Caribbean Draw Poker
Caribbean draw poker is a variant on the game Caribbean stud. Before you get the option to raise or fold, you get an option to discard and draw one or more cards to try to improve your hand, which adds a tremendous element of strategy that isn’t found in many other casino poker games. Learn all about playing Caribbean Draw Poker at online casinos in this tutorial.
Introduction to Caribbean Draw Poker
In the vast majority of online casino poker games, you usually only get one decision, which almost always consists of folding or staying in the hand for an additional wager. Caribbean draw poker tables give you an additional strategic decision that has to do with discarding like you would in a five-card draw game, and that’s similar to how the Caribbean stud game is based on the traditional five-card poker game.
With that having been said, we want to make it clear that there are two different games that are often referred to as Caribbean draw. The first is what we consider to be real Caribbean draw, and the second goes by an additional name of Oasis Poker. The two games are very similar except your option to draw is different and how the dealer qualifies is different.
Each of these titles have a similar history and background, and they both are the result of diverging from Caribbean stud. Since they’re both often referred to as Caribbean draw online, we’re going to look at the rules for each and show you how the strategies for each of these two games can differ.
The History of Caribbean Draw Poker
Both of the games often called Caribbean draw have a similar history. They were both developed as variations of Caribbean stud, which itself was allegedly originally developed by poker author David Sklansky in the late 1980s or early 1990s under the name Casino Poker.
Something interesting about Caribbean stud is that the payouts and side bets can change tremendously from one casino to another or, in the case of online games, one software package to another. To this end, it’s not surprising that draw variations were added into the game. Other variations on Caribbean stud have been found in various online and land-based casinos as well, but these two draw games are the most popular by far.
How to Differentiate Between the Two Titles
There are two separate games that were developed independently of each other. We will differentiate by calling what we consider the original to be Caribbean draw, and we’ll call the other Oasis Poker after its name on the Galewind software package, a casino developer known for its favorable pay tables and low house edges on casino poker games, and others.
These two games can look incredibly similar, and if you don’t know what you’re looking at, it can be tricky at best to tell them apart. With that having been said, here’s a simple way to differentiate:
If you have to pay a separate fee to draw, then you’re playing what we’ll be calling Oasis Poker. However, if you’re always able to draw in exchange for raising, then you’re playing what we’ll be calling Caribbean draw.
There are no exceptions to this rule at all, so it’s a very quick and easy way to know the difference regardless of what the game is called at the casino you’re playing with.
A Quick Note: Both of these games are based around using five-card poker hands. If you are unfamiliar with those hands, then you should learn about them before trying to play any version of casino poker.
Rules and Gameplay
We are going to compare the rules of the two games we’ve referred to side-by-side so that you can more easily identify the differences when you’re able to play. This will help you to avoid a situation where you think that you’re playing one game called Caribbean Draw when you’re really playing another.
Five-card Poker Hand Rankings
For a quick refresher of how the five-card poker hand rankings work, consider the following list from weakest to strongest hands:
- Royal Flush – AKQJT all of the same suit.
- Straight Flush – Five cards of the same suit all in order (eg: JT987 all of spades).
- Four of a Kind – Four cards with the same rank (eg: 3333x).
- Full House – Three of a kind of one rank with a pair in another (eg: QQQJJ).
- Flush – Five cards, not in order, all of the same suit (eg: J9764 all of hearts).
- Straight – Five cards, all in order, but not all of the same suit (eg: 65432 in different suits).
- Three of a Kind – Three cards all of the same rank (eg: 555xx).
- Two Pair – Two cards of one rank with two cards of another rank (eg: JJ44x).
- One Pair – Two cards with the same rank (eg: AAxxx).
- High Card – None of any of the above made hands.
When there are ties, they are broken with the value of the remaining cards in the hand. For example, a pair of aces with AAK42 beats a pair of aces with AAJ85 because the king beats the jack for the tie breaker.
The Basic Structure of Gameplay
For both of these games, there’s a basic structure to how it’s played. We’re going to look at the basic structure of the gameplay first, and then we’ll break down how each game has small differences in the draw procedure and in how it’s decided if the dealer qualifies.
Here’s the general layout of how a given hand in either of these games will go:
- Players make an initial bet called an ante.
