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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: Poaching or no foul?

25 July 2011

Dear Mark: I sat down at a Caribbean stud poker game last week here in Canada. At the table was one other player and the dealer was ready to deal. I bought in and placed a $10 bet and the $1 bonus bet. I received four 3s and a king. The dealer qualified and I was paid $400 for the four-of-a-kind and $500 for the bonus. The other player was quite upset because he said it would have been his hand had I not sat down and felt he was entitled to some of the money. Ended up to be quite a scene so I gave him $50.00, tipped the dealer $25.00 and left. What is the protocol in this case? Wayne C.

Caribbean stud is a five-card stud poker game played on a blackjack type table with a 52-card deck. Caribbean stud also offers a progressive jackpot that you may qualify to win on specific hands by adding one additional dollar to your original wager. The top prize is a royal flush, but those four-of-a-kinds also pay a pretty sweet $500 dividend on the optional $1 Progressive Jackpot bet, and usually 20 to one with the Call Bet Bonus schedule. It seems where you were playing that the payoff was a considerably more generous 40 to one ($400) for the four 3s.

Cards are normally dealt from a multi-deck "shoe" or by an automatic shuffling machine that deals in groups of five-card hands, meaning in your case, that you were dealt five cards face down, then the dealer moved on to the other player, who was then dealt five cards. The dealer then dealt himself five cards; four face down, one face up. Then all hell broke loose when you appeared to have poached the other player’s four 3s and a king.

Appropriate etiquette when playing on a hand-held single- or double-deck game like blackjack is to wait until the dealer shuffles before you jump in, especially if other players are winning and they do not want you to change their luck.

Some casinos do not even allow you to start playing in the middle of a single or double-deck game. But on a shoe or automatic shuffler, most casinos allow you to jump in immediately. Therefore, Wayne, being that most Caribbean stud games are dealt from a multi-deck "shoe" or by an automatic shuffling machine, technically, I see no foul, nor an obligation to give the other player $50 of your windfall.

I did say “technically”; still, it is considered polite to ask before you join any game, and there are reasons for this, one being to avoid the sort of confrontation you had with another player whose flow of cards was changed. In his eyes, you trespassed on a game already in progress, and suddenly his perceived luck changed. And guess whose fault that is? Yep, you, Wayne, the new player.

Many players’ superstitions lead to strong – if questionable – beliefs, so to prevent ruffling feathers, you might either avoid joining a game in progress, or graciously ask, “Do mind if I join you?”

By the way, Wayne, with Caribbean stud, the best you can hope for is a casino edge of about 5.2 percent based on the player's ante wager or 2.6 percent based on the ante and call bet. As for that progressive wager you hit, the average house edge is over 26 percent, depending, of course, on the size of the jackpot.

Those progressive meter jackpots suck plenty of players into a dollar wager with the hope of being dealt a “natural” royal flush. The true odds are almost 650,000 to 1. Yes, it’s that high and here’s the math. There are 2,598,560 possible five-card combinations in a standard 52-card deck. With four ways to make a royal flush, the true odds of hitting a natural royal are 649,760 to one. Pretty long odds, isn’t it, especially when the progressive meter is nowhere near that figure? And yet, you bucked those odds, putting me in a position of congratulating you on your payday.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “If it wasn't for all the money I keep losing, this poker thing could be a lot of fun.” —VP Pappy
Recent Articles
Best of Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.