What is Caribbean Stud Poker?

There are fewer games you will come across at the casino tables or online poker rooms with a cooler name than Caribbean stud. If the first thing that comes to mind is a devilishly handsome Caribbean gentleman surrounded by ladies, you wouldn’t be the first. Unfortunately for us players – and by this, I mean poker players – Caribbean stud was not named after some legendary ladies’ man with a legendary knack at the tables. Yes, I know, pretty disappointing.

It is much simpler than that. You see, Caribbean stud, also known as “Casino Stud Poker,” belongs to the stud poker family. The name gives it away, right? Anyway, games which fall within the stud poker bracket are categorized as those where players are dealt face down cards and face up cards in betting rounds.


In Caribbean stud, this is the case. However, it does have a number of differences which every player should be aware of before they play. The one thing which sets Caribbean stud apart from other stud poker games is that you play against the dealer. There is more, but don’t worry as we will explain the rules of the game – and everything else you need to know – in this guide.

You probably want to know about how the game came to be, first, right? Well, in that case, let’s take a look at the history of Caribbean stud.

Caribbean Stud History

You may be surprised to learn that Caribbean stud is a relatively recent addition to the poker sphere. It is believed that the game only really became widespread in casinos in the 1980’s but the true origins of Caribbean stud is a matter which is still up for debate. This is a little unusual, for a game with limited history.

Among the most likely claims to the invention of Caribbean stud is professional poker player and three-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner, David Sklansky. According to Sklansky, he was the brains behind a game called “Casino Poker,” which would eventually become (you guessed it) Caribbean stud poker.


Sklansky never patented the game, due to laws at the time preventing him to do so, but did trademark his invention. The poker expert put it on trial at the now-defunct Vegas World Hotel. However, due to the death of his girlfriend, Sklansky was ‘not up to’ following up on promoting the game more.

Given the geographical connection, there are many who dispute Sklansky’s version of events, believing that the game originated in the Caribbean (Aruba, to be precise). A widely accepted theory is that the game was popularized in Aruba, having made its way there via one of the many cruise ships which stopped off at the island.  Others agree that the game was founded at the casino tables of one of Aruba’s hotels.

The name of one hotel frequently pops up in this ongoing debate and that is the “Excelsior Hotel,” formerly known as “The King International.” At this point, Scooby Doo and Shaggy couldn’t crack the case. To add even more intrigue, Sklansky later claimed that he received a proposition from a casino owner in Aruba. The offer was to use his “Casino Poker” idea and host the game at the casino in question. The rules were slightly altered, with the name also being changed to “Caribbean Stud.” It proved to be a good move, as the game took off and enjoyed considerable popularity.


Off the back of the success the game was enjoying, the casino owner in question sold the patent for $30 million. Caribbean stud still enjoys a very healthy reputation as a table game with great odds and tons of excitement.

Now that you know the history of the game, let’s take a look at the rules and what you need to know before you play.

Playing Caribbean Stud

So if you want to play Caribbean stud. Of course, you do! There are a few things you should know first, naturally. Before we break these down for you, it is safe to say that the rules of this game are very easy to get the hang of. There is nothing you will be required to do which would make it any more difficult than blackjack, for example. Incidentally, the Caribbean stud poker table does resemble a blackjack table.

As this is a table game, you will need to find a Caribbean stud poker table at the casino to take part. Always make sure you check the table limits and are happy to play within these parameters. Once you have your chips and your place, you will be ready to go.


Before we cover how to play, let’s take a look at the rules.

Rules of the Game

Like any other game, there will be rules players must adhere to in order to play. In Caribbean stud, the rules are fairly strict. This means that you should follow them if you want things to run smoothly. You are only permitted to play one hand in every round of betting, so forget about bogarting the table!

As previously mentioned, casinos frown upon players sharing details of their cards. You must refrain from showing your cards to other players and/or discussing what you have. This is seen as a violation of the rules and the game, which will lead to players forfeiting their bets as a result.  You will be required to keep your hand within the sight of the dealer. This is common sense, but still, there will be that one guy that wants to put the cards into his pocket. Not a wise move.


You only get one chance to lift your cards in order to see what you have. As such, it is important to understand the strength of your hand before you put them down and before you bet! Rules are rules, right? Luckily for players, these are all pretty easy to understand. Just make sure you are aware of these requirements before you play, as no one likes forfeiting bets!


