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Caribbean Draw Poker and low pairs

15 February 2015

QUESTION: Have you ever heard of Caribbean Draw Poker? It's like Caribbean Stud Poker, but you can draw one or two cards and the dealer has to have a pair of 8s of better to qualify.

ANSWER: Caribbean Draw has been around for a long time, but has mainly disappeared from the casino scene. In fact, your note surprised me, and sent me scrambling for old files. I first wrote about the game in 2000, with a strategy devised by Chicago game analyst Howard Stern.

I’m guessing you’ve probably seen the game online, but if you’ve seen it recently in a brick-and-mortar casino, please let me know so I can update files.

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. When I’ve seen Draw in casinos, it’s shared the progressive with Stud tables. That can be done because the Draw progressive bet is settled with pre-draw hands, using only your first five cards.

On the main game, you start with an ante, and after you’ve seen your cards may either fold or play by placing a bet of twice your ante. If you play, you may discard and draw zero, one or two cards.
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. If the dealer does qualify with 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.

Strategy for Draw starts with one of the easiest decisions you'll ever make. Never fold. Follow the ante with a bet in every hand. If you learn Stern’s drawing strategy, the house edge is 2.4 percent of your ante, or about 0.8 percent of all bets.

The drawing strategy is fairly lengthy, too long to detail here, though it’s not difficult if you confine yourself to the main thrust. When I originally wrote about Caribbean Stud, I broke it into three parts, which are archived online at Casino City Times. You can find the main strategy at http://grochowski.casinocitytimes.com/article/special-of-the-house-caribbean-draw-tips-744, and a list of special-case exceptions at http://grochowski.casinocitytimes.com/article/caribbean-draw-expert-strategy-745 and http://grochowski.casinocitytimes.com/article/players-can-simplify-caribbean-draw-poker-strategy-746.


QUESTION: Please explain to me holding low pairs (in video poker) vs. holding high cards. I think you recommend holding the low pairs, but don’t you get more chances to draw a winner with a high card?

ANSWER: Holding a single high card will bring more winning hands, but holding a low pair will bring more money.

Let’s say you’re dealt Queen of Spades, 9 of diamonds, 6 of clubs, 6 of hearts and 2 of spades. If you hold just the Queen, there are 178,365 possible draws, and 59,851 of them – 33/6 percent – are winners. However, 45,324 of those winners are high-pair hands that just get you your money back, and 9,033 are two-pair hands that just get your money back on Double Bonus, Double Double Bonus, Bonus Deluxe and other popular games. Only 5,494 winners – 3.1 percent of all hands – are three of a kind or better, the hands that bring 3-for-1 payoffs and higher.

If you hold 6-6, three are 16,215 possible draws, with winners on 4,656 – 28.7 percent, a lower proportion on winning hands than you get by holding the Queen. However, 2,064 hands – 12.2 percent – are three of a kind or better. It’s nearly four times as likely that you’ll get at least three of a kind when you start with a low pair than a single high card.

No matter what the game, the average return per hand is greater if you hold 6-6. On 9-6 Double Double Bonus Poker, the average return is 3.67 coins per five wagered if you hold 6-6, and 2.18 if you hold just the Queen. If the game is 9-6 Jacks or Better, with a 2-for-1 payoff on two pairs, the average return is 4.12 coins on 6-6, and 2.39 on the Queen.

The object isn’t to win the most hands; it’s to win the most money. You give yourself the best chance to do that by holding low pairs instead of single high cards.
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Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

The Craps Answer Book

> More Books By John Grochowski