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Caribbean Draw Poker

Introduction

Caribbean Draw Poker is a casino poker game, meaning that it’s derived from classic player vs player poker, but instead the player plays against the house. Specifically Caribbean Draw Poker is a derivative of the Five Card Stud game. Caribbean Draw Poker is played with a standard 52 card deck.

We are only aware of Caribbean Draw Poker being available at RealTime Gaming, Microgaming and Boss Media casinos.

Play Structure

Initially the player places an ‘Ante’ wager and the dealer will deal out 5 cards to the player and themselves. All but one of the dealers cards are dealt face down (often referred to as ‘Hole’ cards).

The player is then given the option to replace up to 2 of the cards in their hand, if they choose to do so this requires an additional wager equal in size to twice the Ante bet, or to Fold the hand losing their Ante bet.

If the player chose not to Fold, after they have received their replacement cards the remaining 4 dealer cards will be revealed.  The dealers hand is also allowed to replace up to 2 cards and the discards are dealt with via the set of rules that follows;
·         No cards changed if a 5 card winning hand is received

·         One card changed if the dealer has 4 of a Kind, 2 Pairs, 4 to a Flush or 4 to a Straight

·         Two cards changed if the dealer has 3 of a Kind, a Pair or a High Card

After the dealer has received their draw cards, the hand is concluded and result is decided by the below hand hierarchy.

 

Hand Comparison

Caribbean Draw Poker ranks hands according to a hierarchy common to poker games which is explained below (strongest to weakest);

* Royal Flush – The Ace, King, Queen, Jack and Ten cards all of the same suit.

* Straight Flush – five numerically adjacent cards of the same suit (Example – 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 of Diamonds). Where both the player and dealer hold a Straight Flush the hand with the highest card is considered the winner.

* 4 of a Kind – four cards of matching rank (Example – 7 of Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds and Spades). Where both the player and the dealer hold 4 of a Kind the hand with the higher rank is considered the winner.

* Full House – three cards of the same rank and two cards of a different but matching rank (Example – 8 of Hearts, Clubs and Diamonds and Jack of Spades and Hearts). Where both the player and dealer hold a Full House, the hand with the higher rank 3 of a Kind is considered the winner.

* Flush – five cards of the same suit (Example – Ace, 8, 5, 2 and Queen of Spades). Where both the player and dealer hold a Flush the hand with the highest card is considered the winner. Where the highest card is matched the second highest is consider and so on.

* Straight – five numerically adjacent cards ignoring suit (Example – 7 of Spades, 8 of Spades, 9 of Clubs, 10 of Diamonds and Jack of Diamonds). Where both the player and dealer hold a Straight the hand with the highest card is considered the winner.

* 3 of a Kind – three cards of the same rank with 2 unmatched cards (Example – 9 of Spades, Clubs and Hearts with any two other cards that are not the 9 of Diamonds or a matching pair). Where both the player and dealer hold a 3 of a Kind, the hand with the higher ranked 3 of a Kind is considered the winner.

* Two Pairs – two sets of two cards of matching rank with one unmatched card (Example – 4 of Clubs and Hearts, 8 Clubs and Spades and a fifth unmatched card). Where the player and dealer both have two pairs, the hand with the highest pair is considered the winner. If both hands have matching top pair, the higher of the two lower pairs is considered the winner. Where both pairs are matched, the hand with the higher ‘Kicker’ (final unmatched card) is considered the winner.

* Pair – two cards of matching rank with three unmatched card (Example – 6 of Clubs and Hearts and any three other cards that are not the six of Spades or Diamonds and are not of matching rank). Where the player and the dealer hold a matching pair, the hand with the highest Kicker card wins. If the Kicker also matches, the hand is decided by the second Kicker then the third if the second Kickers also match.

* High Card – any five unmatched cards ranked as the highest card (Example – 5 of Spades, 9 of Clubs, 7 of Clubs, 2 of Hearts and Ace of Diamonds would be considered ‘Ace High’).

In the instance where both the dealer and player have hands of matching value by the above table the hand is considered a push and the player’s bets are returned.

Payouts

As with many other poker based casino games, there is a qualification hand for the dealer to play. As such payouts vary depending on whether the dealer qualifies or not. The dealer qualifies if their hand is a Pair of 8’s or better.