In Caribbean stud, you are not playing against other players but against a dealer. Unlike other poker games, the cards of any other players on the table don’t matter. The game will start when you place a bet in the ante box (this could also be a circle). You will also see another box (or circle) which is reserved for the progressive jackpot bet. We will cover this in more detail below.

Keep in mind that there is no requirement to go for the progressive bet, so this is completely up to you. The odds of hitting the jackpot are considerably high, so if you do go or this bet each time, you may eat into your bankroll. If it comes in and you don’t have it, that would be a very painful night to endure. Once the ante bet and progressive bets have been placed on the table by all players, cards are dealt.

The Deal

All players on the table will receive a total of five cards each, as will the dealer. All players’ cards dealt are face down, so you should keep what they are to yourself. As we mentioned above, other players’ cards cannot affect the game, but sharing what cards you have with another is frowned upon by casinos.

The dealer will place four of his cards face down and one face up. You will then have the opportunity to take a look at your cards, to see how strong your hand is. The idea is to play on the strength of your cards. If you believe that your hand contains a combination of cards strong enough to likely beat that of the dealer’s, you can then choose to bet. Conversely, if you have nothing, you can fold.

To Bet or Not to Bet?

These are essentially your only two options: to bet or to fold.  Making the decision to bet will cost you more money. If you decide to fold, you will lose your ante bet and your progressive side bet (if you have placed this bet). The decision is yours and should be based on the strength of the cards you have.

If you have looked at the five cards you have been dealt and see a potential way you can win, you will then be required to make another bet (raise) to see the dealer’s cards. This bet is double the ante bet. So, if you bet $50 on the ante, you will need to bet $100 to see their cards. Remember, one of the dealer’s cards is face up, which means they have four other cards to be turned over before you know if you have won.


When you have placed your bet and all other players on the table have bet or folded, the dealer will reveal their cards.  In Caribbean stud, the dealer must always fold unless they have an ace/king or better in their hand.

The Dealer Must Qualify

Did the dealer have a minimum of an ace/king in their hand?  If they did not, they will fold. They have not qualified, so, if you have been victorious, you will win your ante bet at odds of 1:1. So, that $50 is returned to you with another $50 that you have won. The second bet you made is void (on account of the dealer folding) so you will receive this back.

So, if you placed the ante bet of $50, your second bet at $100, and the dealer folded, you receive $200 at the end of the game. If you had made a progressive bet, this is lost. The progressive bet is never paid back to you unless you win the jackpot bet. This is the same whether the dealer folds, you fold, the dealer wins, or you win.


If the dealer does qualify and you have a stronger hand, you win the ante bet at 1:1 plus your second bet according to your hand. For example, a two pair pays 3:1, so keeping with our example bet above, you would bag a cool $300 (plus your stake of $100). All in all, you would receive $500 in winnings, including the total stake of $150 dollars.

Caribbean Stud Payout

As we covered above, the first bet is the ante.  The ante is essentially your buy-in to the game. All wins on your ante are paid at 1:1. The second bet, however, is not mandatory. This bet is double the amount of the ante and will allow you to see the dealer’s hand.

The payout in Caribbean stud depends on how strong your hand is. The absolute lowest you can win is also 1:1, which pays out on one pair or below. The highest payout you can receive is 100:1 for a royal flush (the progressive bet is not included in this).

You can find the payout odds table for Caribbean stud, below:


Royal flush 100:1
Straight flush 50:1
Four of a kind 20:1
Full house 7:1
Flush 5:1
Straight 4:1
Three of a kind 3:1
Two pair 2:1
All other 1:1


Progressive Jackpot

You could argue that Caribbean stud poker would not be as popular without the progressive jackpot. You would not be alone in thinking this. The opportunity to pick up a life-changing win from just one hand (and usually, just one dollar) keeps many of this game’s enthusiasts coming back for more. After all, if you could scoop the jackpot – which typically ranges in the hundreds of thousands – the rush would be euphoric!

To play the progressive bet in Caribbean stud, you will need to place your bet in the appropriate circle. As we previously covered, it typically costs $1. To win this bet, you need a flush or better. You may find that the payouts are different depending on the casino or table you play at, but typically, you can expect the entire jackpot for a royal flush and around 10% for a straight flush.


