How to Play Caribbean Stud Poker

Caribbean Stud Poker Logo

One of three Caribbean table games taking the casino industry by storm, Caribbean Stud Poker is a close cousin to Caribbean Draw Poker. Both games involve the same mechanics, including the ante / raise / fold betting structure, five card hands dealt to both the player and the dealer, and the option to place an additional jackpot bet in hopes of making a huge hand and getting paid out handsomely for your trouble.

You’ll only find one difference between Caribbean Draw Poker and Caribbean Stud Poker, but it’s a crucial variation. The Stud variety of the game does not allow you to discard and draw up to two additional cards while trying to improve your hand. This means that when you choose to raise and play, the five card hand you’re dealt is always the five card hand you must bring to battle against the dealer.

As one of the immensely popular hybrid table games currently revolutionizing the way casino games are played, Caribbean Stud Poker incorporates aspects of both five card stud, draw poker, and even blackjack to create an exciting, fast paced game that also provides the potential for huge bonus and jackpot payouts.

Players love games like Caribbean Stud Poker because the house edge is quite low, on par with savvy player favorites like blackjack and baccarat, so you can enjoy an extended session of play without breaking the bank. You can get a better idea about the look and feel of a Caribbean Stud Poker by visiting the Bovada Casino’s game page.

Even better, the game only takes a few minutes to learn, but due to the decision making processes that occur during the bet or raise phase of each hand, you’ll always be faced with an invigorating mental challenge. As mentioned, the rules and game play of Caribbean Stud Poker are nearly identical to the Caribbean Draw Poker format, so fans of the latter game will instantly feel at home while playing the former.

If you’re a new player to Caribbean Stud Poker and would like to learn more or if you’ve played before and want to improve, the following guide to the game is the perfect resource. The first section covers every step of the game’s rules and mechanics, from wagering to evaluating the dealer’s hand relative to yours, before the second section walks you through optimal strategy and ways to improve your odds.

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How to Play


A hand of Caribbean Stud Poker begins when you place a mandatory ante bet of your choosing. After you ante up with a bet amount of your choosing, usually ranging from $5 up to $100 or more, the dealer will pass out five cards to you and five to themselves, with the deal alternating one card at a time.

Once you have your five cards laid out on the screen, you’ll notice that only one of the dealer’s cards is face up and exposed. This partial piece of information forms the strategic foundation of Caribbean Stud Poker, as your only decision is whether to raise and play, or fold and surrender the ante bet. By comparing your five card hand to the dealer’s one up card, you should have a general idea about whether your hand can defeat the dealer’s hand upon showdown.

For example, should you look down to find a pair of aces among your five cards, while the dealer shows only a seven, it stands to reason that your hand will wind up as the best when the showdown occurs. Conversely, when you find nothing but a king high hand, and the dealer shows an ace as their up card, the choice to fold is no choice at all.

You’ll be playing more than folding for the most part, and when you decide to continue you must place an additional raise bet equal to exactly twice the amount of your ante. So, when you ante for $5 and like your hand, you’ll be placing a $10 raise bet for a total wager of $15 on the hand. Keep in mind though, you can always fold when the cards exposed suggest that you’re holding the second best hand, and this action simply means you surrender the ante and move on to the next deal.

After you’ve made the raise bet, the dealer will then expose their five card hand in full, and both hands are then compared. The highest poker hand wins the pot, but there’s one crucial provision that dictates the game play for Caribbean Stud Poker: the dealer must display a qualifying hand for the raise bet to be paid out. In this game, the dealer’s qualifying hand strength begins with any ace king high hand or better. So the lowest possible hand that does qualify would be A K 4 3 2, while the best hand that doesn’t qualify would be A Q J 10 9.

The key to keep in mind here is that your raise bet is only paid out when the dealer produces a qualifying hand. When the dealer fails to do so, your raise bet is simply returned as a push, while your ante bet is paid out at 1 to 1. So if you manage to make two pair, but the dealer turns up any non-qualifying hand, you’ll win double your ante and push on the raise.

The real fun of Caribbean Stud Poker comes from the bonus payouts awarded when you beat any qualifying dealer hand with a high ranking poker hand. The table below illustrates the payouts for high hands that vanquish a qualifying dealer hand, but as an example, suppose you make a straight flush after betting $10 on the ante and $20 on the raise. If the dealer’s hand ranks at ace king high or better to qualify, your straight flush is awarded an additional payout of 50 to 1, so you’d win $10 profit on the ante, but an astounding $1,000 on your raise bet.

Hand Rank Description Ante Raise Odds
Royal Flush A, K, Q, J, 10 of same suit 1 to 1 100 to 1
Straight Flush 5 cards of the same suit in sequence 1 to 1 50 to 1
4 of a Kind 4 cards of same rank 1 to 1 20 to 1
Full House 3 of a Kind, plus a pair 1 to 1 7 to 1
Flush 5 cards of same suit 1 to 1 5 to 1
Straight 5 cards in sequence, mixed suits 1 to 1 3 to 1
3 of a Kind 3 cards of same rank 1 to 1 2 to 1
Two pair 2 pairs of different rank 1 to 1 1 to 1
One pair 1 pair (2 cards) of same rank 1 to 1 1 to 1
High card 3 cards of same rank 1 to 1 1 to 1

Proper Strategy

One of the best strategies for playing Caribbean Stud Poker profitably concerns the progressive jackpot side bet. A staple of table games, these side bets entice players with truly massive payouts should they make the perfect hand (a Royal Flush pays 100% of the running jackpot amount, while a straight flush pays 10% of that sum).

Unfortunately, while the idea of winning one of these side bets is tempting, the mathematics of the game make the bet a loser overall. The house edge for Caribbean Stud Poker is quite low, right on par with sharp games like blackjack and baccarat, but that’s only when you make the standard ante and raise bets while playing close to optimal strategy. When you throw $1 per hand at the progressive jackpot bet the house edge increases significantly.

Other than that, optimal strategy in this game comes from making the right decision regarding folding or raising, based on the relative strength of your five card hand against the dealer’s up card. The following three part system is advisable to help keep you on the right path, as it boils the game down to a simple set of rules:

With a pair or higher, you should always raise.

With less than ace king – the player has an ace and a queen, plus three other random cards that don’t form a straight or flush or worse, you should always fold.

With ace king in your hand, consult this handy Caribbean Stud Poker A-K chart* to determine the correct action for each scenario.

*The three other cards in your hand are depicted along the left hand side of the chart, while the dealer’s up card is shown at the top.