Aces Guide to Gambling

Poker Strategy & Rules :

Caribbean Stud offers big payoffs

About The Author

John Grochowski is the author of four gaming books including The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Casino Answer Book.

Grochowski was recently named by Casino Player magazine as one of the 100 best gaming authors of the 20th century.

He also runs a gaming column in the Detroit News and the Chicago Sun-Times, which examines issues ranging from blackjack and video poker strategy to casino etiquette.

John Grochowski

Table games come and table games go, but the popularity pecking order has remained roughly the same for decades:
Blackjack has been No. 1 since the early 1960s, when the publication of Beat the Dealer gave players the idea the game could be beaten. Craps, which had been No. 1 until then, has been No. 2 ever since. Roulette has long been No. 3 in number of players and No. 4 in revenue produced, flip-flopping with baccarat, which attracts more big players.

Add Caribbean Stud to the hit parade. Since its introduction in the early 1990s, it has gone on to outstrip baccarat everywhere but the high-roller havens of Nevada and New Jersey, and outperforms roulette in many new gaming jurisdictions.

Caribbean Stud rode a couple of advantages to the point that in many markets it's the No. 3 game, more popular than either roulette or baccarat. First, it's derived from five-card stud poker and is an easy game to play. Second, it was the first game to bring slot machine-size jackpots to table games. A side bet on a progressive jackpot brings big rewards for a royal flush. The record Caribbean Stud jackpot of $712,070 was hit earlier this year when Al-Hakam Habbasi of Chicago was dealt a royal flush at Harrah's Joliet.

Betting is in two parts--an "ante" and a "bet"--in addition to the optional bet on the progressive jackpot. Players start by placing a chip or chips equal to or greater than the table minimum bet in an area marked "ante." At this time, they also may place a $1 chip in a slot to bet on the progressive jackpot.

Players and dealer then each receive five cards. All players' cards are dealt face down, while one of the dealer's cards is turned face up. When all cards are dealt, players pick up their cards.

If a player doesn't like his cards, he may fold and forfeit his ante (and progressive bet, if he has made one). If the player has a hand that he thinks can win, he places a bet of double his ante in a box marked "bet."

After all players have either bet or folded, and the dealer has cleared away the cards and antes of all the folds, the dealer's hand then is turned face up. If the dealer does not have Ace-King or better, it's not a qualifying hand. Antes are paid off at even money, and bets are returned to players.

Let's say you place a $5 chip in the ante box, then back it up with a $10 bet. The dealer turns up Ace-Queen-9-6-4 of mixed suits. He doesn't qualify, and so he doesn't need to see your cards. He gives you another $5 to pay your ante at even money. You just keep your bet, and wind up with a $5 profit on the hand.

If the dealer has Ace-King or better, then his hand qualifies. That's when the players' bets come into play. If the dealer's hand outranks a player's hand, the player loses both ante and bet. If the player's hand outranks the dealer's, the player wins on both ante and bet. The ante is paid at even money, but the bet is paid according to a pay table. With a pair or less, the player is paid even money. With two pair, the payoff is 2-1, and moves to 3-1 on three of a kind, 4-1 on a straight, 5-1 on a flush, 7-1 on a full house, 20-1 on four of a kind, 50-1 on a straight flush or 100-1 on a royal flush.

Let's go back to placing a $5 chip in the ante box and backing it up with a $10 bet. The dealer qualifies by turning up Ace-King-9-6-4 of mixed suits. You beat it with a pair of 9s, a pair of 5s and a Jack. Two pair is good for a 2-1 payoff, so you win $20 on the $10 bet as well as a $5 win on the ante, which still is paid at even money.

The house edge on the game is 5.22 percent if you know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em. Strategy is nowhere near as complicated as basic strategy in blackjack. Make the bet of twice your ante with any of the following hands:

* Any pair or higher-ranking poker hand.

* Non-pair hands with an Ace and King as the two highest-ranking cards, provided one of the other three cards in the hand matches the dealer's face-up card.

* Ace-King-Queen or Ace-King-Jack if any card in your hand matches the dealer's up card.

* Ace-King-Queen if your fourth highest card outranks the dealer's up card.

Should you make the progressive side bet?

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