Advanced Caribbean Stud Strategy With Examples

Strategy for Caribbean Stud Poker is notorious for being presented in a way that’s over-simplified to a degree that is not very useful for serious players. To remedy that, we are going to break down how the key strategies actually work and what you can do to play perfectly almost 100 percent of the time without hours of study and practice.

Learning to Dominate Caribbean Stud Poker

There are certain types of players who get into casino poker-style games because they enjoy the strategy and the simple fact that they can improve their payout rates depending on how skillful they are at the game in question. Even players who aren’t quite as serious along these lines still want to maximize their chances of winning, and learning strategy for the game in question is the best way to go about that.

Caribbean Stud Poker is a game that’s deceptively simple because a majority of the hands you play are really straightforward in terms of how to play them.

However, there’s still the small minority of hands that aren’t so easy to play. In fact, they can be downright complicated and tricky to the point that there’s probably no one alive who can consistently play 100 percent of hands perfectly 100 percent of the time.

That may sound daunting, but you can still learn to dominate the strategic side of the game by learning some advanced strategies and having an understanding of the thought process required to consistently put those strategies into practice.

A Quick Recap of How Caribbean Stud Works

Without getting into an unnecessary amount of detail, let’s prepare for looking at some advanced strategies by recapping how this game actually works.

  • This game uses standard five-card poker hand rankings with the typical 52-card French deck with no jokers or wild cards.
  • Players wager an ante bet.
  • The player receives five cards face up, and the dealer receives five cards with only one of them face up.
  • You have the option to fold and give up your cards and any chances of winning the hand. You also have the option to raise, which requires an additional bet (called the raise) worth twice the size of the ante.
  • If the player raises, the dealer turns over his cards to see if he qualifies; qualifying requires at least AK-high.
  • If the dealer does not qualify, the raise is returned as a push, and the ante wins at 1:1.
  • If the dealer qualifies and wins, then the player loses the raise and ante.
  • If the dealer qualifies, but the player wins, then the ante pays 1:1, and the raise pays according to a given pay table.
  • If the dealer qualifies, but the player and dealer tie, then both the ante and raise are a push.

From a procedural standpoint, this game isn’t that complicated and is certainly no more complicated than the majority of other titles in the genre.

However, the strategy aspect of Caribbean Stud Poker is more interesting than most because you get to see a part of the dealer’s hand as an additional piece of information. Leveraging this extra piece of information is the key to advanced Caribbean Stud strategy.

The Problem With How Caribbean Stud Strategy is Commonly Taught

One of the problems with advanced strategy in Caribbean Stud Poker online is that most hands are actually really easy to play. This is because of how there are a small number of hands, relatively speaking, that have a tremendous degree of strategic depth while the rest generally do not as long as you really understand how five-card poker rankings work with respect to high cards.

With that said, here are the two fundamental rules of basic strategy in this game:

  1. Raising – You will always raise if you have a made hand of any kind that’s a pair or above.
  2. Folding – You will always fold if you have ace-queen high or lower.

The problem is that this leaves out all of the ace-king high hands. This is such an issue for players who really want to learn advanced strategy in this game because it leaves out the hands that you actually need better strategies for and an understanding of how and why the game works the way it does to know how to play.

Those are exactly the things that we’re going to give you here by looking at three instructive hand examples and giving you an understanding of why these hands need to be played in a certain way with specific principles being highlighted.

In the following hands, assume that the player never has a flush for the sake of simplicity. It’s the ranks of the cards that matter for these examples and not the suits.

Hand 1: Player has AKJ82, Dealer shows 8

As you can see from the above two guidelines, all hands that are not AK-high for the player are straightforward for the most part, at least in terms of general guidelines. However, for the smaller percentage of hands that do involve ace-king high, which isn’t a trivially small number, the strategic depth is very serious.

To put it as straightforward as we can: You will increase or decrease your house advantage in this game based purely on how you play these specific hands.

What makes these types of hands so difficult is that you have little information to go on to make your decision, and that makes them marginal from an information standpoint. However, the real tricky part is that they aren’t marginal in terms of how much value you lose if you make a mistake. That’s why they’re so important to learn to play well.

In this first instructive example, we learn about a critical concept called blockers. In poker and poker-style games, a blocker is when a card is held that another player would have liked to have available to use to make a hand.

If we look at the dealer’s up card, we see that it’s an 8. We also hold an 8 in our hand. That means that we have a blocker to the dealer being able to make a pair with that one card. This leads us to our first rule of advanced strategy when playing AK-high hands in Caribbean Stud:

Rule 1: If the dealer is showing a card that’s a queen or lower, and we hold a blocker to that card for the dealer to be able to make a pair, then we raise.

Holding blockers in this way is the very first thing we will look for when we find ourselves in this type of situation, but we’re going to repeat something to make it clear: This is only for when the dealer is showing a queen or lower. If the dealer is showing an ace or a king, then we will decide how to play based on the next rule.

Hand 2: Player has AKJ74, Dealer shows K

Blockers apply differently when it’s an ace or a king that the dealer is showing. While we do have the advantage of making it harder for the dealer to make a pair, we also run the disadvantage of the dealer having the opportunity to have a better AK-high hand than us.

Along these lines, playing hands where we have a blocker to a dealer’s ace or king comes down to the high card value of the rest of our hand. If we have better chances of beating the dealer the few times he also has AK-high, which is done by having higher kickers in the remaining three cards of our respective hands, then we maintain our advantage and can raise accordingly.

That leads us to our next rule of advanced Caribbean Stud strategy:

Rule 2: If the dealer shows an ace or king, then we raise if we also have a queen or a jack.

The idea is that our blocker to the dealer having a pair is tempered by the ability for the dealer to have AK-high. We need to make sure we have the edge in those scenarios before we raise, and we do so by having a high kicker with a queen or jack.

Hand 3: Player has AKQ94, Dealer shows 8

In the first two examples, and the resulting first two rules about playing AK-high hands, we looked at what to do in the two cases where where have a blocker to one of the dealer’s cards. In this last example, we’re going to look at how to play scenarios where the dealer’s card does not match any of our own.

There are two ways that the dealer can beat us in general other than making a big made hand that we cannot yet see because we can only see one of his cards:

  1. Making a pair
  2. Having a better AK-high

Since we do not have a blocker, we cannot inhibit his ability to make pairs. That means we’ll need to rely completely on chances of making a better AK-high hand. That leads us to the following third and final rule:

Rule 3: If the dealer’s card matches none of our own, then we only raise if we have at least four cards of higher rank than the dealer’s card.

The idea here is that if we have four cards higher than the dealer’s up card, then we are in a good position to have strong chances of having a better AK-high the times that it becomes relevant. That’s actually the deciding factor here since we can’t block pairs, so it’s easy to see how this rule works.

Putting It All Together

If you follow all three rules of the advanced strategy for Caribbean Stud that we have broken down in the above sections, then you’ll play in a way that’s only giving up a 0.001 percent edge to the casino compared to if you were playing absolutely mathematically perfect.

That’s basically a rounding error in the grand scheme of things, so it’s hard to imagine doing much better than what we have laid out for you here. We’ve went into an appropriate amount of depth here to get you super close to playing perfectly, and that’s really the best that you can ask for.