Lunar Poker is a variation on one of the most popular hybrid casino table games: Caribbean Stud Poker. It gives players the chance to win twice using the same 5 card hand. When a player has two possible hands created by their five cards, they will get paid for both hands. This makes the game that much more interesting.
For those looking to play Lunar Poker and would like to learn more before putting your bankroll on the line, this guide will show you everything. Here you’ll find a detailed walkthrough explaining the game’s rules and structure, including the available wagers, various pay tables, and player actions. Read our guide to locating Lunar Poker tables, as well as online casinos. followed by a strategy session designed to increase your edge.
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The game Lunar Poker is a variant of Caribbean Stud Poker, a five card stud poker game. This means the standard 52 card deck of playing cards will be in play. However, instead of the multiple deck shoes commonly found on the blackjack tables, only a single deck is used during each hand, which is then reshuffled before a new hand begins.
The objective of Lunar Poker is to create the best possible five card poker hand, according to the traditional hierarchy of poker hand rankings.
Poker Hand Rankings
It’s been 13 years since the famous “poker boom,” so don’t worry if you’ve forgotten how the poker hand ranking system works. For a refresher course on what beats what, see the table below:
|Royal Flush||Broadway straight (A K Q J 10) in the same suit|
|Straight Flush||Five consecutive cards (9 8 7 6 5) in the same suit|
|Four of a Kind||Four of same card (Q Q Q Q A)|
|Full House||Three of a kind + one pair (Q Q Q A A)|
|Flush||Five cards in the same suit (2h 6h 9h Kh Ah)|
|Straight||Five consecutive cards (6 5 4 3 2)|
|Three of a Kind||Three of same card (Q Q Q 2 A)|
|Two Pair||Two pairs of the same card (Q Q A A 2)|
|One Pair||One pair of the same card (Q Q 4 3 2)|
|High Card||No pair, highest card is rank of hand (A K 4 3 2)|
Winning Twice With the Same Hand
After reading the steps to playing, you may think Lunar Poker definitely deserves its reputation as a table game that is complex. You’d be correct, but the game adds yet another wrinkle to make things even more complicated.
In Lunar Poker, players can win twice on the same hand, whenever they hold two different poker hands among their five-card combination. In order to earn more than one payout, however, the cards used to form the first winning hand can’t be present in the second hand.
Two Hand Victory Example
Imagine you hold a final five card hand of As Kd 9h 9c 2d, giving you one pair of nines as your best five card poker hand. The dealer has a qualifying hand but can’t beat your nines, so you’ll earn an even money payout of $10 on your Play bet. But you also hold another hand on the Play bet pay table above ace king high.
So, with ace king high standing separately from the pair of nines, we’d receive an additional payout of $10 at even money on our Play bet.
Hands that contain two or more poker hands, but also use the same card to form both, include flushes or straights with the ace king (Ah Kh 9h 4h 2h or As Kd Qh Jc 10s), or full houses (Qd Qs Qc 9h 9d). For the last hand, you might have one pair of nines, three of a kind in queens, and a full house with queens over nines, but in each case, the same cards are used to create each hand, and thus you won’t be entitled to an extra Play bet payout.
Super Bet Payouts
Super bets are paid out according to the paytable below:
|Four of a Kind||250 to 1|
|Five Face Cards||120 to 1|
|Full House||100 to 1|
|Flush||60 to 1|
|Straight||30 to 1|
|Three of a Kind||8 to 1|
|Ace-King-Queen||5 to 1|
|Five Cards of Same Color||2 to 1|
Instant Payout Pay Table
|Royal Flush||1,000 to 1|
|Straight Flush||250 to 1|
Anytime a player declares one of these two monster hands and earns an Instant Payout, the dealer will then collect the player’s cards and they’ll be finished with the hand. We are sure that no one would object to ending the round with those big payouts.
Play Bet Payouts
|Royal Flush||100 to 1|
|Straight Flush||50 to 1|
|Four of a Kind||20 to 1|
|Full House||7 to 1|
|Flush||5 to 1|
|Straight||4 to 1|
|Three of a Kind||3 to 1|
|Two Pair||2 to 1|
|One Pair||1 to 1|
|Ace-King High||1 to 1|
Steps to Playing Lunar Poker
Place Initial Wagers: Ante & Super Bets
To begin the game, each player at the table must put up two mandatory wagers: the Ante bet and the Super bet.
Additionally, you can also choose to place an extra Super bet based on the strength of the dealer’s hand, or a Super bet based on another player’s hand. (More information on how these bets work will be provided below).
Dealer Hands Out Cards
Once all players have put up their Ante bet and Super bet, along with any extra Super bets on other hands, the dealer will then distribute five cards face down to each player, along with five cards to themselves. For the dealer’s hand, the bottom card among the five will be turned face up, providing partial information to players as to the potential strength of the dealer’s hand.
Examine Cards for Super Bet Payout
At this point, the dealer will then ask players to examine their cards and immediately declare any winning Super bets. The mandatory Super bet applies only to your own five-card hand, while optional Super bets you place on either the dealer’s hand or another player’s hand obviously apply to those five card combinations.
