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Caribbean Stud Poker Strategy

The player should raise on any pair or better, fold on anything less than ace/king, and should sometimes raise and sometimes fold on ace/king. To play Caribbean stud perfectly would involve memorizing the charts on when exactly to raise on ace/king. Of course nobody is going to do that so a more simplified strategy is clearly called for. By studying the appendix you will notice certain paterns of when the odds favor raising and when they don't. I have summarized these patterns in the following suggested rules of thumb on when to raise on ace/king:

  • Raise if the dealer's card is a 2 through queen and matches one of yours.
  • Raise if the dealer's card is an ace or king and you have a queen or jack in your hand.
  • Raise if the dealer's rank does not match any of yours and you have a queen in your hand and the dealer's card is less than your fourth highest card.

This strategy is unique to this page but is not the only strategy I have heard of. Following are various other strategies, their total loss based on all possible 19,933,230,517,200 combinations of hands, the house edge, and the "element of risk" (defined below). The "matching rank" strategy calls for raising on any pair or better and on ace/king when one of the player's cards matches the rank of the dealer's up card (which lowers the odds of the dealer forming a pair).

Strategy Statistics in Caribbean Stud Poker

Strategy Total loss House edge Element of risk
Perfect strategy 1,041,372,912,372 5.224% 2.555%
Three rules of thumb (above) 1,041,417,758,724 5.225% 2.554%
Raise on ace/king/jack/8/3 or better 1,059,715,400,580 5.316% 2.596%
Matching rank 1,063,176,931,284 5.334% 2.616%
Raise on any pair or better 1,090,272,101,460 5.470% 2.738%
Raise on any ace/king or better 1,132,600,203,540 5.682% 2.672%
Playing blind (raise on everything) 3,310,360,338,060 16.607% 5.536%

House Edge, Element of Risk

Any respectable book will tell you that the house edge in Caribbean stud poker is about 5.2%. This is true but I have always felt it unfairly makes the game look like a bad bet. The reason is in how the house edge is defined, the ratio of average money lost to the original bet. In Caribbean stud the player will roughly wager just as much in raises as in antes, and this additional money bet is not considered in the house edge statistic.

For purposes of comparison to other games I think it is better to consider the ratio of money lost to total money wagered, which I refer to as the "element of risk." The element of risk using perfect strategy is 2.555%, which makes is look more competitive compared to other games, although still not one of the best. It is interesting to note that the element of risk for my three rules of thumb is better than for perfect strategy! That is because raising on slightly suboptimal plays is actually a better bet than the game as a whole and brings down the average expected loss.

Credit should be given to Stanley Ko, Professor John M. Gwynn Jr, and the late Peter Griffin for being the first to do a thorough study of Caribbean stud poker. Due largely on the complexities of when to raise on ace/king this is one of the most complicated casino games to analyze. Thanks to their analysis, which they kindly shared with me, I had something to check my work against.

Statistics

The following tables shows the various possible outcomes in caribbean stud poker, their net return per initial bet, their probability, and their total return (product of probability and net return).

Statistics for Caribbean Stud Poker
Event/winning hand Pays Number Total return Probability Average return
Ace/king 3 18,505,682,208 55,517,046,624 0.00092838 0.00278515
Pair 3 2,324,742,321,600 6,974,226,964,800 0.11662647 0.34987941
Two pair 5 488,012,139,360 2,440,060,696,800 0.02448234 0.12241170
Three of a kind 7 234,242,908,320 1,639,700,358,240 0.01175138 0.08225964
Straight 9 43,805,516,100 394,249,644,900 0.00219761 0.01977851
Flush 11 21,856,990,280 240,426,893,080 0.00109651 0.01206161
Full house 15 16,624,475,280 249,367,129,200 0.00083401 0.01251012
Four of a kind 41 2,832,435,800 116,129,867,800 0.0001421 0.00582594
Straight flush 101 156,929,720 15,849,901,720 0.00000787 0.00079515
Royal flush 201 16,759,740 3,368,707,740 0.00000084 0.00016900
Ante only 1 4,532,514,033,720 4,532,514,033,720 0.22738482 0.22738482
Push 0 321,623,100 0 0.00001614 0
Fold -1 9,523,005,974,460 -9,523,005,974,460 0.47774524 -0.47774524
Dealer wins -3 2,726,592,727,512 -8,179,778,182,536 0.13678629 -0.41035888
Total   19,933,230,517,200 -1,041,372,912,372 1 -0.05224306
 
 
 
 
 
 
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