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Best of John G. Brokopp

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Is There Strategy For Cariddean Stud?

4 August 1999

We get letters...F. B. of Chicago writes: "I always enjoy your column and put as much of your advice to use as possible. In the future, would you put together a column devoted to the best ways to play Caribbean Stud?"

I would very much like to outline a detailed strategy for Caribbean Stud, but unfortunately, like most casino games, there really is none. There are a couple of things to keep in mind while you are playing it, but the real key is to use good money management and just hope to get lucky.

It would probably be wise at this point in the column to admit I'm not a big fan of Caribbean Stud for a variety of reasons which I'll get into later. With that out of the way, here are the two widely accepted strategies:

First, bet on any pair or higher, and second, if you're holding Ace-King, make a bet only if one of your remaining cards matches the dealer's up card.

That's about it. But really, what more could there be? No matter how much you analyze the game, the basic premise is that each player at the table is dealt five cards out of a single 52-card deck. Those are the cards you must play. The only other clue you have is the dealer's up card. If you could peek at the hands of the other players you'd have another edge, to be sure, but such practice is strictly prohibited.

You just have to hope to be lucky enough to be dealt a good hand. But even if you are, there is still no guarantee that you can capitalize on it. That's the big reason I seldom play the game. Let me explain why:

You must remember that even though Caribbean Stud poker is a variation of 5-Card Stud poker, you are playing your hand against the dealer's hand and not against the other players at the table.

Say you're dealt a pair of deuces, the low end of so-called playable hands. In addition to the $5 that you've already put up as your ante to be dealt a hand, you now are obliged, according to the rules of play, to make a bet that is double your ante, which means you now have $15 riding on a couple of twos! The only way you can win your ante and bet is for the dealer to flip over an Ace-King. A pair of threes or better beats you. If the dealer has nothing (a non-qualifying hand), you win even money on your ante and you take back your bet. I consider that a paltry return for having $15 at risk on the table.

It can be tiresome being dealt a series of hands that contain nothing. You sit there folding time after time and losing your ante money. Sure, you can bet with your feelings or on a hunch, hoping that the dealer comes up with nothing as well, and you'll at least win even money on your ante. But Ace-King or better in the dealer's hand will wipe out your $15, and believe me, it hurts to lose that much money when you're holding "garbage".

Let's consider the frustration of getting a good hand, say a high pair or even three of a kind. It's difficult enough to be dealt a hand like that, but in Caribbean Stud, you have to sweat out hoping the dealer will qualify with Ace-King or better if you hope to win a nice little pot. Your three of a kind will pay 3-1 on your bet if the dealer qualifies. If not, you'll win even money on your ante and nothing on your bet. It's maddening waiting for a good hand, and when you finally get one the dealer turns over zilch...but when you had deuces, he flipped over a pair of threes to beat you!

The real attraction of Caribbean Stud is the progressive jackpot the game includes for hitting a royal flush. Minor awards are paid out of the progressive pot, including bonuses for getting a flush, full house, four of a kind, or straight flush. You must play a side bet of $1 on the hand to participate in the progressive pot. The dealer doesn't have to qualify for you to win a bonus hand if you've made the side wager.

But even if you are fortunate enough to be dealt a bonus hand and you've played your extra dollar to participate, you have to hope the dealer qualifies so that you'll be paid extra for your bet, which can mean hundreds of dollars. If the dealer doesn't qualify, you'll get a bonus all right, but your bet money will be returned.

Aside from the two components of Caribbean Stud strategy we mentioned earlier (incidentally, the reason you bet Ace-King if the dealer's up card matches one of your other cards is because it lessens the chances of the dealer holding a pair), the other decision a player must make is where to play the game.

The bigger the progressive pot, and it can easily get up into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, the better. Why play a game where the jackpot is $25,000 when you could be playing one with a $250,000 pot? The odds against being dealt a royal flush, as astronomical as they may be, are the same in both games.

There are other ways for Caribbean Stud players to shop around for the best games. For example, the bonus for four of a kind is $500, but the Empress Casino Joliet and the Empress Casino Hammond pay a $1,000 bonus if you are dealt four of a kind in aces or eights. That's an edge worth seeking.

Here are a couple of other shopping pointers: The Trump Casino in Gary pays off 10 per cent of the progressive jackpot for a straight flush as opposed to the $5,000 at other locations. Also, the Showboat Mardi Gras Casino in East Chicago starts its progressive at $100,000 instead of the $10,000 seed money at most other locations.

One other thing to remember. Caribbean Stud carries a hefty house edge of about 5.6 per cent. It can be a fun game, but as we've learned, also very frustrating. The strategy is minimal, and the luck factor huge.

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp