What Are the Rules for Caribbean Poker?

Although it may go by a similar name, Caribbean poker is quite a bit different than traditional poker games. As its name suggests, the game originated in the Caribbean, but it’s now widely played at casinos everywhere.

Rather than playing against a table of players, each player rounds a blackjack-sized table and plays against the bank. This, along with the rest of the straightforward rules, negate the need for “bluffing” and trying to notice other players’ “tells.” This makes the game quite a bit less complicated than other poker games.

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One of the most significant differences of Caribbean stud poker is the player’s option to place an additional $1 side bet for a progressive jackpot.

Playing the game: Step-by-step

  1. Each player gathers around the table and makes his or her ante bet equal to the table minimum, which is different at each casino and may even differ from table to table. This is also when the players decide whether or not they would like to make the $1 side bet. *This isn’t a great idea. You will need at least a flush to even win $50. This hand will only come up 1 in 508 times.
  2. Once the original wager and side bet are made, each player is dealt five cards from an automatic shuffler with one 52-card deck. The dealer also receives five with one lying face-up.
  3. Players will then look at their cards, but are not allowed to see each other’s hand.
  4. After examining cards, the players will determine whether they would like to fold and surrender their ante bet or make an additional bet. If they decide to continue the game, they must wager at least twice their ante bet. For example, if the ante bet was $10, the player must call $20 to continue.
  5. Once players have either folded or bet again, the dealer’s hand will be shown. To qualify, the bank’s hand needs to be an Ace–King or better. If the dealer’s hand does not qualify, the players’ ante bets will be returned, and the second bets will push.
  6. If the dealer’s hand does qualify, hands are ranked the same way they are in poker. If your hand beats the dealers, your original bet will be returned, and your call bet will follow a pay table.

Pay table

  • One Pair or less: 1 to 1
  • Two Pairs: 2 to 1
  • Three of a Kind: 3 to 1
  • Straight: 4 to 1
  • Flush: 5 to 1
  • Full House: 7 to 1
  • Four of a Kind: 20 to 1
  • Straight Flush: 50 to 1

House edge

Depending on what strategy you employ, the house edge in Caribbean poker is about 5%. The house edge comes from the betting structure. Because the dealer’s hand will only qualify about 44% of the time, you’ll end up winning your ante. The other 56% of the time, the dealer’s hand will qualify, and you’ll have a 50/50 chance of winning, but only if you end up betting three times your original bet.

There are plenty of different options, and everyone has their own strategy. Some say to call if you have at least a pair; some say to only call if you have at least an Ace-King. Casinogamblingstrategy.org offers a few different strategies that can be helpful if you’re a little wary of when to call and when to fold.

  • Always make the bet if you have at least a pair. Remember, this pays 1 to 1 if your hand beats the dealer’s.
  • Call if you have an Ace King and at least one of your cards matches the dealer’s upturned card.
  • The same is true if you have an Ace King Queen or Ace Queen Jack.
  • This one is a little more complicated, but make the bet if you have an Ace King Queen and at least one of your other cards is higher that the dealer’s upturned card. There’s a reason the dealer’s card is turned up. It gives you an edge, so take it into consideration when you’re deciding whether to fold or call.
  • Fold if you have anything less.

Wizard of Odds has a similar strategy.

  • Make the bet if the dealer’s card is a 2 through queen and matches one of yours.
  • Make the bet if the dealer’s card is an ace or king and you have a queen or jack in your hand.
  • Make the bet if the dealer’s rank 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.

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