Friday, June 14, 2013

Splitting hairs in Caribbean Stud strategy

Q. Playing Caribbean Stud Poker, I had Ace-King-8-5-2, and the card the dealer turned face up from her hand was an Ace. I made the bet, because my Ace matched his Ace. Another guy at the table told me that was the wrong play, that you bet only if one of the other three cards matches the dealer. The dealer didn't qualify, so I won on my ante and just got my bet back anyway. Her next highest card was a 10, and there were no pairs. But was the other player right? I want to give myself the best chance to win, and I always thought I was doing it by betting with Ace-King and a match.
A. The other player was correct. When we have Ace-King in Caribbean Stud, we do a lot of splitting of hairs. One of those hair splits is that when we have Ace-King and no other face cards in the hand, we bet whenever one of the other three cards matches the dealer's face up card, and fold when there's no such match.

Note the provision that there are no other face cards in the hand. If we have Ace-King- Queen or Ace-King-Jack, we bet if any of our five cards match the dealer's face-up card, and with Ace-King-Queen, we bet even with no match if our fourth highest card outranks the dealer's up card.

How much does all that gain us? Very little. With the strategy given here, you'll face a house edge of about 5.23 percent of the ante or 2.56 percent of total action. According to Michael Shackelford's outstanding Web site,, if you bet with Ace-King when any of your five cards matches the dealer up card, the house edge is 5.33 percent of the ante or 2.62 percent of total action.

By far the most important component of Caribbean Stud strategy is to bet with all pairs. I've seen many players fold with a pair of 2s or 3s. Those aren't necessarily winning hands, but in the long run, you'll lose more money by folding and forfeiting your ante than you will by betting the hand and accepting that you'll win some and lose some.

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