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Special of the House: Caribbean Draw Tips

13 June 2000

In Caribbean Draw Poker, any hand can win - even the worst collection of mismatched cards wins even money on the ante if the dealer doesn't have a qualifying hand. In video poker, hands that rank below the bottom of the pay table are losers, period.

And in Caribbean Draw Poker, we can discard only up to two cards. In most video poker games, we can chuck the whole hand if we don't like what we see and draw five new cards.

Chicago-area analyst Howard Stern has developed a strategy that tells you the best plays for each possible situation at Caribbean Draw. (Expert play, by the way, starts with making the bet of twice your ante on every hand. Do not fold, regardless of your cards. The dealer makes a qualifying hand of a pair or better only about 52 percent of the time, so you'll get an even-money payoff on your ante nearly half the time.)

This week, we'll go through the basics; next week, we'll look at exceptions to the general rules for drawing to hands with no pairs.

Here are Stern's basics of drawing strategy in Caribbean Draw Poker:

Royal flushes, straight flushes, fours of a kind, full houses, flushes: These are no-brainers - just hold all five cards. Unlike video poker, we do not break up a flush to draw to four parts of a royal flush. Also, there's no bonus for any specific fifth card to go with four of a kind, so there's no need to draw.

Straights: Hold all five cards unless they include King-Queen-Jack-10 of the same suit. That gives us a chance to draw an Ace for a royal flush or a 9 for a straight flush. Note that we do not break up straights for four-card royals that include an Ace.

Three of a kind: Hold the triplets and discard the other two cards.

Two pairs: Hold both pairs and draw one card.

Pair of Aces or Kings: Break up the pair to draw to a four-card royal flush or straight flush, including inside draws. Otherwise, hold the pair and the highest odd card and discard the other two.

Pair of Queens: Break up the pair to draw to a four-card royal or straight flush. Also break up the pair to draw one card to Ace-King-Queen-9 or Ace-King-Queen-8 - four-card flushes with no straight flush possibilities but which include four cards of 8 or better that could pair up to beat a dealer's qualifying hand. Otherwise, hold the Queens plus the highest odd card.

Pair of Jacks: Break up the pair to draw to a four-card royal or straight flush, or four-card flushes with the two highest cards being Jack-10 or better. Otherwise, hold the Jacks plus the highest odd card.

Pair of 10s or 9s: Break up the pair to draw to a four-card royal or straight flush or any four-card flush. Otherwise, hold the pair plus the highest odd card.

Pair of 8s: Break up the pair to draw to a four-card straight flush, any four-card flush or a four-card straight, 9 high or better, that is open on both ends. Also, discard the pair to draw to a three-card royal. Otherwise, hold the pair and the highest odd card.

Pair of 7s or lower: Break up the pair to draw to a four-card straight flush, four-card flush, any four-card open-ended straight, three-card royal, Jack-10-9 or 10-9-8 of the same suit. Also break up the pair to hold 9-8-7 of the same suit if neither a Jack nor a 5 is being discarded. Otherwise, hold the pair and the highest odd card.

Non-winning hands with no pairs: Hold any of the following, listed in order of preference: four-card royal flush, four-card straight flush, four-card straight, four-card open-ended straight, three-card royal, three-card straight flush - including inside and double-inside draws - three-card flush or four-card inside straight. Otherwise, hold your three highest cards.

That basic strategy will do it for most players, but to get the most out of the game, we need to learn some exceptions for no-pair hands that include high cards. That's where we're going next week.

Recent Articles
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