- Five cards are dealt to the player, all face-up.
- Five cards are dealt to the dealer, and only one of them will be face-up.
- Players will be able to fold and give up their ante and any chances of winning the hand, or they can raise (sometimes referred to as “call” instead on some software versions), which allows them to face off with the dealer’s hand to see who wins at a cost of twice the value of the ante.
- If the player raises, the dealer has to qualify by having a hand of at least a minimum level of strength.
- If the dealer doesn’t qualify, then the ante pays 1:1 while the raise is just returned to the player as a push.
- If the dealer qualifies and the player wins, the ante pays 1:1 with the raise being paid based on a separate pay table that pays better prizes if the player has a better poker hand.
- If the dealer qualifies with the player losing, then both the ante and raise are lost.
There are two key variables here that need to be addressed, however. The first is how the dealer qualifies, and the second is how and when the drawing portion of the hand occurs.
The minimum hand value that the dealer needs to be able to qualify is higher in one of the Caribbean draw poker games than in traditional Caribbean stud, the game that these titles are based on. This affects strategy to a strong degree. Consider the following:
- Caribbean Draw – In the game we’re calling Caribbean draw for the purposes of differentiation, the dealer needs to have a pair of eights or higher in order to qualify.
- Oasis Poker – In the title we’re referring to as Oasis Poker, the dealer must qualify with AK-high or better, the same as in standard Caribbean stud games.
A key mistake that some players can make is that they think the minimum for the dealer to qualify is one thing when it’s the other. There’s a lot of difference between AK-high and a pair of eights when it comes to how likely the dealer is to qualify (or not) with each, so you really need to identify which of the two styles of this game you’re playing before you try to get in on the action.
How Drawing Works
The key feature of Caribbean draw casino poker, in any form you’ll find it, is that you get to discard some of your cards like you do in five-card draw games. This allows you to receive new cards and to pick up better chances of getting a stronger hand. However, the way drawing is handled in each of these titles is completely different, and it’s the main feature that differentiates the two, particularly when it comes to the relevant strategies.
When you play the game we’re calling online Caribbean poker, you will draw after raising. It doesn’t cost anything other than your raise to draw, and you can discard as many cards as you want. However, in this variation, the dealer also gets to draw according to a set of house rules:
- Five-card hands like a flush, straight, full house, straight flush or royal flush always stand pat with no discards.
- Four of a kind or two pair hands always draw one.
- Three of a kind or one pair hands always draw two (the highest kicker is kept in one pair hands).
- The worst three cards are discarded in high card hands.
The dealer getting the ability to draw is why the hand needed to qualify is so much higher as well.
However, in the game we’re calling online Oasis Poker, you draw before the option to raise or fold, and drawing is completely optional. However, it has a price. To draw one or five cards, it costs a multiple of 1x the ante. Drawing two or four cards costs 2x the ante, and drawing three cards costs 3x the ante. You don’t have a chance to win a return against these costs, however, and they are simply paid to the dealer and not made a part of the betting.
It’s worth noting that if you decline the option to draw every single time you play a hand of Oasis Poker, then you are actually just playing Caribbean stud.
Side Bets and Progressive Jackpots
In both types of games that can be called Caribbean Draw, you can find optional side bets that are usually for a progressive jackpot of some type. They are similar to the ones found in Caribbean Stud as well because the results are only based on the initial five cards that you’re dealt and pay out based on the poker hand that those five cards make. As such, these side bets are usually resolved before any discards or drawing can happen.
In the case of Caribbean Draw progressive jackpot side bets, the jackpot is always won by picking up a royal flush, and you’ll normally earn something in the range of 10 to 20 percent of the jackpot for hitting a straight flush. Other poker hands can get payouts based on a multiple of your side bet, which almost always costs €1 to play. The exact pay tables will differ based on where you’re playing, but something like 500x for four of a kind, 100x for a full house, 50x for a flush and 10x for a straight is in line with what’s common.
Strategy for Caribbean Draw Poker
There are two components of strategy that matter: Knowing when/how to draw and knowing when to raise or fold. For each of the two types of this draw-based casino poker game, we’re going to break down the relevant strategies for each in what follows.
