How to Play Caribbean Poker

Caribbean Poker, also often known as Casino Hold’em, is a casino card game that was invented after the better known ”club poker” started to gain more popularity. This kind of bothered casino owners as they would only gain a small piece of profit from the poker games that were running and all of it was coming from rake (fees that are taken from pots to sustain casino staff, usually not more than $7). So the owners eventually approached gambling and poker guru at the time David Sklansky, so he would help them with inventing a new form of casino gambling – one alike poker, but it would be played against the house whereas club poker was played between real human players against each other.

So the first form of Casino Hold’em was born in around 1970’s, but sadly to owners of all casinos, it did not take off. To this day none really knows why it did not gain much popularity, but most casinos shut it down a couple of months after introducing it.

Thanks to a couple of industry people who simply did not like to give up, Caribbean Poker is a really popular poker game nowadays. The owner of Aria Casino in Las Vegas approached David Sklansky again and this time they developed a casino poker game that differed by rules a little and actually offered a progressive jackpot that would be linked across most casinos that would offer this game. This variation of the game really took off, for the most part due to exactly the jackpot prize that was offered. Lets follow up with a look at how the game is played including the gameplay, rules and other aspects of it.

Game Play

Each hand of Caribbean Poker starts with players placing wagers on the so called betting boxes. There usually are certain betting limits for both, smallest and largest wager possible, but there are quite flexible so there’s close to no chance that you might be disturbed with any of them. Now the important part – in order to qualify for a jackpot, you also have to place a wager on the jackpot box that is smaller than the classic bet one. Usually $1 wager has to be placed on it in order to have a shot at the jackpot prize.

Once you have done placing your wager, cards are dealt to both, you and the dealer. You’ll be dealt 5 cards from the start and same goes or the dealer, but only one of his cards will be dealt face up. This is actually one of the most important spots in the game, as you will be presented with two options:

  • Call – your initial wager is also known as the ”ante bet” and is placed to somewhat pay for the hand to be dealt in the first place. If you want to actually compete with the dealer and have a shot at a payout, you will also have to make a call. A call bet is twice the size of the ante bet and will instantly lead to dealer opening his cards and the winner determined.
  • Fold – remember that you can also always fold the hand and not risk with losing more money. You should usually fold if you hold a hand worse than Ace King high.

Once you decide to either call or fold with your holdings, dealer opens up his hand and the hands are compared by their strength using the same hand chart as in hold’em and 5 card stud. Here’s another important aspect of Caribbean Poker – in order for your call bet to be paid at any odds as well as to win a payout at increased odds, dealers hand has to qualify. Let me better explain that.

A qualifying hand is one that is at least AK or better so if the dealer turns over anything worse than that, only your ante bet will be paid out at even money odds – that’s if you hold a hand that is stronger than the dealers.


Not all the bets are paid out at even money odds as you might think, though. The actual payouts when playing Caribbean Poker purely depend on the strength of your hand, given that the dealers hand is a qualifying one. You will find a handy overview of the payouts in this casino poker game assuming that the dealer holds a qualifying hand and you have made the ”call”.

  • One Pair – even money
  • Two Pair – 2 to 1
  • Three of a kind – 3 to 1
  • Straight – 4 to 1
  • Flush – 5 to 1
  • Full House – 7 to 1
  • Four of a Kind – 20 to 1
  • Straight Flush – 50 to 1
  • Royal Flush – the progressive jackpot or 100 to 1, if there is no jackpot in the game.

As you can see, the payout odds for some hand are quite impressive, which adds a lot of thrill to the game. I’ve personally seen how a player gets dealt four of a kind only for the dealer not to hold a qualifying hand himself, which means that no payout is awarded for the call bet and that player only wins double his ante.

The Progressive Jackpot

Even though this has been the main reason why this game has taken off in the first place, there still are casinos that do not offer any jackpot asociated with this game. You should simply not play the game at that following casino if this is the game. Here’s a little hint as well – play Caribbean Poker online as the jackpots are way more significant and offer at just about any online casino.

Basic Strategy

Even though there is not much of a strategy associated with the game and certainly not one that would allow you to beat the house, there still are some basic guidelines you can follow. Most gambling experts advise that you should play a hand of at least AK, which includes all pairs. Otherwise you simply fold the hand and move on. The reason for this is quite simple – with a hand of at least AK you not only hold a significant chance to win, but do so and get paid on your ”call” bet as well as the ante, given that the dealer has to have at least AK in order to qualify.

House Advantage

Finally, kind of the worst part about any casino game including Caribbean Poker – the so called house edge. Caribbean Poker stands somewhere in between when it comes to the advantage and your expected return. If you follow our simple advice on how to play optimally, the house edge will be around 5,39%. These numbers translate into players losing an average of $5,39 every time they wager $100 playing the game. All of this can’t be turned around, but you never know when a royal flush will be dealt and you’ll claim a 6 or even 7 figure progressive. That of course is the beauty of gambling.

May 27, 2013 - Offer valid as of date published. T&Cs apply.