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Caribbean Stud Poker - FAQ

When I calculate the combos of player and dealer hands for Caribbean Stud Poker, I get only 3,986,646,103,440 vs your 19, etc. I'm off by exactly a factor of 5. I used combin(52,5)*combin(47,5). Where did I go wrong? Thanks and I think your site is just great.

Bob from Lake Charles, Louisiana

Thanks for the compliment. You are off by a factor of five because the dealer can have any one of 5 cards face up. In other words order does matter with the dealer's hand, since the first card is dealt face up. The correct derivation of the total combinations is combin(52,5)*47*combin(46,4) = 19,933,230,517,200.

As a first time gambler in Vegas, I've been told to play craps and Caribbean Stud. How much money should I prepare to take to a sitting of each to try to stay in the game long enough to see results?

Vinnie from Tulsa

If you play long enough, the only results you will see is that you will lose all your money. Don't bring to the table more money than you care to lose in that sitting.

Second, Caribbean Stud Poker has a house edge of 5.22%, so if you're trying to stay in the game as long as possible, I would avoid that one. The best table games are craps and blackjack, when played properly.

Found your site through VEGAS.com bulletin board. I'm finding it fascinating. Can you tell me the odds of the dealer qualifying in Caribbean stud. I've heard anything from 40% to 55%. I've been playing "blind" and therefore taking the human element out of the game, and have been successful, by not going out of hands that I would ordinarily go out on. Please advise. Thanks a lot.

HNSTLWYR

According to my probabilities in poker there are 1,296,420 ways out of 2,598,960 to form a pair or more. I also indicate at the bottom of that page that there are 167,280 ways to form an ace/king. So there are 1,463,700 ways to qualify, or a 56.32% chance.

By playing blind you are bucking a house edge of 16.607%. If you used my three rules of thumb in my section on Caribbean stud you would lower the house edge to 5.225%.

Congratulations on a great site. While I usually play blackjack in Atlantic City, basic strategy only, sometime I like to try my luck on Caribbean Stud Poker. I know about the odds in AC (from reading your articles in Casino Player magazine), but with different payoffs on some of the online casinos, are the odds any better or worse online?

S from Silver Spring, Maryland

Good question. I checked out four casinos using Microgaming, Starnet, Cryptologic, and BossMedia software. Starnet uses the conventional rules. Cryptologic and BossMedia each pay 200 to 1 on a royal flush as opposed to 100 to 1. Microgaming has the following paytable.

Microgaming Paytable

Hand Payoff
Royal flush 999 to 1
Straight flush 199 to 1
Four of a kind 99 to 1
Full house 14 to 1
Flush 9 to 1
Straight 5 to 1
Three of a kind 3 to 1
Two pair 1 to 1
Pair 1 to 1
Ace/King 1 to 1


Note that Microgaming pays even money only on a two pair, but is more generous on everything higher. The following table displays the house edge for each kind of software assuming optimal strategy. Note that Starnet calls the game Cyberstud Poker and the rest call it Caribbean Poker.

House Edge For Each Kind of Software Assuming Optimal Strategy

Software House Edge
Microgaming 5.01%
Cryptologic 5.21%
BossMedia 5.21%
Starnet 5.22%

Hello Mike. Two questions about Caribbean Stud Poker. It has a big house advantage. Can this advantage be reduced by seeing one other player's cards? This happens often, especially if you are playing with a spouse or friend, even though the casino says you not supposed to do it. The second question is about draw Caribbean stud. The dealer has to qualify with a pair of 8's or higher. You (and the dealer) can draw 3 or more cards. This game is offered in only a few locations. Are the odds any better (especially if the dealer tries to draw to straights and flushes)?

Rod from Newburgh, USA

To answer your first question, yes, the house advantage can be reduced by sneaking peaks at other cards. For example if you have an ace/king hand it should make you more inclined to raise if you see another player matching the dealer’s up card. In the book Finding the Edge Peter Griffin and John M. Gwynn Jr. address the question of player collusion in Caribbean stud poker. Assuming perfect knowledge of all other cards, and having perfect knowledge of how this information affects the odds, their paper states the player would have a 2.3% edge in a seven-player game. In a six-player game, the house would have an edge of 0.4%.

