a bit more to 2.38%.
Otherwise, you’ll want to fold AK-type hands.
One other strategy you may find useful is player collusion. The Wizard of Odds says that if you can share information with other players or accidentally see other players’ cards, you can improve your chances. However, this is a gray area, if not prohibited by casinos altogether. It’s probably not worth it for most players since it’s a marginal difference and not one you can take full advantage without knowing the other players and having them all on the phone. Even then, most casinos online only have room for three players, which still doesn’t eliminate the house advantage.
That said, according to the book Finding the Edge, in a perfect scenario with seven colluding players, players would have a 2.3% edge. In a six-player game, the house edge would be .40%. This assumes perfect play.
But again, this is going against most casinos’ rules. So you use this at your own risk.
There’s also a small strategy or tip you can use for the progressive jackpot.
All progressive jackpots have a point where they become large enough that playing them becomes a +EV venture, where the edge is in your favor for every bet you make. This has a lot of math involved, including the bet size, odds of hitting, and payout.
But let’s skip the math, eh? We’ll just give you an example instead.
For a $1 side bet to be +EV, the jackpot will need to be $217,900 or higher. This assumes the following payouts:
Royal Flush: 100%
Straight Flush: 10%
Four of a Kind: $500
Full House: $100
But if you can’t find a jackpot that high – which can be difficult online – and you really want to play the jackpot, then just find the biggest jackpot you can. The higher it is, the better the odds, and subsequently the more profitable the bet becomes.
Of course, according to experts, the best thing you can do is not play the side bet at all. That’s the most profitable move, anyway, thanks to its 26.46% house edge.
Playing Caribbean Stud (or Caribbean Poker) Online
Playing online won’t be too terribly different than playing live. There are a couple obvious differences:
There’s no dealer. The game is handled by software.
There aren’t any other players. You’re playing by your lonesome.
And Caribbean Stud is one of the few casino table games you won’t find a live dealer variation for. So the only way to get a live experience is to visit a brick-and-mortar casino.
There’s not much to note about playing the game online. It’s pretty straightforward. But here are a few tips you might find helpful:
Best Casinos: Obvious tip – only sign up to legitimate online casinos. These casinos are licensed, regulated, and have (mostly) positive history and reputation. Any other casino cancels out any benefits you may get from the remaining tips.
Higher Return Percentages: Find casinos with higher payouts. These are averaged out over the long run, but it’s still good practice anyway. That means you should find/join a casino with a 98% payout over a casino with a 97% payout.
Payouts: Check the Caribbean Stud payouts offered by each casino you’re considering joining. You’ll want to join the casino with the highest payouts.
Caribbean Poker: Some casinos call their Caribbean Stud game “Caribbean Poker.” Our guess is that this is due to their inability to license, lease, or otherwise get permission to use the game.
Bonuses: If you decide to take the casino’s bonus, be sure to check whether the casino handicaps the rollover requirements (makes you wager more compared to other games, like slots). Be sure to check for both Caribbean Stud and Caribbean Poker. Some casinos even have a blanket rule covering all table poker games.
This is important because if you agree to the bonus, you may have to wager 5x-10x OR MORE than the standard rollover. And you have to do this before you’re allowed to cash out.
Mobile: You have your work cut out for you if you want to play this on your mobile device for real money, especially if you’re American. We recommend you read our reviews or contact support before signing up to make sure they have it.
Free: If you’re not sure you want to play the game, or if you want to make sure you like the software or casino first, most casinos let you play for free. In fact, Bovada and Ignition Casino let you play for free without even creating an account first.
That’s about it. If you need any more help choosing a casino, we recommend reading our casino guide and reviews.
There you have it. That’s Caribbean Stud (or Caribbean Poker) for you.
It’s an easy game to learn how to play, especially if you already know how to play poker. It’s extremely popular, too, which means you won’t have any troubles finding it online under one of its aliases.
There’s not a lot of strategy involved, which will make some players happy, while irking others.
For that reason, the house edge isn’t as good as games like blackjack or baccarat.
However, Caribbean Stud offers a nice balance between blackjack – which requires LOTS of strategy to beat the house – and baccarat – which doesn’t have any strategy nor lets you make any decisions.
Caribbean Stud’s right in the middle. It’s a good game for people who like poker and want to feel like the choices they’re making are having somewhat of an impact, no matter how small it is.
Does that sound like you?
Then we recommend you log into your casino account and start a game. Or check out one of our casino reviews to find a casino you like that offers it.