Drawing Strategy for Oasis Poker
Because of the high cost of drawing, the player should never draw two or more cards. This narrows things down to situations where you might want to draw a single card, which only concerns straight, flush, straight flush and royal flush draws whenever you have four cards to that hand. Here are a few general tips along these lines:
- If you have four cards to a straight flush or a royal flush, then you should always draw to that bigger hand, even if it means breaking up a pair.
- If you have four cards to a regular flush, then you should draw to it only if you will not break up a pair in the process.
- If you have four cards to a straight, and there will be eight cards that can make that straight for you, then you should draw to it if you are not breaking up a one pair hand by doing so.
This strategy is very close to being perfect from a mathematical standpoint while being pretty easy to learn and use.
Drawing Strategy for Caribbean Draw Poker
The strategies evolved for drawing at the Caribbean Draw Poker tables is more complicated because you don’t have to pay anything extra to do it outside of the raise you would have made to showdown with the dealer in the first place. To this end, we’re going to offer some general guidelines that will cover the majority of the difficult situations you’ll face:
- Do not split a pair of queens or better if you have a flush or straight draw.
- You can split a pair of jacks or tens if you have a flush draw, but not a straight draw.
- Pairs of nines or lower can be split for a straight draw as long as there will be eight cards that can make the straight (also known as an outside or open-ended straight draw).
- If you have three to a royal flush along with a pair of eights or lower, it’s actually better to keep the three cards to a royal than to keep the small pair.
Again, this does not cover every possible situation, but it covers most of the borderline spots that will make the most players unsure the most often. Note also that since you’ll have to raise or fold before drawing in this game, you won’t run into as many marginal situations with poor hands as you might in something like video poker.
Raising or Folding in Oasis Poker
If you’re familiar with Caribbean stud, then this part of the game’s strategy is actually really easy. The reason for that is that you should raise or fold along the exact same lines in online Oasis Poker games. Here’s a brief summary of how to play a strong strategy in this game with the raising and folding decision:
- Always raise with a pair of twos or higher.
- If you have a high card hand but don’t have an ace and a king, then you should always fold.
- If you hold AK-high, and the dealer’s card is a queen or lower, then raise if it matches one of your own cards, and fold if it does not.
- If you hold AK-high, and the dealer’s card is also an ace or king, then raise if you hold a queen or jack in your hand, and fold if you do not.
Again, we want to emphasize that whether you drew a card or not does not affect how you play the raise or fold decision at the Oasis Poker tables online.
Raising or Folding in Caribbean Draw
You can be pretty aggressive with raising at the Caribbean Draw Poker tables because the dealer has such a high threshold for qualifying. This means that if you draw to something like a flush or straight and miss to end up with a pretty poor hand, you can still come out ahead a significant portion of the time if the dealer doesn’t qualify.
To this end, we recommend an aggressive strategy where you raise with all of the following:
- Any made hand of one pair or higher.
- Any four cards to a flush or four cards to an open-ended straight draw.
- Any gutshot straight draw (ie: only four cards can make the straight) provided that at least three of the cards in your hand are eight or higher.
- Any two cards to a royal flush (and you should also draw to these three cards if you do not have a pair, flush or straight draw).
- Any three high cards (ten or higher) regardless of the suits.
This will have you raising fairly often, and while it’s not perfectly mathematically optimal, it’s close enough considering that it’s a strategy players can learn within a few minutes.
Live Dealer Caribbean Draw Poker
At the time of this writing, there are no live dealer software providers that offer Caribbean Draw Poker (or the Oasis Poker variation). Many brick-and-mortar casinos have it in both variations of what we have described in the above, however.
If you’d like to get in on the action with a game similar to these in the live dealer environment, then we recommend Evolution Gaming’s Live Dealer Caribbean Stud Poker games. It includes numerous side bets, the largest online live dealer progressive jackpot in the world and high-definition audio and video that puts them up there with the best that the industry has to offer.
Despite the fact that there are two different games that are often called Caribbean Draw, it’s not difficult to learn how to identify each of them and to adjust your strategies according. In this case, it’s only slightly more complex than how rule changes can happen between games like video poker or blackjack, and that’s something that we think has contributed to the popularity of both.