Some internet casinos offer multi-player Caribbean stud poker. Do you think a team of determined players with good computers could beat the game? If a team were to occupy all five places at a table, they could see into half the deck. A computer could call the optimal play based on seeing 26 cards (5 per player plus the dealer's up card). Thanks again for the gambling advice -- I'm a long-standing fan.

Peter from Ottawa, Canada

Somebody else asked this is a past column. The book Finding the Edge presents a paper titled 'An Analysis of Caribbean Stud Poker' by Peter Griffin and John Gwynn Jr. There they state that if seven players colluded perfectly they would enjoy a 2.3% player advantage. However, they don't state what the edge would be in a five-player game. I suspect that the odds would swing back to the house.

The odds according to your formula for a royal flush is 4/2,598,960 = 1/649,740. So, if I was playing Caribbean Stud one-on-one with the dealer, then my hand and the dealers would equal 649,740*2=1,299,480. Therefore, according to the math, after 1,299,480 hands there should be two royal flushes. Please tell me if I understand the odds correctly.

Bill from Niagara Falls, Canada

You, are right that on average a royal flush will occur once in every 649,740 hands, and that in 1,299,480 hands the expected number of royal flushes is 2. However, this is only the average. With every hand that goes by you are no closer to getting a royal. Every game of independent trials has this memory-less property so a royal flush is never overdue.

The probability of zero royals in 1,299,480 hands is 13.53%.

I have a question regarding Caribbean Stud. In my city there has recently started to appear a CS game without maximum ante and increased maximum pay out. Normal limits in local currency before min. 2, max 50 and max. pay out 2000. The new limits are min. 25, no maximum but max. pay out 3000 and my question is: is this good or bad for me as a player? I don't know how to calculate the odds, but maybe you can assist me? I should also add that in this town we play CS with the possibility of changing one card at the cost of the ante.

Tomas from Riga, Latvia

In games with a maximum pay out you should never bet so much that the maximum winning would be affected by the maximum. For example if the maximum pay out is $2000 and the biggest win pays 100:1 then you shouldn’t bet more than $20. Assuming the royal flush there pays 100-1, you shouldn't bet more than $30. As long as you stay under these limits the odds have not changed. The version where you can switch a card is called Oasis Poker.

Here in Netherlands we have also Caribbean Stud Poker. The progressive jackpot side bet payoff table is same as "Table 3" but the straight flush pays always $5,000 instead of 10% of the Jackpot. How do I calculate the break even point?

Jan from Rotterdam, Netherlands

According to table 3, a four of a kind pays $500, a full house pays $100, and a flush pays $50. If m is the amount of the jackpot meter then the return per dollar bet is (1121800+4*j)/2598960. The meter would need to reach $369,290 for this to be a positive expectation bet.

Could you tell me how the total number of combinations in Caribbean, 19,933,230,517,200 are arrived at? I followed your 5-card poker combinations to get the 2,598,960. From there how do I continue? Thank you in advance.

Claudio from Punta del Este, Uruguay

You correctly calculated the number of player combinations as combin(52,5)=2,598,960. From there, the dealer can have combin(47,5)=1,533,939 possible hands. Then any one of five dealer cards can be face up. So 2,598,960*1,533,959*5=19,933,230,517,200.

There is a new rule in Moscow casinos in Caribbean Stud Poker. Player can buy one more card after looking his initial cards by giving the same amount of ante. Other rules and pay outs are still the same except no bonus is paid if player buys a card. Can you please help me to calculate house edge and the probabilities of this game? Thanks for your time

Eralp from Moscow, Russia

You’re not the first to ask me about this. I’m afraid I haven’t worked out the odds for this variation. If this twist ever makes it to Vegas I’ll make it a higher priority.

p.s. (Feb 21, 2006) I now address this rule variation in my Caribbean Stud Poker section.

