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Caribbean Poker 101 - A Complete Guide To How To Play Caribbean Stud Poker

Caribbean poker is simple to learn and easy to play

Caribbean poker is a great version of poker, one that gamblers have been playing since the 1980s. 

You can learn how to play Caribbean poker by playing it free online, then for money at one of the best online casinos. Once you’re sure of how to play it, you can then take your skills to a land casino and gamble next to real players.

The first steps in learning how to play Caribbean poker is to understand what it is, what the rules are, and what you can expect when you sit down at the table to bet. 

Our guide explains what you need to know to go from a novice player to a gambler who knows all the important details of Caribbean poker. 

What is Caribean poker? 

Caribbean poker is the short term for Caribbean stud poker, a popular casino table card game inspired by five-card stud poker – one of the oldest types of stud poker and a game that traces its origins back to the American Civil War (1861-65). 

While the Caribbean poker rules and gameplay are very similar to those in five-card stud poker, where it differs from its predecessor is who you play against. In Caribbean poker, you play against the dealer, whereas in five-card stud you compete against your fellow players. This means that you make no bluffs in Caribbean poker.

Caribbean poker was invented by casinos to take advantage of the popularity of poker by convincing gamblers to play a table version of stud poker. Other poker variants are played between players, meaning that there’s no option for the house to win the game. 

What are the key Caribbean stud poker rules?

One of the reasons that this type of poker has become one of the most popular variants of the game is that it’s very easy to learn the rules of Caribbean poker – particularly if you’re a fan of five-card stud.  

The key Caribbean poker rules are as follows: 

  • You must pay an ante to play a game of Caribbean poker 

  • You play against the dealer, rather than your fellow players

  • You are dealt five cards to play Caribbean stud poker

  • The dealer deals out five cards to themselves 

  • You compete against the dealer to make the best five-card hand 

  • You pay an extra bet (often 2x that of the ante) to play a hand

  • If you don’t want to pay an extra bet then you fold your hand and lose your ante

  • For the dealer to play (open) their hand they must have at least ace-king

  • If the dealer is unable to play their hand then every player gets the following: 

    • Their ante back 

    • Any extra bet they have made

Once you’ve got the key rules of Caribbean poker sussed, you can then test your skills by playing it at one of the many top-rated online casinos or highly-regarded land casinos

An overview of how to play Caribbean stud poker 

We discussed the rules of Caribbean stud poker earlier in this guide and they’re pretty simple – you play against the dealer and try to beat the house by making the best five-card hand. Below, we give you an overview of how that plays out in a standard game. 

Caribbean poker begins with each player paying an ante 

The first thing to know when learning how to play Caribbean poker is that you need to pay an ante just to sit at the table. An ante is a forced bet that all players have to pay, it is used to make sure there is money in the pot. 

Everyone playing Caribbean poker is dealt with five cards

Caribbean poker is a game played between the player(s) and the dealer. All the players sat at the table are first dealt with five face-down cards, before the dealer deals five cards to themselves – four face-down and one face-up. 

Once the dealer has exposed their face-up cards, the players can then decide if they want to play their hand. 

You pay an extra bet to play your hand in Caribbean poker

When you’ve looked at your cards in Caribbean poker, you have the option to pay an additional bet and play your hand. 

The extra bet required to play your hand in Caribbean poker is often 2x the size of the ante.  For example, if the ante was £5 then you must make an additional bet of £10. You also have the option to raise if you are not the first player to make an extra bet. 

If you don’t make a bet then you fold your hand and lose.  

Dealer must have at least ace-king to open in Caribbean poker

After all the players at the table have decided whether to play or fold their hand, the dealer then checks their hand to see if it’s good enough to play – the dealer needs to have at least ace-king to be able to open (play) their hand. 

If the dealer’s hand isn’t good enough to play then all players are returned their two bets – both their ante and the second bet that they made. 

If the dealer opens then you must beat their hand to win the game

In Caribbean poker, you compete against the dealer. If the dealer is able to open their hand then you need to make a better five-card hand than them to win. 

If you don’t make a better hand than the dealer, then you lose both your ante and your additional bet. But if you do have a better hand than the dealer, you get a return on both your ante and your extra bet. The ante is paid back at a return of 1-1, while your second bet gets a return based on how strong it is (royal flush is the best hand, with high card being the worst). 

