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Payouts and Strategy in Caribbean Stud Poker

By: Mario Candolini, Friday October 3rd 2008
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In Caribbean Stud Poker the player places a wager known as "ante" before the cards are dealt. He is then dealt his complete hand of five cards and the dealer is dealt one card. If at that time the player decides to fold then he loses his ante and the side bet. If the player decides to raise then he has to place the second wager known as "bet". The remaining cards are dealt to the dealer. The process of comparing hands and making the payouts is then done. In online casinos this entire process takes less than a second and it does not reflect the steps involved. Often new players are left wondering how their payouts have been calculated. Therefore it is essential for players to understand this process.

In poker terminology the dealer must have a king or better hand to qualify. Simply stated the dealer must have at least one king or one ace in his cards. In the event the dealer does not qualify the player gets a payout of 1:1 the "ante" and his "bet" pushes (which means that the wager is returned to him). If the dealer's hand qualifies then it is compared with the player's hand on the basis of the standard poker hand rankings. If the dealer's hand is better the player loses the "ante" and the "bet". If both hands are tied then both the "ante" and the "bet" push. If the player's hand is better then he gets a payout of 1:1 on the "ante". A payout table governs the payout on the "bet". The payout for a royal flush is 100:1, for a straight flush 50:1, for four of a kind 20:1, for a full house 7:1, for a flush 5:1, for a straight 4:1, for three of a kind 3:1, for two pairs 2:1 and for one pair or less 1:1.

The only decision that the player has to take in Caribbean Stud Poker is whether to fold or raise. Though the decision appears to be simple it is not so. Mathematically there are so many possibilities that the issue gets complicated. Hence most online casino players follow a simple strategy that is near optimal. Two situations are clear. If the player's hand is worse than the dealer's qualifying hand, described earlier, then the player should fold. If the player has a hand that is a pair or better then he should raise. This leaves the hands in which the player has a king or ace top. In this case the strategy depends on the dealer's card. If it is an ace or king then the player should hold a queen or jack (in addition to his ace or king) to raise. If the dealer does not have an ace or king then the player should raise if any of his cards have the same rank as the dealer's. Once players get proficient with this they can look at the more complicated optimal strategy.

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