I often play Caribbean Stud with my wife and look at her cards before I play mine. Should I do anything different based on the cards she is holding? For example, I assume that I should stay in if I have an Ace/King and she has a card (less than a King) that matches the dealers up card.

Mike from New York

Yes, knowledge of other player cards can help if you use the information correctly. I haven’t studied this in depth but what you are already doing is a good idea. When you have an ace/king you don’t want the dealer to form a pair. If you or your wife can match the dealer’s up card that lowers the probability of the dealer forming a pair, and thus increases the probability that the dealer won’t qualify. However if you’re willing to fight to cut down the house edge marginally I wouldn’t waste your time and money on Caribbean Stud Poker but rather on a lower house edge game like blackjack or video poker.

I enjoy both Caribbean Stud and Blackjack. The element of risk for Stud is 2.56% and Blackjack is 0.38% or a ratio of 6.7. Assume I play $15 Blackjack and $5 ante Stud i.e., $15 at risk when I bet. Since the number of hands dealt per hour is many more for Blackjack versus Stud, does that mean that I will lose the same amount of my bankroll if the ratio of hands dealt per hour is 6.7?

John from Monsey, USA

No. If you’re interested in comparing expected loses it would be better to use the house edge. My section on the house edge shows the blackjack house edge to be 0.43% (Atlantic City rules) and that of Caribbean Stud Poker to be 5.22%. The expected loss for 1 hand of Caribbean Stud Poker at a $5 ante is $5 * 5.22% = 26.10 cents. The expected loss for 6.7 hands of blackjack at $15 per initial bet is 6.7 * $15 * 0.43% = 43.22 cents. So given these two options you will lose less in Caribbean Stud Poker. The ratio of the house edge of Caribbean Stud Poker to blackjack is about 12. So the expected loss of a $1 initial Caribbean Stud Poker bet is about the same as a $12 initial blackjack bet.

Are there any circumstances in Caribbean Stud where it is a good bet to raise on less than A/K? i.e. You have an Ace or King and match the dealer upcard, reducing his odds of a pair and of the high card?

George from Boston, USA

No. This is a hard and fast rule, you never raise in Caribbean Stud Poker with less than ace/king.

In blackjack and/or in Caribbean stud poker, does it make a difference if you are the only player seated at the table versus if the table is full?

Patrick from New York, USA

No

LOVE the site! Question on Caribbean Stud. You suggest that a player should stay with any pair. On a low pair, you’re basically hoping the dealer does not qualify. If the dealer matches any card, other than a "2", you lose. The risk then, assuming a $10 bet, is $30 to win $10. While you just lose $10 if you fold. Is this a good move? I know you have the math to prove it, but on your simulator, I lose more often than not when I stay on a very low pair.

Dave from Cincinnati, Ohio

Thanks for the compliment. Trust me, you should raise on any pair, even a pair of deuces. It isn’t just that you hope the dealer won’t qualify, but you also win the ante and raise if the dealer gets an ace/king. You will still have a negative expectation on a low pair, but the expected loss by folding is even more.

I have been noticing (in Illinois and Indiana) a variation of Caribbean Stud that includes a draw where the dealer qualifies with a pair of 8’s or better. Are you going to have a strategy section on this anytime soon?

Jason

You are referring to Caribbean Draw Poker. This one would be a very difficult game to analyze. At this time I have no plans to analyze it but once it reaches a certain saturation point it will be hard to keep putting it off.

Where I work the seed for the Caribbean Stud Poker jackpot is $10,000 and 60% of money bet goes into the meter. Our jackpot payoff is your table #3. How would this affect the house advantage? Would the $50,000 aggregate affect it? I’m more interested in the formulas and how to get to the numbers.

WD

The math is quite easy. The probability of a royal flush is 1 in 649740. So the expense of reseeding the jackpot is $10,000*(1/649740) = 1.54%. For every dollar bet you keep 40% for profit and reseeding the jackpot. 40%-1.54% = 38.46% profit/house edge. It does not make any difference what you pay on the smaller jackpot or if there is a maximum win. Ultimately the 60% that goes to the meter goes to the players one way or another, it doesn’t matter to you how it gets divided up.

