Caribbean Holdem is based loosely on Texas Holdem except in Caribbean Holdem, you play against the dealer instead of against other players. The goal of the game is to get a better five card poker hand than the dealer. Payouts are awarded based on the strength of your final hand.
If you know how to play Texas Holdem, you can play Caribbean Holdem without much instruction. All hands in this game are ranked according to traditional poker hand rankings. Pairs are better than a single high card, three of a kind is better than a pair and so on.
I was surprised to find that not all online casinos offer real money Caribbean Holdem. You’ll have to pick your casino carefully to find this game. Here are a few that I confirmed that DO have Caribbean Holdem for real money:
[geoip2 region=’US Only Content’]
The Best US Caribbean Holdem Casinos for 2016
[table id=37 /]
Out of the casinos listed above, Bovada has the highest betting limits. There, you can place bets as high as $500 per hand. All of the casinos have a minimum bet of $1 but the maximum varies. All of the above casinos will treat you well, but Bovada has the highest betting limits.
[geoip2 region=’CA Only Content’]
The Best Caribbean Holdem Casino for 2016
[table id=40 /]
[geoip2 region=’ROTW Only Content’]
The Best Caribbean Holdem Casino for 2016
[table id=41 /]
How to Play Caribbean Holdem
When you play Caribbean Holdem for real money, you are asked to place an ante wager first. The betting limits at most gambling sites allow you to wager anything from $1 to $100 up front. After you place your wager, three community cards are dealt in the middle of the table. You receive two cards face up and the dealer receives two cards face down.
At this point, your five card hand consists of the three cards on the table and the two cards dealt face-up in front of you. You must now decide if you wish to fold or stay in the hand. If you fold, you lose your original wager. If you decide to stay in, you must place an additional wager equal to 2 times the size of your original wager.
If you stay in, the dealer will deal two more cards in the middle of the table. The casino will then use your two cards plus the five cards in the middle of the table to create the best five card poker hand out of the seven face-up cards. The same thing will also happen for the dealer.
Your hand is compared to the dealer’s hand and you will receive a payout if you beat the dealer.
Here it is in shortened form:
- Place your wager
- Three community cards are dealt face up in the middle of the table
- You receive 2 cards face up; the dealer receives two cards face down
- You decide to fold or stay
- If you decide to stay, you place a second bet equal to 2x the size of your original bet
- Two more cards are dealt face up in the middle of the table
- You and dealer each create the best possible five-card hand using any combination of your two cards and the five cards in the middle of the table
- Proceed to showdown
After all the cards have been dealt, you proceed to the showdown. The dealer’s cards are now revealed and both of your 5-card hands are compared. There are four possible outcomes at this point:
- The dealer does not qualify: you win even money on your original wager and your second wager is returned to you without any winnings
- The dealer qualifies and you win: you receive a payout according to the chart below
- The dealer qualifies and you lose: you lose both wagers
- The dealer qualifies and you tie the dealer: all bets are returned to you
About qualifying: you only receive a payout if the dealer ends up with a pair of 4s or better. If the dealer does not qualify, you receive a single even-money payout on your original wager only. The second wager is simply returned to you.
If the dealer qualifies and you have a better hand than the dealer, you will receive the following payouts on your original bet plus a 1:1 payout on your raise bet.
[table id=7 /]
And here’s another explanation of the rules in video format:
Strategy and House Advantage
The house advantage of Caribbean Stud is 2.16% when played with perfect strategy. What this means is that for every $100 you wager at Caribbean Stud, you can expect to lose about $2.16. You will see significant variance over the short term, but this is what you can expect over the long term.
The house advantage changes drastically if you deviate away from perfect strategy. Therefore, it is important to play a smart game in Caribbean Stud. There are several easy rules you can use to minimize the house advantage at all times:
- Raise any time you have any pair or better
- Raise if both of your cards are higher than two or more of the community cards
- Raise if both of your cards are of the same suit and two of the community cards match that suit
- Raise if you have four cards to a straight
- Fold everything else
This is the best strategy to use as a beginner because it is easy to remember and it keeps the house advantage relatively low. You can fine-tune this strategy as you progress with this calculator.
The Progressive Side Bet
Caribbean Holdem has an optional side bet that you can place at the beginning of each hand. This side bet costs $1 and it provides the opportunity to win a big jackpot if your final hand is particularly strong.
The progressive jackpot steadily grows over time. If you are lucky enough to end up with a powerful hand, you will win either a flat payout or a percentage of the entire jackpot. Here is a typical payout table that you’ll find at most real money gambling sites:
[table id=8 /]
Royal flushes result in you winning the entire sum of the current jackpot. In many cases, this prize is worth upwards of $50,000. Straight flushes will give you 10% of the jackpot, which will usually equate to something like $5,000 in real money.
The large prizes make the progressive side bet tempting, but it has a high house advantage. If you care about reducing the house advantage as much as possible, it is best to skip this side bet. It may only cost you $1, but that one dollar adds up quickly over the course of dozens or hundreds of hands.
In most cases, the house advantage on the progressive side bet exceeds 40%. It’s a terrible bet from a mathematical point of view. Sometimes I know it’s fun to just gamble and hope for a big win, but at least now you know what you’re getting into.
What I Like About Caribbean Holdem
There are a few things that endear Caribbean Holdem to me as a gambler. Primarily, I like how the game is similar to Texas Holdem. I have a long background in poker and Texas Holdem was always my main game. I found it super easy to get started.
Along the same vein, it’s fun to play a Holdem-style game against the dealer. Playing poker against real opponents can be stressful and frustrating. Caribbean Holdem is quite a bit more relaxing but it still offers that same style of play.
When playing online, Caribbean Holdem moves at a comfortable pace. You don’t have time clocks or other players urging you to hurry up and play your cards. You can take as long as you want, consult strategy guides and make the best play every time. That is always a good thing.
Finally, I must admit that I do like to play the progressive jackpot from time to time. I know that it has a high house advantage, but the promise of big real money payouts is always alluring. The odds of hitting a perfect Royal Flush are extremely low, but even the small payouts for flushes and full houses are nice.
What I Don’t Like
The biggest downside to playing Caribbean Holdem is that the house always has the advantage. When I play Texas Holdem against other players, I know that I can make money against poor opponent. I can control my own destiny in actual poker. In Caribbean Holdem, you must have luck on your side to win.
Another complaint I have is that it seems like the progressive jackpot has a hard time breaking $50,000 anywhere. When you play games like slots, you often see progressive jackpots reaching the mid six-figure marks. I’ve never seen a Caribbean Holdem jackpot break $100,000.
Finally, the house advantage on the progressive side bet is just too high. I would understand if the casino wanted to take 10% or even 15%, but 40% is just excessive. It would be great to see a casino bump up the flat payouts for hands like flushes, full houses and 4-of-a-kinds.