18 Mar

Caribbean Blackjack Rules and Strategy

How to play Caribbean Blackjack, a unique game that blends 21 and poker with bonus and action bonus betting.

How to Play Caribbean Blackjack, a Unique Game that Blends 21 and PokerCaribbean Blackjack is not your grandpa’s game of 21. The action increases tri-fold as players compete in a pair of blackjack hands, plus a 5-card poker hand. The first two cards in each of those mandatory blackjack hands are combined with the dealer’s up-card to create the poker hand. Please do not confuse Caribbean Blackjack with Caribbean 21, which is a completely different game that is only available at online casinos employing RTG software.

Caribbean Blackjack was introduced to real-world casinos by Aces Up Gaming at the 2014 Cutting Edge Table Games exhibition. Following its trial debut, it showed in casinos from Las Vegas to Atlantic City in 2015. As far as I know, it is not currently available at any online casinos. I don’t expect it to show up there any time soon, either, due to its rule structure.

To achieve maximum entertainment value, the game requires multiple players. A live dealer casino platform could handle this, but there would have to be more demand for the game before any live casino operator will pick it up. With 6:5 blackjack pays and a high house edge of 1.58%, players aren’t exactly knocking down doors to find it.

How to Play Caribbean Blackjack

This game requires the player to make two bets on two separate blackjack hands. An optional Bonus Bet can also be placed on the poker hand side of the game. To better explain, I’ll walk you through a typical hand.

Example: A game starts with each player placing bets in the two blackjack betting circles. These bets are both required. Each player can, optionally, place a bet in the third betting circle marked Bonus. All cards are dealt as usual, including two hands to each player and one to the dealer. All player cards are dealt face up. The dealer’s cards are dealt one face up, the second face down.

At this point, the dealer will stop and evaluate all poker hands. Each player’s poker hand is made up of the four blackjack cards in front of him, plus the dealer’s up-card, acting as a community card for each player. All players who made the Bonus bet, and received a poker hand worthy of a payout, are paid accordingly. (See Bonus Bet Pay Table below.)

Any player who wagered $5 or more on the Bonus is also eligible for an Action Bonus. The Action Bonus pays if any other player at the table received a 5-card poker hand with a rank of Full House or better. (See Action Bonus Pay Table below.)

Next, the blackjack hands play out in typical fashion. Note that the rules are not very friendly for players. First of all, a natural blackjack pays only 6 to 5, not the usual 3 to 2. Split hands cannot be doubled, and Aces cannot be re-split or drawn to. It all adds up to a rather unpleasant house edge of 1.58%.

Specific Rules of Play

  • Decks: 1
  • Soft 17: Dealer Hits
  • Doubling: Yes, on any first 2 cards
  • Splitting: Yes, up to 3x (4 hands)
  • Double after Split: No
  • Resplit Aces: No
  • Draw to Split Aces: No
  • Surrender: No
  • Dealer Checks for Blackjack: Yes
  • Blackjack Pays: 6 to 5

Caribbean Blackjack Bonus Side Bet

There is one optional side bet in Caribbean Blackjack. It is called the Bonus Bet, and pays out if the player’s poker hand – made by combining the first two cards of each of the player’s two blackjack hands, plus the dealer’s up-card – ranks high enough. The following paytable describes the qualifying hand ranks and corresponding pay outs.

Bonus Bet Pay Table
5-Card Poker Hand Rank Payout
Royal Flush 250:1
Straight Flush 150:1
Four of a Kind 50:1
Full House 25:1
Flush 7:1
Straight 4:1
Three of a Kind 3:1
Two Pair 2:1
Pair, 10-A 1:1
Pair 2-9 Push
House Edge 10.02%
Action Bonus Pay Table

This pay table applies if you’ve wagered $5 or more on the Bonus bet. If any other player receives a 5-card poker hand rank of Full House or better, the following payouts aply to all players with “action” (bet $5+).

5-Card Poker Hand Rank Payout
Royal Flush 250:1
Straight Flush 150:1
Four of a Kind 50:1
Full House 25:1
Flush 7:1
House Edge Fluctuates*

*The house edge on the Action Bonus is dependent on the number of players at the table. It starts at 10.02% with one player (yourself), and drops down to 4.05% with a full table of seven. Think of it as an approximate decline of 1% per additional player.

Caribbean Blackjack Strategy

Before we get to the specific strategy charts, let’s take a moment to reflect on why you’re playing this game to begin with. Caribbean Blackjack is a game played for entertainment purposes above all else. If you are looking for a low-edge blackjack game to go beast-mode strategy on, this is not it. An RTP of 98.42% is not conducive of a strategy-driven game selection.

With that being said, I don’t suggest playing Caribbean Blackjack unless you’re going to participate in the poker hand that makes it so much more entertaining than your typical blackjack variants. And if you’re going to do that, you should also place a minimum $5 wager to “take action” on your opponents’ poker hands. Doing so can substantially decrease the standard 10.02% house edge on the Bonus bet.

As stated above, the more players there are at the table, the lower the Action Bonus edge becomes, falling to 4.05% with a full table. Long story short, this game should be strategically played for entertainment value with as many other players as possible.

On to the strategy charts…

Like any blackjack game, basic strategy defines how we should play each hand, based on the current circumstance – in this case, the dealer’s up-card. The following charts are segmented into Hard, Soft and Paired hands. If you have a hard total (no 11-point Ace), refer to the Hard Hand section. Conversely, a Soft hand is one that does contain an 11-point Ace. Pairs are, of course, initial hands with two cards of the exact same rank (i.e. 5-5).

The left column shows the player hand total, while the right column instructs you on how to play the hand, based on the dealer’s face-up card.

How to Decide a Player’s Hard Hand

Hard Total Correction action based on Dealer’s Up-Card
Up to 7 Hit
8 Double against 5-6, otherwise Hit
9 Double against 2-6, otherwise Hit
10 Double against 2-9, otherwise Hit
11 Double
12 Stand against 4-6, otherwise Hit
13-16 Stand against 2-6, otherwise Hit
17-21 Stand

How to Decide a Player’s Soft Hand

Soft Total Correction action based on Dealer’s Up-Card
13-16 Double against 4-6, otherwise Hit
17 Double against 2-6, otherwise Hit
18 Double against 3-6, Hit on 9-A, otherwise Stand
19 Double against 6, otherwise Stand
20-21 Stand

How to Decide a Player’s Paired Hand

Knowing how to play Speed Blackjack Live when dealt a pair to start is imperative to achieving an optimal RTP. However, by the game’s rules, you can only split once per hand. If this charts directs you to split, but you cannot do so, please refer to the above charts for the correct action.

Pairs Correction action based on Dealer’s Up-Card
2-2 Split against 3-7, otherwise Hit
3-3 Split against 4-7, otherwise Hit
4-4 Double against 5-6, otherwise Hit
5-5 Double against 2-9, otherwise Hit
6-6 Split against 2-6, otherwise Hit
7-7 Split against 2-7, Stand on 10, otherwise Hit
8-8 Split
9-9 Split against 2-6 or 8-9, otherwise Stand
10-10 Stand
A-A Split

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