What happens if two players get a royal flush, both of who made the progressive side bet, in Caribbean Stud Poker?

Anonymous

I believe what happens in this situation is the player to the dealer’s right would win the progressive jackpot and the other one would win only $10,000. This is because the dealer pays players from right to left so player to the right would be paid first, the meter reset to $10,000, and then the second player paid. However I think the second player would have a legitimate complaint on his hands. The probability of this happening in a full table is 1 in 20,103,110,301. So I would doubt this has ever happened or ever will happen.

I have some questions on tipping etiquette...

Blackjack: Can I double, split or take insurance for the dealer?

Caribbean Stud Poker: Can I (or do I have to) raise also for the dealer?

Let It Ride Poker: Can I place more than one bet for the dealer (what happens if I decide to take back one of my bets and there was a tip)?

Craps: Can I play a tip everywhere I can play (odds and props included)?

Roulette: Can I play on numbers for him?

Anonymous

As a general rule, you can make any bet for the dealer in any game. In general you should tell the dealer which bets are his, except blackjack where its common practice that any bet outside the betting circle is for the dealer.

Blackjack: Yes to all three. The usual way to bet for the dealer in blackjack is to put the tip on the edge of the betting circle. If you split or double most people also split or double the dealer’s bet, although it is not required.

Caribbean Stud Poker: I asked a dealer and he said raising for the dealer is optional. I haven't studied it but I think this would result in the tip having an advantage.

Let it Ride: I'm told that the player should put out three tips initially but must pull them back in the same manner that they pull back their own bets. Bets that are pulled back go to the player, not the dealer.

Craps: Yes, you can make any bet for the dealer. The most common ones are the yo-11 and the hard ways. If you make a line bet for the dealers and back it up with the odds it is implied the odds are a tip too.

Roulette: As in craps you can make any bet for the dealer. Just tell them in advance.

What seat at the Caribbean poker table should I try for? Does it make a difference? Are there generally six spots?

Anonymous

You should try to sit as far to the left as possible, assuming you play the side bet. If you don’t make the side bet it doesn’t matter. The reason is if two more players get a straight flush or higher the player furthest to the left will get the benefit of the full meter, because the dealer pays players from her right to left. Subsequent players will get less after paying the first player. In the event of two royal flushes the first player would get the full meter and the second only $10,000, which is what the meter is generally reset to. However the odds of this are extremely unlikely. I would just play where you have the most elbow-room and are furthest away from any smoking players. Finally, yes, there are generally six spots.

A local casino is eliminating their Carribean Stud game, but by MGC rules they have to pay out the whole jackpot first. The table is $5 ante and $1 Progressive side bet. They are making the payouts Flush-150, Full House-300, 4 of a kind-1500, Straight Flush- Whole Jackpot (155,000), on 12/1. From my calculations my edge on the side bet is some insane 270% player edge, but almost all of that is in the straight flush. Just looking at the lower 3 payouts the player edge is 8.7%. Is this enough to overcome the house edge on the main bet of 5.25% or so? How do I combine the two edges? Obviously the bet is a winner if I think I have a chance to make a straight flush, but if I presume I have no chance to make a straight flush, is the game worth playing? Thanks for your time.

James from St. Louis

Coincidentally I heard of a Vegas casino doing the same thing because they wanted to take out their Caribbean Stud game. Here is a general formula for calculating the expected return when a straight flush pays the full jackpot.(((5108*FL+3744*FH+624*FK+40*J)/2598960)-M*0.052243-1)/(M+1)where

FL = Flush win
FH = Full house win
FK = Four of a kind wi
n J = Jackpot amount
M = Minimum ante bet

In your case we have (((5108*150+3744*300+624*1500+40*155000)/2598960)-5*0.052243-1)/(5+1) = 36.858%. So the player advantage is 36.858% of the combined ante plus $1 side bet, or an expected profit of $2.21 per hand.

