In some ways, Caribbean stud poker is an easier game to strategize than other common variants like five-card stud and five-card draw.
a) that all the cards are dealt at once (unlike five-card stud)
b) that there is no opportunity to “drop” cards (unlike five-card draw poker) make the game fundamentally simpler.
Bluffing is also out of the question, as players complete not against each other but instead against the dealer, whose actions are entirely dependent on the cards he or she is dealt. Essentially players are betting solely on whether they think that their cards are higher than the dealer’s.
The house advantage in Caribbean stud poker is actually the same as in American-style roulette: 5.26%. The difference between the two is that while roulette is a game of pure luck, Caribbean stud poker can involve an element of strategy.
The big decision in Caribbean stud poker is this one: play, or fold. If a player folds, he or she loses the ante but avoids the possibility of losing even more. If a player decides to play, he or she must raise the bet. There are then three possible outcomes:
- The dealer folds; the player wins the ante bet.
- The dealer plays and the player has the higher hand; the player wins both the ante bet and the raise bet.
- The dealer plays and has the higher hand; the player loses both the ante bet and the raise bet.
Keep in mind that the dealer will always fold if he or she does not hold a King, an Ace, or any higher poker combination (one pair, etc.).
As with many casino games, the dealer’s strategy is usually the best. A player with no high card should always fold.
In fact, even if a player does have a King or an Ace and decides to play, he or she will be unlikely to win the raise bet, because the dealer will only play with a high card as well. In such cases, the player should also fold.
Players should only play if they are holding both a King and an Ace, or any higher poker combination. If a player is holding any poker combination – i.e. one pair or higher – he or she should always play the hand. In a five-card game without dropping, the chances of being dealt any poker combination are slim at best. Even with a pair of deuces, there is less than a 50% chance that the dealer will also have a pair.
Meanwhile, if a player is holding both a King and an Ace (and has no higher poker combination), the player should fold unless one of the following conditions is met:
- Two of the player’s other three cards are Q and J, or
- One of the player’s other three cards is a Q, J, or 10, and the player is holding a card of the same value as the dealer’s face up card.
In the second condition, the reason that the player must be holding a card of the same value as the dealer’s face up card is that this lowers the chances of the dealer having a pair.