Tackling the “Riskier” Table Games

Cruising for Caribbean Stud Poker

Starting out as a hot draw aboard cruise ships, Caribbean Stud poker has caught on in casinos around the world. Gamblers love Caribbean Stud poker because it’s simple to play, incorporates elements of regular poker, and has a progressive jackpot that can reach $100,000 or more. (A progressive jackpot is one that continues to increase until somebody hits the jackpot.) When playing Caribbean Stud poker, the key objective is to beat the dealer’s five-card hand with your five cards — you play against the dealer only, not the other players. The winning hands are the same as in poker, but this game exhibits some unique quirks that seem to charm its growing following.

Playing the game: An overview

Up to seven players can sit in on this game, which you play at an oval-shaped table similar to that of blackjack. Even though the term poker is used for this game (and also for Pai Gown poker and Three-Card poker), all the games in this chapter are located in the same pit with blackjack and craps, rather than in the poker rooms. The following step-by-step overview can help you understand the game’s basics.

Betting in Circles with Let It Ride

Shuffle Master, Inc. invented Let It Ride poker, basing it on Five-Card Stud poker. This invention was part of a shrewd marketing ploy designed to draw slot players to table games, which, of course, created more demand for Shuffle Master products — automatic card shufflers and table games. At first glance, the game looks complex because of its three betting circles. But it’s actually uncomplicated because you aren’t competing against the other players or even the dealer. In fact, this game is one where you’re hoping the dealer has an excellent hand.

Implementing some simplified strategy

Let It Ride has a house edge that is almost ten times worse than blackjack, but you can still cut your losses with a little strategy. The smartest tactic is to determine whether your cards are good enough to let it ride or whether the hand contains only junk and you need to pull back your bets and live to fight another day. The buck stops at the third circle; you can never pull back the bet in the $ Circle, no matter how bad your hand is.

Picking Up on Pai Gow Poker

Pai Gow poker is a hybrid of Seven-Card Stud and a Chinese dominos game. (The Chinese call it Heavenly Dominos). That odd combination of celestial paradise with gaming tiles may sound confusing, even to Confucius. But if you’re familiar with poker hands, you’ll pick up the gist of Pai Gow quickly (pronounced pie now), especially because the game is played at an easy, relaxing pace. What else distinguishes this game? You turn a seven-card hand into two poker hands, you play against the dealer, and you can employ strategy to improve your chances of winning. Also, some casinos allow you to participate as the banker (the house), which increases your winning percentage dramatically.

Tripling Your Fun with Three Card Poker

Derek Webb, a professional poker player from England, invented Three Card poker in 1995. He got the idea from the British game, brag, and the American game, guts, both ancestors of poker. The game was an immediate hit with players because of its simplicity and attractive payouts.

You play this quick-paced poker variation, which is actually two games in one, with just three cards. You may play against the dealer, or you can bet that your hand will be a pair or better. Similar to Caribbean Stud poker, Three Card poker features three wagering circles at each player position: ante, play, and an optional betting circle called pair plus.

Avoiding the Riskiest Table Games

Casino gambling is all about taking risks. But you need to know the difference between taking a calculated risk and flushing your money down the toilet. Based on my experience, I think the following five games should come with the label “Warning: This game may be hazardous to your wealth.” With their astronomical house advantage and the overall lack of skill or strategy they require, these games are definitely unhealthy for your bank account. If you’re curious, try them out for a few minutes. Otherwise, stay away from them unless you’re ready to donate to the casino’s bottom line.


For the ante and play bets, my only strategy recommendation is that you have a hand of queen-6-4 or better to continue to play. Otherwise, fold and wait for greener pastures. No strategy is possible in Pair Plus, so it’s a nice game if you have a propensity to pound down drinks while you gamble.

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