A Crash Course in Stud Poker

Poker Table With Cards and Dealer

Newcomers to the casino are often intimidated by the variety of games available. Each game has slightly different rules. Some games are played with cards, others with dice, still others on machines. It's a little dark, a little bit smoky, the booze is flowing, and the crowd is starting to grow. And in the middle of all of that, you"re meant to sit down at a table and put $10 bills into a hole for a few hours, and keep your wits about you. It's a lot to ask of a person.

Maybe you"re planning a trip to a casino soon and you"ve heard about Caribbean Stud Poker. Maybe you want to join an online casino and give Caribbean Stud Poker a try. Whatever the reason, you"ve found yourself in the right place: a crash course on one of the most popular casino table games. Our goal here is to bring you up to speed on the game, preparing you to walk up to a table and play after just a couple thousand words of background and advice. If you want to learn to play Caribbean Stud Poker today - as in right now - this page was created with you in mind.

This page includes information on game strategy, a breakdown of the game's odds, and a step-by-step guide to actually playing Caribbean Stud. Let's start with an FAQ:

An FAQ for Caribbean Stud Beginners

What is Caribbean Stud Poker?

Caribbean Stud Poker is a table-based version of the classic poker variant called five-card stud. Five-card stud is the earliest version of all stud poker games, which means any game in which players are dealt a mix of face-up and face-down cards. Five-card stud sprang up sui generis among American soldiers during the US Civil War. Though five-card stud has remained popular only regionally (and in a wildly-popular Finnish card game called Soko), Caribbean Stud Poker is something of a standard in American casinos and on American-facing gaming websites.

Where does the name come from?

Poker games are often named after locations - Texas hold"em, Omaha, etc. Caribbean Stud got its name because it is a stud poker game that was invented in Aruba. In fact, Caribbean Stud premiered (with the name intact) at a pop-up casino catering to groups of Americans visiting on cruise ships. The inventors of the game didn"t plan on it catching on once the tourists got back home, but that's exactly what happened. Back at home, these wealthy tourists spread the game by word of mouth, and eventually began demanding that it make an appearance at their favorite casinos and card rooms.

Why is Caribbean Stud Poker so popular in American casinos?

Caribbean Stud Poker is popular for a few reasons. For starters, it's played against the dealer rather than against other players. Taking the head-to-head competition out of poker made it more attractive to a wide player base. Caribbean Stud Poker is also a popular choice for newcomers and older gamblers since it moves at a snail's pace and has rules that are simple to learn and apply. Most Caribbean Stud dealers say they can teach you how to play in a single example round, and at many tables, they"re happy to do just that.

A Crash Course in How to Play Caribbean Stud Poker

Caribbean Stud is played with a single standard deck of 52 playing cards. The goal of the game is to form a hand that's worth more than the dealer's hand after both of the game's betting rounds.

Each round begins with an ante wager. The ante is what triggers the start of the game and buys your way in. At the time of your ante wager, you can choose to place a side bet for an additional wager of $1. This side wager makes you eligible for a payout from the game's progressive top prize. More on this side bet below.

Once you"ve made your ante wager and decided whether or not to place the side bet, you and the dealer and every other player is dealt five cards apiece. Don"t worry about any other player's hands - you don"t compete against them, and you don"t need to be distracted by them. In Caribbean Stud Poker, your cards are all dealt face-down. The dealer's hand is a bit different - one of his cards is dealt face-up.

At this point in the game, you have the option of folding, losing your ante wager but avoiding future losses, or choose to place an additional bet. You only have two pieces of information to inform this decision - your cards and the dealer's one card that's face-up. Why would you bet again and keep playing? If you think your hand is stronger than whatever the dealer might be holding. By the way - you don"t have to decide on an additional wager. The second bet is always equal to twice the size of your ante bet.

If you"ve decided to wager again and try your luck, the dealer reveals his entire hand. If you could compare your hand to the dealer's at this point, Caribbean Stud would be a pretty straightforward game. But that's not how it works. The dealer's hand must "qualify" in order for you to win a payout. What does "qualify" mean? The dealer's hand must contain at least one Ace and one King. If the dealer's hand doesn"t include those cards, he"ll fold, and your ante wager earns you a 1:1 payout. Unfortunately, when the dealer folds, your additional bet (the larger of the two) is returned to your hand with no additional winnings. It's push.