I play three card, Caribbean stud, and four card poker at machine shuffled tables. I am amazed the number of times a playable three-card hand frequently is dealt in a four card game, and a playable four-card hand is dealt in a Caribbean stud game. It makes me wonder if those shuffling machines aren’t pre-programmed to the house’s advantaged. Are these machines really random or are they programmed for the house, and if programmed, isn’t that illegal?

Cherrice from North Carolina

I strongly believe the makers of the shuffling machines at least attempt to make the shufflers as fair and random as possible. A deliberately gaffed machine I’m sure would violate Nevada law. It is fairly easy to see good x-card hands in x+1 cards. For example the probability of a three of a kind in three cards is 0.235%, and in four cards 0.922%, or almost four times higher.

I am currently playing your Ties Win BJ at Harrods. I really love it. Great game. My question is about a promo Harrods is having at the moment where if I win five hands/bets in a row I win back the lowest bet in that sequence. As I flat-bet I will win back one of my bets, effectively. Should I have chosen another game to play for this promo? Roulette is excluded but all other games at Harrods are permitted. Thanks,

Mick from Port Kembla

Thanks for playing it. Yes, Ties Win Blackjack was a good choice for this promotion. The probability of a full win is 43.314%, a half win is 8.75%, and a loss is 47.936%. So the probability of any win is 52.064%. The probability of five consecutive wins is 0.520645 = 3.825%. Flat betting this results in an extra 3.825% of return for the player. The house edge normally is 0.247%, so the player advantage under this promotion would be 3.5785%. However I find no mention of this promotion on the casino web site and given my usual 2-3 week delay to answer e-mail it is probably over.

I would like to find out what the breakeven point is for the Caribbean Stud Progressive Jackpot Side Bet for a payoff table that I saw in Northern Indiana that is not included on your Caribbean Stud page. The table I am referring to is the same as your Table 3 except that the payoff for a straight flush is a fixed $5,000 instead of 10% of the jackpot. I saw it at Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City, Indiana, and was told by other players that that is the standard table in Northern Indiana (in Southern Indiana, your Table 3 is standard). Thanks much for the wealth of information you provide on your site.

Kevin from Cincinnati

For the benefit of my readers, table 3 pays $500 for a four of a kind, $100 for a full house, and $50 for a flush. The breakeven meter on the Northern Indiana side bet pay table is $369,290.00

I’m a long-time fan. Thanks for keeping it fresh. I just watched a show on CGTV (Canadian Gaming TV) called "Casino Life" that dealt with Caribbean Stud Poker. The host of the show gave kudos to you and your site and your strategy for this game was presented on the show. Later, I saw that you were credited. Does this generate income for you or is it just good press?

Peter from Ottowa, Canada

Thanks for the kind words. Yes, I gave Casino Life permission to use my material. I’m happy they gave me a good plug. No, they didn’t pay me. I also have never been paid for my appearances on the Travel Channel here in the United States. I do it for the fun and the publicity.

Hi Michael. Awesome website! You’ve answered a few questions similar to mine, but not exactly. Simply put: Do you think Caribbean Stud Poker is a "good" game to play? Of course the odds may not be as good as blackjack, but it seems to be a pretty solid game to play and possibly win money at. What are your thoughts?

Parham from Atlanta

Thanks. To answer your question, no, I don’t think it is a good game. The house edge is too high. If you are looking for a big win you could play a progressive betting system in blackjack, pressing your bets as you win. Of course this comes at the cost of frequent smaller losses.

Hi, Wizard. Here’s a fun question for you. There’s been something I’ve wondered about (long before it was quasi-depicted on an episode of "Heros"). If you were given the ability to stop time once (and only once), during which you had several minutes to yourself and the ability to manipulate objects (such as a deck of cards, roulette wheel, etc.), what game would you play? Assume you have a moderate sized bankroll, and can get away with nigh-impossible odds, but not flagrant cheating.

Lorne from Richmond Hill

Those ideas sound like flagrant cheating. However, putting ethical issues aside, I would find a game of Caribbean Stud Poker with a high progressive jackpot. Then I would arrange the cards to give myself a royal flush and the dealer a qualifying hand. After resuming time make the $1 side bet and the maximum ante bet.