If the player loses all bets placed are lost. If the player Folds they lose their Ante bet. If the player wins payouts are decided as follows;

* If the player wins and the dealer does not qualify the Ante bet is paid out at 1 to 1 while the Raise bet pushes.  It should be noted that even if the dealer hand is stronger than the player hand – for example the dealer has Ace High while the player has Queen High – the player is still considered to have won if the dealer does not qualify.

* If the player wins and the dealer does qualify the Ante bet is paid at 1 to 1 and the Raise bets is paid according to the following paytable;

HandPayout
Royal Flush100 to 1
Straight Flush50 to 1
Four of a Kind20 to 1
Full House7 to 1
Flush5 to 1
Straight3 to 1
Three of a Kind2 to 1
Two Pairs1 to 1
Pair1 to 1
House Edge~0.7%

Bonus Bet

The majority of Caribbean Draw Poker games also offer a side bet usually referred to simply as the ‘Bonus’ bet. This side bet is optional but if the player chooses to place the Bonus bet it costs $/€/£1 and the results are based only on the player’s hand. The payouts for the Bonus bet vary from software to software, but most paytables for the major online software providers are provided below;

HandHand Probabilities RealTime GamingMicrogamingBoss Media*
Royal Flush0.00000153908JackpotJackpotJackpot
Straight Flush 0.000013851710% of Jackpot25002500
Four of a Kind0.00024500500500
Full House0.0014411005050
Flush 0.0019654753025
Straight0.00392465 155
Three of a Kind0.021128 53
Two Pairs0.0476194
Jackpot Range32631-11859150055-2754945000-17166
Break Even Value199994183902397942
House Edge24.18%-49.31%(-6.46%)-28.23%**61.48%-63.35%

*Boss Media are part of the GTech group of companies. This group was found to be running unfair card games in 2012 and as such we would not recommend playing with any casino using this software.
** The negative House Edge figure indicates a player advantage.

Calculating the House Edge and Break Even value for the Bonus Bet


It is possible calculate the House Edge and break even value for any paytable not included in the above table simply by using the Hand Probability figures. For example if the paytable was as follows;

HandHand ProbabilitiesNew Paytable
Royal Flush 0.00000153908Jackpot
Straight Flush 0.000013851710% of Jackpot
Four of a Kind 0.00024100
Full House 0.001441100
Flush 0.001965425
Straight 0.0039246515
Three of a Kind 0.0211285

To calculate the House Edge we multiply the Paytable values by the probabilities, sum the results and subtract the remaining possibilities. So if we have a Jackpot value of 168000, for the above paytable the calculation would be as follows;

168000×0.00000153908 + 16800×0.0000138517 + 100×0.00024 + 100×0.001441 + 25×0.0019654 + 15×0.00392465 + 5×0.021128 – (1-(0.00000153908 + 0.0000138517 + 0.00024 + 0.001441 + 0.0019654 + 0.00392465 + 0.021128))

0.25856544 + 0.23270856 + 0.024 + 0.1441 + 0.049135 + 0.05886975 + 0.10564 – (1 – 0.02871444)

0.87301875 – 0.971285559 = -0.0983

So the House Edge for this paytable and Jackpot size is 9.83%

To calculate the Breakeven point we multiply the Paytable values by the and probabilities  and subtract the remaining possibilities with the equation set equal to 0 and rearrange and solve for the Jackpot value (which we’ll refer to as ‘J’) . So for the above paytable the calculation would be as follows;

Jx0.00000153908 + 0.10xJx0.0000138517 + 100×0.00024 + 100×0.001441 + 25×0.0019654 + 15×0.00392465 + 5×0.021128 + (-1)x(1-0.02871444) = 0

0.000002924xJ + 0.024 + 0.1441 + 0.049135 + 0.05886975 + 0.10564 – 0.971285559 = 0

0.000002924xJ – 0.589540809 = 0

0.000002924xJ = 0.589540809

J = 0.589540809/0.000002924

J = 201621.34

So the break even size for this paytable is a Jackpot of 201622.

House Edge*

The House Edge of Caribbean Draw Poker using the standard paytable and across the full round of wagering (Ante and Call bet) and assuming that the player plays using the optimal strategy discussed below is approximately 0.6-0.7%. The accuracy of this figure is not exact due to the very large number of possible hands that the addition of the 2 discards for both the player and the dealer can take. If the player does not play optimally this figure will rise.

The House Edge of the Jackpot bet is dependent on the paytable the casino is using and the size of the Jackpot, but our observations places the House Edge value between -6.46% and 63.35%.

