The Real History of Caribbean Stud Poker

History of Caribbean Stud PokerLike so many gamblers, I’ve always enjoyed a few rounds of Caribbean Stud Poker. It’s not the most lucrative game in the casino (which is why I said “a few rounds”), but its progressive jackpot does have a strong appeal for those dreaming of instant wealth. It’s also quite fun to play, which always helps.

Oddly enough, despite being a relatively new game, the history of Caribbean Stud Poker is often shrouded in a bit of mystery. There are multiple tales of how it came about – who invented it, where it was first played, and why it’s now so popular at land-based and online casinos.

We’ll take a look at three versions of the story, including (at least) one that is most widely believed, due to the range of evidence and detail that backs it up.

History of Caribbean Stud Poker – Vol.1

The first historical recollection of how Caribbean Stud Poker came to be was told by professional poker player and author of multiple gambling strategy books, David Sklansky. How would he know the story? Because Sklansky claims to have invented the game himself in 1982.

Sklansky (left) said he formulated the first banked poker, calling it ‘Casino Poker‘, but that the rules were slightly different, such as the dealer showing two hole cards, not just one. He was told by a lawyer that he could not patent the game,. He then befell numerous hardships in his personal life that led him to give up on the idea for awhile.

Then in 1985, he was approached by another poker player who asked him about the game, having heard of its existence on cruise ships around Aruba. Somehow, it ended up in the hands of Danny Jones, owner of the Aruba casino, The King International (now Excelsior Casino), who patented it in 1987.

Is this true? It’s hard to say. We only have Sklansky’s word to go on, but it is possible that his version could tie directly into the so-called “true” history of the game (see Vol.3 below).

History of Caribbean Stud Poker – Vol.2

The second, and also believable story, goes something like this. Numerous gamblers said they played a game with the same rules on a Caribbean cruise ship. Danny Jones, owner of The King International casino in Aruba, is said to have heard about the game, and how popular it was among passengers. He then purchased it, acquired a patent, and gave it the new title, Caribbean Stud Poker.

History of Caribbean Stud Poker – Vol.3

This last story is generally accepted as the true history of Caribbean Stud Poker, and comes with a lot more details that make much it believable. It dates back to 1987, when a seasoned gambler by the name of James Suttle was playing Texas Holdem at Binion’s Horseshoe in Downtown Las Vegas.

Suttle came upon a poker player who was having a bad run (could this be Skalnsky’s informant from Vol.1?) and was looking to borrow some cash. According to the story, Suttle lent the man $5,000 in exchange for teaching him the rules of a new banked poker game. James was good friends with Danny Jones, a games developer and owner of The King International, and believed he could make a tidy profit selling it to him.

Note that Suttle denies lending the man $5,000, but acknowledges selling the game to his friend, Danny Jones.

The King International Casino ArubaMr. Jones indeed purchased the game from Suttle and began marketing it at his Aruba casino under the company D&D Gaming Patents. He called it Caribbean Stud Poker, hoping to attract cruise line tourists. He had little success early on, until one day when he found himself playing poker at Binion’s Horseshoe with software engineer Michael Titus.

After discussing the game at length, Titus told Jones the casino’s edge was simply too high to attract players. It was his idea to incorporate a progressive jackpot into Caribbean Stud Poker. Jones took his advice, and the result was phenomenal, attracting players like flies to honey.

Caribbean Stud Poker now belongs to SHFL Entertainment (formerly Shuffle Master), a subsidiary of Bally Technologies, following a gross mishandling by Danny’s son, Donald Jones. In 1997, intent on carrying on the family business with his own company, Progressive Games, Inc. Donald had his Nevada gaming licence revoked. He subsequently lost the rights to the game along the away.

You can read about the more recent history of Caribbean Stud Poker, and the publicly documented Jones’s family misfortune, here.

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