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Fred Renzey

Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

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Loose Poker Players Shouldn't Play Caribbean Stud

10 Nov 2003

By Fred Renzey

I often get e-mails from readers on blackjack and poker strategy, but the other day I received an unusual inquiry concerning the game of Caribbean Stud. It read:

Dear Fred,

I enjoy all your columns, but we need an article on the odds of playing Caribbean Stud "in the blind" (staying on every hand).

Caribbean Stud, as most of you know, is a house-banked poker derivative in which you play your five-card hand heads up against the dealer's five-card hand. Even though there may be as many as seven players at the table, each player's hand is pitted directly against the dealer's, just as in blackjack.

Now, proper playing strategy for Caribbean Stud has been published in numerous places over the years. The house edge can vary by about a tenth of a percent depending upon how detailed you care to get in selecting your Ace/King hands (you should always play any pair). About the most practical version is to simply play any A-K-J-8-3 or better, and fold anything weaker. This produces an overall house edge of 2.6% and gets things down to within a few hundredths percent of much more complex strategies.

Playing that way, you'll fold 46% of your hands and put up the additional 2 units 54% of the time. Now, if playing 54% of your hands to the river feels "too tight" for your appetite, then let's break down the "play all" strategy and see what that does to the house edge in this game.

First off, playing those 46 extra "bad" hands out of every 100 will increase your total action from an average of 2.08 units up to the full 3 units per hand. On just about 20 of them, the dealer won't qualify (she qualifies 56% of the time) so you'll win a one-unit ante those 20 times. The other 26 times she will indeed qualify and on more than 25 of those, you'll lose three units. Finally, on just a fraction of one hand, your bad Ace/King will actually beat the dealer's even worse Ace/King, winning you three units.

After it all shakes out, rather than folding and giving up those 46 one-unit antes, you'll now drop 57 units on those 46 extra hands. The net percentage effect is that by playing every hand you'll be raising the house edge to 5.5%!

So, how much money are we talking here? At a moderately filled Caribbean Stud table, they usually deal about 35 rounds an hour. If you're anteing $5 and playing right, each hour you'll ante $175 and play out 19 of those 35 hands for an additional $190 worth of action. That's $365 in total volume for an average hour of play. Since you'll have a 2.6% overall disadvantage, you can expect to lose around $9.50 per hour -- plus or minus the luck factor, as always.

Now, if you play every hand instead, you'll put in $15 on all 35 hands for $525 worth of volume. Since the house will beat you out of 5.5% of your total action, you can expect to lose around $29 per hour. So you see, not only has your percentage of disadvantage gone up, your betting volume has as well.

You could do worse. As bad as all that is, playing every hand isn't the worst thing you can do at Caribbean Stud. What is then? Playing the progressive jackpot is! Now, don't get me wrong. If the jackpot gets big enough it can be a good bet, but most of the time it's way too small to warrant a shot.

Just how big does the progressive jackpot need to get to be worth a play? The jackpot payout breakdowns for various hands differ from casino to casino, but in general the total pot needs to be in the $300,000 range before it reaches "overlay" status. So what happens to a gambler who religiously stuffs a dollar down the progressive slot on every hand when the pot is, say, a lousy hundred grand (but needs to be $300,000 to be worth it)?

Over his lifetime he'll get back 33 cents for every dollar he plays after subtracting all his payouts (including the royal flush) from all his misses. At 35 hands per hour and a loss of 67 cents per hand, playing the progressive jackpot will cost him another 23 bucks an hour - average!

So after all the number crunching what have we got? Caribbean Stud looks just about like this for a $5 ante player:

Play proper hands / no prog. jackpot: lose $9.50/hour
Play all hands / no prog. jackpot: lose $29.00/hour
Play proper hands + prog. jackpot: lose $32.50/hour
Play all hands + prog. jackpot: lose $52.00/hour

This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at fscobe@optonline.net.

 
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