I would like to know the decisions per hour in particular for the poker games: Three Card Poker, Caribbean Stud, and Let It Ride. Thank you.

Giorgio I. from San Juan

Please see the following table. This table also shows the house edge assumed for player rating purposes. My source is an executive with a major Strip casino here in Vegas, who wishes to remain anonymous.

Hands per Hour and Average House Edge

Games Hands/Hour House Edge
Baccarat 72 1.2%
Blackjack 70 0.75%
Big Six 10 15.53%
Craps 48 1.58%
Car. Stud 50 1.46%
Let It Ride 52 2.4%
Mini-Baccarat 72 1.2%
Midi-Baccarat 72 1.2%
Pai Gow 30 1.65%
Pai Pow Poker 34 1.96%
Roulette 38 5.26%
Single 0 Roulette 35 2.59%
Casino War 65 2.87%
Spanish 21 75 2.2%
Sic Bo 45 8%
3 Way Action 70 2.2%

At Caribbean Stud at Sycuan Casino (San Diego CA), 2 people both almost had straight flushes. The pit said that they would SPLIT 10% of the pot instead of each receiving 10% or the 2nd straight flush receiving 10% after the first straight flush received his 10%. Is that the correct way to pay off? If two people get full houses, they each receive the same amount out of the progressive jackpot so I would like to know what happens when there are two straight flushes. Thank you.

Judith from Chula Vista

I don’t think that is fair, but I have heard of other casinos following that rule. The way I think the rule should be followed, and the way most casinos do it, is one player receives the full 10% of the jackpot, and the other 10% of whatever they reseed the jackpot to. Most casinos reseed the jackpot at $10,000. This begs the question, which player should get 10% of the full jackpot? Some argue the player to the dealer’s right would get it, because his hand is adjudicated first. Others argue the player to the dealer’s left, because he received his hand first. I have received passionate e-mails both ways. I tend to side with those who say the player to the dealer’s left would be paid first. It may depend on what the table games manager decides to do at the particular casino.

This is in regards to your answer in the Caribbean Stud question in column #185. It’s my understanding that if two straight flushes are dealt in the same hand, the person to the dealer’s LEFT would be the first one to take 10% of the jackpot total. This is because the person to the dealer’s left was technically the first person to receive the straight flush. The two casinos I’ve worked at have actually paid from left to right on CS in case a scenario like this ever occurs.

L

Thanks, I stand corrected. I thought I heard somewhere that the first hand to the right would get paid first, because the dealer pays from the right. However your rationale makes sense too.

What is an appropriate tip for the dealer (they keep their own tips) if a person hits a royal flush at Caribbean Stud if the JP is $230,000? Also, what would one tip for a straight flush if the gross pay was $23,600 but net $17,000 after 28% is withheld for federal taxes? Thank you. Love your website!

Judith H. from Chula Vista

Thanks. As I say about machine jackpots, 0.5% to 1% of the jackpot amount after taxes is good. Whether the dealers pool their tips or not should not make a difference.

I’m curious about the break even point on the Carribean Stud in Sweden, since the jackpot is a bit different. The jackpot costs 5 Kronor and pays 200 for a flush, 400 for a full house, 2,000 for 4 of a kind, 20,000 for a straight flush and 100% for a royal flush. Thank you in advance.

Pelle from Malmoe, Sweden

The rate of return is 34.53%, plus 3.08% for every 100,000 Kronor in the jackpot. The breakeven meter is 2,126,825 Kronor.

There is a Caribbean Stud Poker table at the Star City casino in Sydney with a progressive jackpot side bet. It costs $2.50 to play and has the following table table:

  • Royal flush: 100% of jackpot
  • Straight flush: 10% of jackpot
  • Four of a kind: $500
  • Full house: $150
  • Straight: $100


What would be the break-even point on the jackpot?

Anonymous

For the side bet to have zero house advantage, the jackpot would need to reach $578,842.11.