You may wonder what happens if you and the dealer have the exact same hand. If this happens then all your bets are returned to you. 

What is the best hand in to play in Caribbean poker?

The object of Caribbean poker is to make the best five-card hand – just like in Texas hold’em. Caribbean poker also follows the same poker hand rankings as Texas Hold’ em, meaning that the best hand you can get is a royal flush and the worst hand you can get is a high card.  

You can see the full list of the Caribbean poker hand rankings below: 

  • Royal Flush

  • Straight Flush

  • Four-of-a-Kind

  • Full House

  • Flush

  • Straight

  • Three-of-a-Kind

  • Two Pair

  • Pair

  • High Card

What are the payouts you get when playing Caribbean poker?

To get a return on your bet in Caribbean poker you need to beat the dealer, and to do that you need to have a better hand than them. The payouts in Caribbean poker are based on the strength of your hand – you can see returns for each in the table below: 


Pay Out

How Much A £100 Bet Would Win

Royal Flush

100 to 1


Straight Flush

50 to 1


Four of a Kind

20 to 1


Full House

7 to 1



5 to 1



4 to 1


Three of a Kind

3 to 1


2 Pair

2 to 1


1 Pair

1 to 1

£100 (you get your bet back)

High Card

1 to 1

£100 (you get your bet back)

How to play progressive jackpot bets in Caribbean poker 

One of the most interesting features of Caribbean poker is the progressive jackpot bets. These are side bets that are made in addition to those you have in play – as defined by, a side bet is “a bet over and above a main bet, especially on a subsidiary issue”.

Progressive jackpot bets in Caribbean poker are paid out on a scale based on the strength of your hand – if you get a royal flush then you are paid 100% of the pot, while a flush pays you 10%. 

There are five different hands that payout in a progressive jackpot game. While the actual amount you get depends on the online casino you play at, the figures below from Virgin Games are a good indication of what you can expect: 


Credit: Virgin Games

Alt-text: Royal flush in Caribbean poker wins a 100% progressive jackpot

Wizard Of Odds features a superb explanation of the Caribbean poker rules for progressive jackpots (the example uses dollars, but the description is relevant). You can see how Wizard Of Odds describes progressive jackpot bets in the screenshot below: 

Credit: Wizard Of Odds

Alt-text: How do progressive jackpots work in Caribbean poker

The benefits of making a progressive jackpot bet are twofold: 

  • If you have one of those five hands you win – regardless of what the dealer has 

  • You can win an enormous amount of money – some casinos payout £10,000+

However, there is a drawback to playing a progressive jackpot – the odds of you hitting one of the five hands needed to win are extremely low. This means that you could just be throwing money away by making a progressive jackpot bet. 

How to play Caribbean stud poker online if you’re a beginner

Playing Caribbean stud poker online is one of the best ways for beginners to get to grips with this game – it allows you to learn to ease your way into it without being surrounded by other players, making it a potentially less stressful gambling environment. 

There are two types of Caribbean stud poker that you can play online – automated and live. Each has its benefits and we look at them below. 

Benefits of automated Caribbean poker online 

Automated Caribbean poker is you against the machine – much like in video poker. The benefits that beginners get from this type of Caribbean poker are: 

  • No human interaction 

  • Very slick gameplay 

We recommend that you start with automated Caribbean stud poker. Why? Because it’s the simplest way of playing the game, making it a great introduction to Caribbean poker. 

Benefits of live Caribbean poker online 

Live Caribbean poker pits you against a human dealer – it’s an online replication of what you’d get from a real casino. The benefits you get from this version of Caribbean poker are: 

  • A human dealer 

  • Your card ranking explained 

Our advice is that you use live Caribbean poker online as a bridge between your introduction to the game and making your first bet in a land casino. This is because it has the benefits you get from online gaming (comfort, security, software, etc… ) but gives you an appreciation of what to expect when you’re in a casino. 

What are the best strategies to use when playing Caribbean poker? 

Poker is a game renowned for its many varied strategies – from being a knit or aggro player, all the way to complex hand reading tactics. Caribbean poker is no exception to this and we’ve explained some of the best strategies you can use to improve your chances of winning. 

By learning how to play an optimal Caribbean Stud poker strategy you can decrease the house edge from about 5% down to less than 1%, so it’s definitely worth your while to learn the basics. 