So, what if two players at the same table get a royal flush, you ask? Well, the odds of this happening would be staggering, granted, but casinos do have a rule. In most cases, the jackpot would be paid to the player closest to the dealer’s right. The next player would get the amount the jackpot is reset at, which is typically in the region of $10,000.

When it comes to the progressive bet, many betting experts discourage it. Given that the house edge on the jackpot can go up to about 80% in some cases. It averages out at just over 26% for the most part, with payouts very rare. The house usually takes around 70% of each dollar bet on the jackpot to allocate to the jackpot meter. The rest goes into the owners’ pockets.

Caribbean Stud Strategy

So now that you know the rules, how to play the game, you are probably still wondering if that progressive side bet is worth it, right? Hold that thought for now, as we are going to look at some basic strategies for playing the game. While these strategies do not guarantee success – and will not change the house edge – they will hopefully help you win.

The Basic Strategy

Ask any Caribbean stud enthusiast about the strategies they take to the table and they will more than likely have the same response. In simple terms, experienced players will generally:

  • Look to raise with one pair or better
  • Fold with cards worse than the dealer’s qualifying hand (ace/king or better)

In Caribbean stud, you can see one of the dealer’s cards. Aside from this, you will have no indication of the strength of their hand. Well, naturally. Otherwise, we would all be rich, right?

Please Note:

You should only bet on a strong hand. While it may be tempting to bet on every hand, remember that there is a reason why the dealer doesn’t play without an ace/king or better. Without these cards in the dealer’s hand, there is a better chance of you, the player, winning.

In this case, it can often help you to be smart with how you bet. If you don’t have a pair or better in your hand, you are taking a huge risk against the dealer. In other poker games – or those which you play against other players – there is always a chance that you can bluff your way to victory.

In Caribbean stud, there is no bluffing, so you must rely on the strength of your hand. The dealer is not going to get psyched out and fold, as they are required to follow basic rules: play with an ace/king, or fold with anything less than this. That’s why it is important to play conservatively yourself. Statistically, you will have a good chance of beating the dealer’s hand with a pair. If you don’t have a pair, you should fold immediately, unless your cards are at least an ace/king or better.

Alternative Strategies

You can also choose to opt for other ways to play when you have no pairs in your hand. If you hold an ace/king and the dealer’s first card is anything from a 2 up to queen (and matches any of your other cards) you can raise. This is a popular way of playing for players who have first checked that they hold no pairs.  Alternatively, you can opt to bet with a queen or jack in your hand if their first card is either an ace or king. Always ensure that you have thoroughly checked your cards before you bet.

It can also be a good idea to bet when you have an ace/king when:

  • The dealer’s first card is not a match for any of your other cards
  • The dealer’s first card is lower than your fourth strongest and you hold a queen

It is always important to remember that any strategy you come across is not a surefire way to win. However, using strategies can help you maintain discipline at the tables and prevent you from playing into the house’s hands.


Caribbean stud is quite a unique game to play, wouldn’t you agree? Now that you have read through this guide, you will certainly be equipped with the knowledge required to give your opinion on the game. Despite having a tropical-sounding name, you can find a table to play at in even the wettest and windiest cities in the world. Now, you would probably prefer to play the game somewhere else like Aruba or Barbados (with a Pina Colada in your hand), but at least you have the choice! If you are drawn to the game by the often-gigantic progressive jackpots on offer, maybe a vacation to the Caribbean would be the goal.

The game is more than just a $1 punt on a progressive jackpot. It is a form of stud poker where you play against the dealer, rather than other players. A popular game in many casinos across the globe, you should find the game easy to find in many casinos You may be surprised at just how similar the Caribbean stud table is to a blackjack table, but the similarities pretty much end there. This is a game where you will be looking to put together the best five-card poker hand you can, with some tasty odds on offer for anything from three of a kind up to a royal flush. Of course, to win these odds, you will need to know just how strong your card truly is.

When playing any new game for the first time, it is important to know how the game works. Once you have mastered the basics, playing practice games (there are many free versions online) can be fun way to get a hang of the game. For players who like to strategize, there are certainly ways to adopt smarter ways to play. They won’t change the house edge, but they may help you find a little more success.

Now you know the rules, its time to try Caribbean stud for yourself! When it comes to that progressive jackpot bet, are you going to give it a shot?

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