Still a relatively new game, first introduced in 2001, Caribbean Hold’em is played against the dealer as a variation of the poker game known as Texas Hold’em. It has already gained popularity in a dozen countries around the world: Egypt, Estonia, Holland, Ireland, Latvia, Malta, Morocco, Panama, Romania, Russia, South Africa and Ukraine. It is also featured on web sites running software from Galewind, Net Gaming, Playtech and Real Time Gaming.
Casino Hold’em is played with a single poker deck of fifty two cards, ranked in descending order from Ace through 2. For the purpose of forming a straight only, the Ace may also be counted as low. The object is to form the best five-card poker hand possible out of two hole cards and five community cards.
Play begins with each player making a wager in the box marked “Ante.” Then, two cards are dealt face down to each player and dealer. The player may examine his own cards as the first three community cards are dealt face up in the middle of the table. These three cards are known as the “Flop.”
At this point, the player has the opportunity to Call or Fold. Folding means the hand is abandoned and the Ante wager is lost; if it is a heads-up game, the dealer will not deal or show any other cards. Calling means the player must make an additional bet equivalent to double the amount of the Ante for the right to play on.
Next, the dealer will deal the last two community cards face up, making a total of five, and turn over the dealer’s two hole cards. Hands are scored according their poker value, with the higher of the two hands winning between the dealer and each player. The player wins the Ante bet automatically if the dealer’s hand fails to “qualify” by having at least a pair of fours or better; the Call bet will “push,” no winner, in this case.
If the player’s hand outranks the dealer’s qualifying hand, then the Call wager pays even money, 1-to-1, while the Ante bet pays according to the table’s posted Pay Table. Typically, the payouts are even money for a winning Straight or lower, 2-to-1 for a winning Flush and 3-to-1 for a Full House. Four of a Kind pays 10-to-1, a Straight Flush is worth 20-to-1 and a Royal Flush (A-K-Q-J-10 suited) pays as high as 100-to-1, depending on the House Rules.
If the player’s best five-card hand is identical to the dealer’s, the result is a “push” and all bets are returned with no winner declared. If the dealer’s hand beats the player’s, both the Ante and Call wagers are forfeited.
Many versions of Caribbean Hold’em also offer an optional side bet known as “AA,” “AA Bonus” or “AA+.” To participate in the side bet, the player must make an additional and completely separate bet. This bet will pay off automatically, regardless of whatever cards the dealer holds, if the player can show a hand valued at a pair of Aces or higher on the first five cards. Declarations and payouts are made immediately following the Flop.
Payouts for successful AA wagers are made according to the AA Bonus Pay Table. Quite commonly, hands of at least an Ace pair (AA) but no higher than a Straight pay 7-to-1, while all hands of a Flush or higher pay 25-to-1. In some cases, a sliding scale may be applied, with a Flush worth 20-to-1, a Full House paying 30-to-1 and a Four of a Kind 40-to-1. Straight Flushes and Royal Flushes yield payouts of 50-to-1 and 100-to-1, respectively.
The House Edge for Caribbean Hold’em on the Ante wagers has been calculated at between 1.96% and 2.4%. On the AA side bet, it varies from 6.26% to 6.4%. Players can expect to win roughly 48% of all hands dealt, push 2%, fold 18% and lose 32%.