Caribbean poker strategy #1: Don’t play hands worse than ace-king 

The dealer isn’t able to play their hand if they have less than ace-king. This means the first thing you need to know is that it’s a losing strategy to play a hand worse than ace-king. Why? Because the dealer already has you beat if they play. 

Caribbean poker strategy #2: When you should bet ace-king 

If you’ve been dealt ace-king and the dealer’s face-up card is less than either of these cards, then it can be a good strategy to bet. When is it a good strategy to use? If one of your five cards is the same as the dealer’s face-up card. 

The reason for this is that it reduces the chances of the dealer having a pair from that card – you have one of the cards they need to make that pair. 

Caribbean poker strategy #3: A pair or better is good enough to play 

You should always play your pair hands in Caribbean stud poker. This is true even when you have only a pair of deuces (twos), the lowest ranking pair in the game. The reason for this is that a pair will beat a high card, so you’ll beat ace-king, the minimum hand the dealer needs to play. 

Caribbean poker strategy #4: Give progressive jackpot bets a miss

We explained earlier that progressive jackpot bets give you a chance to win large amounts of money, and that it means you can beat the dealer regardless of their hand – if you have one of five winning hands. 

However, the chances of you making one of the five hands you needed to win the progressive jackpot are extremely low. For this reason we’re saying that it’s a cautious strategy to give progressive jackpot bets a miss. 

Caribbean poker strategy #5: Use a Caribbean poker strategy chart

While each of our previous four strategies offer great tips for playing Caribbean poker (particularly for beginners), the best tactic is to use a poker strategy chart. This explains which hands you should and shouldn’t play: 

Use a Caribbean poker strategy chart to increase your chances of winning.

Where can I play free Caribbean poker online?

Playing free Caribbean poker online is the best way for beginners to learn how to play the game – it takes away the risk of losing your own money, allowing you to focus solely on your game management and strategies. 

Playtech is one of the best casino software providers. It’s used by some of the world’s top online casinos, such as, and has over 500 games in its catalogue, including Caribbean poker. 

You can play a free Caribbean poker game made by Playtech by visiting MrGamez and playing Casino Stud Poker. 

Casino Stud Poker gives you a chance to test your skills by playing a free Caribbean poker game that’s completely automated. This makes it extremely simple to keep up with what’s going on in the game and to make your bets. You can get an idea of what to expect by checking out the screenshot below: 

Casino Stud Poker lets you play free Caribbean poker online

Credit: MrGamez  

Where can I play Caribbean stud poker online?

There are some great places that you can play Caribbean stud poker online for free – MrGamez is just one of the best examples. But if you really want to test your online mastery of this card game you need to play for money, which means you need to play Caribbean stud poker at an online casino. 

Many of the very best online casinos have Caribbean poker games (it’s one of the most popular card games). You can play Caribbean stud poker online at one of these great online casinos: 

Which casinos have Caribbean stud poker?

Once you’ve played free online Caribbean poker and tried the games at some of the leading online casinos, you’ll be in a great position to play Carribean stud poker in a land casino. Las Vegas is the mecca of gambling and it has some great casinos for Carribean poker fans. We’ve listed three of the best below:

  • Monte Carlo

  • Venetian

  • Palazzo

Vegas is one of the best locations for a casino getaway, but if it’s out of your budget you can play Caribbean poker in London – The Mint Casino has some great Caribbean stud poker games, giving you a great chance to see how good you are in a live setting. 

Who invented Caribbean stud poker?

Caribbean poker was invented by casinos to give them a poker game that they could earn more money from – this being because normal poker games are played between players, meaning there is no chance of the house winning and taking the money paid into the pot. 

David Sklansky claims to have invented Caribbean poker in 1982, with his version being called Casino Poker. However, Sklansky wasn’t able to patent his game, so he is not the undisputed creator of the game. 

Some years after Sklansky tried to patent his game, another poker player approached Sklansky and the game was taken to the King International Casino in Aruba. The rules of Sklansky’s game were tweaked and that led to the creation of what we now know as Caribbean poker. 

Caribbean poker is simple to learn and has extremely quick gameplay. It’s a fun version of poker that you can play online or in a land casino. Now that you know how to play Caribbean poker and where you can play it, try it out for yourself. 

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