For further information regarding the house edge for both the main game and the Jackpot bet see Beating Bonuses (http://www.beatingbonuses.com/draw.htm).

Optimal Strategy

The most important aspect of correct strategy while playing Caribbean Draw Poker is not to play the Jackpot side bet unless it is over the breakeven values listed above. Even when the Jackpot value is above the breakeven value you should be aware that this bet has an extremely high variance and it’s highly unlikely that the regular player will ever hit the Jackpot, meaning that realistically the regular player will be playing with a far higher house edge.

There is no simple way to define the Optimal Strategy for Caribbean Draw Poker with a massive number of playing variations depending on the cards draw card variations.  A simplified strategy is listed below (note, this is not optimal);

1. Royal Flush / Straight Flush / 4 of a Kind / Full House / Flush
2. Suited KQJT
3. Straight / 3 of a Kind / Two Pair
4. 4 to Straight Flush
5. Pair QQ-AA
6. 4 to Flush
7. Pair TT-JJ
8. 4 to Outside Straight
9. Pair 99
10. 3 to Royal Flush
11. 3 to Straight Flush without gaps
12. Pair 22-88
13. 3 to Straight Flush with gaps
14. 3 to Flush with 2 highest cards of hand
15. 4 to Inside Straight with highest card of hand
16. 3 to Flush with either highest or 2nd highest card of hand
17. 4 to Inside Straight without highest card of hand
18. 3 8+ cards with dealer upcard of 8+
19. 3 to Flush without highest or 2nd highest card of hand
20. 3 to Straight with no gaps, with either highest or 2nd highest card of hand
21. Discard 2 lowest cards unless dealer upcard ranks above highest card of hand
22. Fold if dealer upcard ranks above highest card of hand

While the above strategy will result in a reasonably low House Edge, to reach the optimal House Edge figure you will need to use the Strategy Calculator provided below;

Fairness Calculator

Below you can find a calculator to allow you to check the fairness of your wins/losses when playing Caribbean Draw Poker.

*This fairness calculator will assume that you’ve been playing with the optimal strategy detailed above. If you have not then the calculator will NOT return accurate results.

Winning Strategies

Offline

Hole Carding, Steering or Sorting

Unlike Blackjack the techniques used to gain an advantage over the game of Caribbean Draw Poker in the offline environment are not nearly so widely discussed. Gaining information on dealer’s hole cards – be that via edge sorting, steering or hold carding – may produce a player advantage as long as the information is used to alter the player’s strategy.

The simple facts are that there’s very little in the way of quality information published on Caribbean Draw Poker. While it may be possible to obtain an edge playing with additional card information – this seems likely due to the low House Edge that is obtainable by playing Optimal Strategy – given the complexity of Optimal Strategy and the low frequency of availability of Caribbean Draw Poker, it seems likely that anyone talented enough to find a worthwhile opportunity playing Caribbean Draw Poker is more likely to find profitable opportunities playing more widely available and less complex games.

Online

There are several methods of legitimately gaining an advantage playing online Caribbean Draw Poker games. By and large these involve the use of promotions, bonuses and comp point systems as the games by themselves – assuming the game is functioning in a correct fashion and there are no errors in the paytable – will not provide any additional information about the cards and shuffles after every hand.

One potential opportunity for a player to gain an edge over Caribbean Draw Poker would be through the use of the progressive jackpots. The only progressive jackpot that we’re aware of that goes high enough to give the player an advantage is available at Microgaming casinos. Given a minimum bet of 1 and playing optimally the player will wager an average of 2.95 units per round on the main game of Caribbean Draw Poker with a House Edge of (approximately) 0.7%. This gives a loss of 2.95×0.007 = 0.02065 units/round. Any time the Jackpot produces a Player Edge of 2.07% or higher the player will have an overall advantage across both the main game and Jackpot bet. This occurs when the Jackpot is at $197313 or higher. It should be noted that while the player will have an advantage the variance of this particular game is likely to be extremely high.

It should be noted that online advantage play is not specific to Caribbean Draw Poker and in recent years the wagering requirements for player’s choosing to play any table game has inflated to the point that Caribbean Draw Poker is now often a sub-optimal choice for the player. For more information on beating online casinos see BeatingBonuses.com

* All ‘House Edge’ figures in this article are based on the ‘loss per unit wagered’ rather than ‘loss per initial bet’.