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Caribbean Draw Poker is a variation of traditional poker with large payouts for high ranking hands. The game is available with Microgaming, RealTime Gaming, and Boss Media softwares. The low house edge per wager makes it a useful alternative, when blackjack and full pay video poker are not available.


Rules and Play

After placing a bet, the player and dealer are dealt a 5-card poker hand. Only 1 of the dealer's 5 cards is visible. The player then must choose to either fold and lose the hand or raise. The raise bet must be 2x the ante bet size, so the total bet following a raise is 3x the initial bet size. If the player raises, then he may discard up to 2 cards from his hand and take replacements from the deck.

The dealer may also discard up to 2 cards from his hand. The dealer's discard selections are done according to a simple preset strategy. Microgaming, RTG and Boss all use the same strategy -- keep 5-card pat hands, discard one with 4 of a kind or two pair, discard two with 3 or one pair, discard one with 4 to a flush or 4 to a straight (either inside or outside), and discard the two lowest cards with a high card. Some land based casinos have different discard rules for inside straights.

After the discards are complete, the hands are compared. There are several possible payouts.

-If the dealer has a pair of eights or better, the dealer "qualifies." If the dealer does not qualify (regardless of whether the player wins or loses the hand), then winnings on the ante bet are paid and the raise bet is returned.

-If the player loses the hand and the dealer qualifies, then the player loses the full bet.

-If the player wins the hand and the dealer qualifies, then the player wins the ante bet, and the raise bet pays according to a listed paytable. Microgaming, Boss, and most RTG casinos use the standard paytable listed below. I've seen the improved RTG paytable in the past, but I haven't seen it recently. It may have been removed from the RTG operator selections.

Hand Standard Paytable Improved RTG Paytable
Royal Flush 100 to 1 200 to 1
Straight Flush 50 to 1 50 to 1
4 of a Kind 20 to 1 20 to 1
Full House 7 to 1 7 to 1
Flush 5 to 1 5 to 1
Straight 3 to 1 4 to 1
3 of a Kind 2 to 1 3 to 1
2 Pair 1 to 1 2 to 1
Pair 1 to 1 1 to 1


Optional Bonus Bet

Caribbean Draw Poker offers an optional bonus bet, which often involves a progressive jackpot. Like most side bets, the house edge of the bonus bet is significantly larger than the house edge of the main game. A summary is below:

Hand Hand Odds RTG Microgaming
Royal Flush 1 in 650,000 Jackpot Jackpot
Straight Flush 1 in 72,000 10% of JP 2,500
4 of a Kind 1 in 4200 500 500
Full House 1 in 695 100 50
Flush 1 in 510 75 30
Straight 1 in 255 -- 15
3 of a Kind 1 in 47 -- 5
Two Pair 1 in 21 -- 4
Typical House Edge   35-50% *
Jackpot Range   30-80k *
Break Even Point   200k *
*Being a new game at the time of this update, there is not enough data to estimate jackpot range.



Unfortunately, there is no simple way to explain optimal strategy for Caribbean Draw. With many discard options and a dealer upcard, there are many exceptions to any short list of rules. You can use the Caribbean Draw Strategy Calculator to evaluate strategy decisions on hands that are not obvious.

A simplified written strategy is below. This strategy is not optimal, but is close enough to maintain a low house edge. Select the lowest numbered choice that you can form with your initial hand, then discard the remaining cards when possible. When holding a pair, you cannot discard all 3 of the remaining cards, so instead discard the two lowest ranked cards. "4 to an outside straight" means 4 sequential cards without gaps, such as 5/6/7/8. This strategy table is based on the standard paytable and standard dealer discard strategy. Folds are rare because the dealer fails to qualify slightly less than half the time overall, so without considering dealer upcards, the player only needs a slight chance of winning the hand for the EV of playing to exceed the EV of folding. However, folds can occur with a high dealer upcard and bad player hand since when the dealer shows an 8+ upcard his chance of qualifying is significantly higher than the overall average.

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*

*There are many exceptions to these rules, which are generally close calls. The upcard of the dealer hand also may influence decisions. For example, 3 to a royal flush with the dealer upcard being one of the missing cards in the royal should be treated as 3 to a flush (or 3 to straight flush, if possible). Similarly the dealer's upcard reduces the chance of getting a pair of that rank and may result in discarding a higher ranked card matching the dealer upcard over lower ranked ones. In unique situations like these or close call hands, I recommend using the Strategy Calculator.


House Edge & Variance

Due to the large number of unknown cards with player and dealer discards, I am unable to run enough simulations to determine a precise house edge (more information). A simulation of all dissimilar player hand combinations with random dealer cards and random discard replacements returned a house edge of ~2.0%. House edge is defined in terms of the initial ante bet. A more relevant quantity for estimating loss over a wagering requirement is house edge per wager. The average bet size is 2.95 (fold on worst 2.5% of hands) in Caribbean Draw, making the house edge per wager slightly below 0.7%. I plan to update the house edge values to more precise numbers in the future.

Caribbean Draw has a standard deviation of ~3.15. When defined in terms of unit wagered, the standard deviation becomes ~1.84. The latter value is more appropriate for estimating range of return while completing a wagering requirement.


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