Should the dealer's hand qualify, he has to then compare his hand to each players" hand. The two hands are compared based on standard poker hand hierarchy. If you have a better hand than the dealer, you win a 1:1 payout for your ante, and a different payout depending on the quality of your hand at the end of the round. Though every table is liable to be a bit different, the following shows a standard pay table for the second bet on a game of Caribbean Stud Poker:



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
Pair 1:1

Let's work out an example win, in case that was a bit confusing. Imagine you placed a $10 ante bet, drew three kings right off the bat, placed your additional $20 wager, and then beat a (thankfully) qualified dealer hand of two pair. In total, you bet $30, winning an additional $10 on the ante and $60 for the three-of-a-kind.

Remember when we promised you more about the game's progressive side bet? If you place the $1 side bet at the outset of the game, and you"re dealt a flush, full house, four-of-a-kind, straight flush, or royal flush, you"ll win a portion of the game's progressive prize marker, as spelled out in the rules of the game you"re playing.

A Crash Course in Caribbean Stud Poker Odds

If you consider all the wagers available in the game at once, Caribbean Stud Poker gives the house an edge of 5.22%. Thanks to the fact that every Caribbean Stud Poker game is a bit different, with varying pay tables and some house rule sin place, the average edge of real-world games we"ve seen in Las Vegas and Atlantic City is around 5.75%.

With a house edge ranging from 5.22% to 5.75% and up, Caribbean Stud isn"t exactly the kind of game you"ll find advantage gamblers working for long-term wins. At the same time, it's not one of the worst games in the casino, offering odds many times shorter than available wagers on a roulette or craps layout. Speaking of roulette, you could favorably compare Caribbean Stud's odds to even-money roulette wagers. If you"re giving up about 5.75% of your bankroll over the course of an hour, at $1 a hand you"re expecting losses of around $10 per hour. That's cheap entertainment in anybody's book.

A Crash Course in Caribbean Stud Strategy

The rules of Caribbean Stud are so simple, it's hard to write about strategizing for the game without a smile on my face. At the same time, we"ve written in detail about bingo strategy and slot strategy. Why shouldn"t Caribbean Stud get the same treatment?

Here's our four best tips for the newcomer to Caribbean Stud:

1. Avoid the Progressive Side Bet

If you"re looking to minimize your losses, skip the progressive bet altogether. The average house edge on this bet is 26%. That makes it one of the worst wagers in any casino game. If you consistently feed the casino $1, at 50 hands per hour, you"re basically burning that $50. If you never place the progressive wager, you reduce the game's overall house edge to just below 2%, placing it in line with the best-odds games in the house.

2. Join the Casino's Loyalty Club

The casino issues little plastic cards which you swipe before you start playing any game on the floor. If you swipe this card while you play Caribbean Stud, the casino will track your spending and you"ll be eligible for freebies. Most of the time, all you"ll get is a free watered-down cocktail, but if you play enough, or if the casino just decides it likes you, you might be offered a discounted or free meal, a ticket to a show, a free stay, and any number of other perks.

3. Be Good to Your Dealer

Caribbean Stud Poker is the domain of older gamblers, newcomers to gambling, and people who are fond of low-intensity gambling games. The dealers at these tables are used to nice people who tip relatively well and offer plenty of stimulating conversation. You should tip equal to one of your wagers every now and then, or offer to play a hand for the dealer. Smile, ask them questions about their life (conversational dealers at Caribbean Stud tables love that for some reason), and enjoy your time at the casino. Remember - if you"re having a good time, the house is losing.

4. Manage Your Bankroll

Managing your bankroll is as simple as setting a win limit, a loss limit, and a unit bet size. Let's say you have $500 to gamble with and you want to play for two four-hour sessions. You can afford to lose $62.50 an hour. Set that as your hourly loss limit. If you lose a cent more, step away and come back later. Your win limit could be equal to your bankroll - if you hit a lucky streak or win a big 100:1 payout on your second wager, go ahead and call it a day. It's designed to prevent you from gambling away the mortgage or the kids" college funds. It's also a piece of solid gambling strategy.


Caribbean Stud Poker is a truly American game. It was invented for American tourists. It's been popularized mainly by Americans. The only online casinos that pay it any attention are those with a US or Canadian audience. We love it, not because it's a complex game offering strategic richness and texture, but because it's the gambling equivalent of a bacon double cheeseburger. Healthy? No. Structurally robust? No way. Delicious and easy to digest? Absolutely.

For whatever reason, American gamblers love table-style poker games like this, Three Card Poker, Let Em Ride, and others. It's no mistake that all those games, including Caribbean Stud, exist in a trademarked version produced by Shufflemaster. That company knows the tastes of American gamblers, and it's released hit after hit. Caribbean Stud offers decent odds, so long as you stay away from some of the more exotic bets. It's slow-paced, making it a grand game for newcomers. Besides being the classic American table-style poker game, it teaches some decent card-playing skills, and is a great way to dip your toes into the casino before jumping in with both feet.