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Caribbean Stud Poker Advice

Dear Mark,
I have two questions regarding Caribbean Stud Poker. First, is there any basic strategy for the game, and, do you recommend betting the progressive side bet? Miguel H.

It's only fair, Miguel, before answering your questions to offer up a primer for those with little-to-zip knowledge of Caribbean Stud Poker. So, readers, the best way to learn this simple game is to get a deck of cards, shuffle 'em up, and play along at your kitchen table.

Caribbean Stud Poker is in essence five-card stud poker, without the luxury of a draw. Each player antes up and is dealt five cards from a 52-card deck.

The dealer also receives five cards, then reveals one of them. After seeing this card, the player must choose whether to stay or fold. Folding loses the ante. Those who stay, must double their bets and make a separate wager dubbed a "call bet."

The dealer now exposes his remaining four cards. If the dealer does not "qualify" by having at least an ace/king, the hand is over, and those who called the hand win an amount equal to their ante. If the dealer does qualify, the hand is played out, with players winning their antes and call bets, on hands higher than the dealer's. If the dealer's hand is higher, the player loses both wagers. There is also a bonus payout schedule for hands from one pair through a royal flush, but the dealer must qualify and the player must be in the hand to get this bonus payout.

Caribbean Stud offers the easiest basic strategy system to memorize of any card game. My Caribbean Stud Poker advice is to call the dealer if your five-card hand is an ace-king-jack-8-3 or better. If not, fold.

Whether you should bet the optional progressive jackpot wager, well, Miguel, I will report the arithmetic, you decide.

To be eligible to win all or part of the jackpot (the progressive jackpot pays out for straight flushes, for four-of-a-kinds, full houses and flushes), an additional dollar must be wagered in a slot in front of the ante circle. Luckily, these jackpots are paid regardless of whether the dealer qualifies or not, but you would need more than good fortune to hit one. You see, Miguel, there are 2,598,560 possible five-card combinations in a standard 52-card deck. With four ways to make a royal flush, the true odds of hitting a natural royal are 649,760 to one. Put another way, if you played four hours a day, 365 days a year, it's going to take you about fifteen years

Bottom line: With jackpots generally below $200,000 -- and the odds of hitting it close to 650,000 to one

Dear Mark,
In a crowded casino, when there are no blackjack seats are available, why can't a player just make a bet alongside another player on the game? Tom R.

"Back-of-the-chair-betting" is generally not allowed in most stateside casinos, though some casinos, especially outside the US, allow players not actually seated at the table to make bets at blackjack. These players are called standees. To make a wager, a standee would place bets in the betting circles of gamesters who are already perched at the table. The downside, Tom, is that when betting from behind, you are in observation mode only, since the sitting players get to make all the decisions without the advice of the standees. Without chips-and-a-chair, standees must swallow those decisions and smile.