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Caribbean Draw Fans Gain Strategy Guide6 June 2000
If you want to learn to play almost any casino game well, it's not difficult to find the information and strategies you need. Books, newsletters and software abound that will help you learn to play blackjack, craps or video poker.
There is one game available in the Chicago area for which I know of no published strategy. That's about to change, thanks to the painstaking work of local analyst Howard Stern.
When Empress Casino in Hammond opened in 1996, it introduced Caribbean Draw Poker to the Chicago market. Other Indiana casinos have since picked it up, but it's not an approved game in Illinois and it's not common in the rest of the country. Not only that, Caribbean Draw is not licensed in Nevada, and games that aren't played in Nevada rarely draw the attention of analysts.
The game did catch the eye of the late Lenny Frome, one of my first and best friends in the circle of gaming analysts and writers. Developing a strategy for Caribbean Draw was the project he was working on at the time of his death in 1997.
With Frome's work uncompleted, I e-mailed Stern and asked if he'd be interested in working on a strategy for the game. Stern had submitted some outstanding work to me on difficult video poker games such as Double Bonus Poker, Multi-Pay Poker and Money Fever.
The process took months. Caribbean Draw was a tougher nut to crack than video poker games because the dealer must be taken into account. In video poker, players try to draw hands that are winners on a pay table. In Caribbean Draw, those hands also must beat the dealer.
It's taken more months since Stern's work was finished to get the information in your hands. The fault was mine - I had other projects going on, and at one point my computer ate the work and I had to have Stern send me another copy.
But now it's time. This week, we'll focus on the mechanics of playing Caribbean Draw, then the next three weeks we'll check out Stern's strategy.
Like the more familiar Caribbean Stud Poker, Caribbean Draw is dealt from a single deck, reshuffled after every hand. Just as in Caribbean Stud, the player must begin by making an ante, and may also place a $1 side bet on a progressive jackpot.
That side bet, by the way, works just as it does in Caribbean Stud. In fact, some casinos have common jackpots for their Stud and Draw tables. The side bet is settled after the first five cards - draws don't count - and pays out of the progressive pool anywhere from $50 on a flush to the full jackpot on a royal flush.
After antes are placed, players and the dealer each receive five cards, face down. Players then decide whether to fold the hand or play it out. A player who decides to stay in the hand must then place a bet twice the size of the ante, no more and no less.
Anyone who makes the bet then has the option of standing pat on the initial five cards, or discarding one or two cards and drawing replacements.
Then it's the dealer's turn. He turns his cards face up, and must stand on a royal flush, straight flush, flush, straight, four of a kind or full house. He must draw one card to two pairs, or any hand less than one pair that has a four-card flush or four-card straight. The dealer draws two cards to three of a kind, one pair or no pair hands. With no pairs and with no four-card flushes or straights, the dealer keeps the three highest cards and discards the other two.
After the draw, if the dealer does not have a pair of 8s or better, players who have stayed in the hand receive even-money payoffs on their antes, and their bets are returned to them. Just what cards the players have drawn don't matter if the dealer hand doesn't qualify.
If the dealer does qualify with a pair of 8s or better, then players who beat the dealer are paid even money on their antes and have their bets paid according to the following pay table: one pair or two pairs, even money; three of a kind, 2-1; straight, 3-1; flush, 5-1; full house, 7-1; four of a kind, 20-1; straight flush, 50-1; royal flush, 100-1.
That's all pretty easy, and similar enough to the way Caribbean Stud is played that anyone who has played Stud should have no trouble picking up Draw.
Strategy for Draw starts with one of the easiest decisions you'll ever make. Never fold in this game. Follow the ante with a bet in every hand.
The tougher decisions are which cards to keep and which to discard. That's where we're going next week.
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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