Do You Have a Royal Flush or Straight Flush?
Next, players must also announce to the dealer when their first five cards happen to form either a straight flush or the elusive royal flush. Again, these hands are quite rare, especially when holding just your five hole cards before the draw, so don’t expect to see this happen all too often.
When a player does declare either a straight flush or a royal flush, however, the dealer will award payouts based on the Instant Payout pay table (above).
Now, the game really begins. After the initial Super bet payouts are settled, along with any Instant Payout awards, all players who still hold a live hand will run through a four-part decision process.
Depending on the relative strength of your five-card combination, or its potential to improve, against the dealer’s up card, you now have four actions to choose from: Fold, Play, Buy, or Exchange. Each of these moves is described in detail below:
- Fold: When you Fold, you simply slide your five cards face down toward the dealer to surrender the hand, and your pending bets will be claimed by the house.
- Play: When you decide to Play, you must place an additional Play wager equal to exactly double the amount of your Ante bet. This wager should be placed in the betting square labeled “BET” directly above where your cards will be placed.
- Buy: When you decide to Buy, you must pay a fee equal to exactly the amount of your Ante bet in order to draw a sixth card from the deck in an effort to improve your hand.
- Exchange: When you decide to Exchange, you must pay a fee equal to exactly the amount of your Ante bet, and this payment entitles you to discard between two and five of your cards, while drawing replacements from the deck.
Players who have taken either the Buy or Exchange options will then examine their new cards, before running through the same decision to Fold or Play.
Show Your Strongest Hand
When all players have made their decisions, the dealer will then reveal their four hole cards and declare the value of their strongest five-card poker hand. On occasions when the dealer’s hand qualifies for a Super bet payout, any player who placed a Super bet on the dealer’s hand will then receive their corresponding payout.
Now, the dealer will compare their hand to each player hand, before awarding payouts to the winners. For this process, the dealer must produce a hand of Ace-King high or better in order to qualify.
- When the dealer does hold a qualifying hand, players who hold a better hand will have their Ante bet paid out at even money, while their Play bet will be paid out according to the paytable (below).
- When the dealer’s hand ties with your hand, you’ll see both the Ante bet and the Play bet returned as a push. And of course, when the dealer’s hand is superior to yours, the house will claim both your Ante bet and your Play bet.
When all payouts have been awarded, and all losing bets claimed by the house, the dealer will then reshuffle the deck and begin the next hand.
As an example, we’ll reference a hypothetical hand to help illustrate how the bets, payouts, and other rules work. So going forward, imagine that we’ve placed a $5 chip on the Ante bet, another $5 on the Super bet, and $5 more for a Super bet on the dealer’s hand.
As we were dealt the Kh Ks Qd Jc Jd, we’d want to immediately declare to the dealer that we hold a winning Super bet hand. In this case, we have five face cards in the hole, good for a massive 120 to 1 payout on our initial $5 wager on the Super bet for a $600 score.
Of course, this is just an example hand, and you’ll be far more likely to show down Super bet hands like A K Q or three of a kind.
Our particular combination of Kh Ks Qd Jc Jd actually makes this choice quite difficult.
Holding two pair of kings and queens already, we’d obviously like to try and improve to a full house. The Exchange option only allows you discard and replace between two and five cards, however, so we’d be forced to break up the two pair. We could also elect to Buy the sixth card, but the chances of spiking another king or queen for a full house are rather slim, so this additional $5 payment may not be worth the risk. Finally, we could simply decide to Play and roll forward with the two pair alone.
- We’ll walk through a few possible scenarios with our Kh Ks Qd Jc Jd in the hole.
- First, we could simply place the Play bet for an additional $10 (double the $5 Ante bet) and stand pat with two pairs. Should the dealer produce a qualifying hand of at least ace king high, and our two pair is the best hand, we’d receive a payout of 2 to 1 on our $10 Play bet for a $20 profit.
- We could, however, decide to pay the $5 fee to Buy the sixth card, hoping to improve to a full house. If we do catch lucky and draw another king or queen, we’d gladly give up that $5 payment before scooping a 7 to 1 payout of $70 on our $10 Play bet.
- Finally, even though this wouldn’t be a smart play, we could go ahead and pay $5 to Exchange a portion of our hand. Let’s say we keep the kings and drop the other three, before getting very lucky to catch two more kings. Our four of a kind would be good for a 20 to 1 payout of $200 on our $10 Play bet.
Best Places to Play Lunar Poker
A game with cultural roots extended long before its official “invention” by TCS John Huxley, Lunar Poker has slowly spread to casinos all over the planet.
According to current rights holder Mara Games, the following casino properties have permanently installed Lunar Poker tables within their table game pit:
United States Casinos
- Cache Creek Casino Resort (California)
- Blue Chip Casino Hotel Spa (Indiana)
- Treasure Chest Casino (Louisiana)
- Treasure Island Resort & Casino (Minnesota)
- Sam’s Town Hotel & Gambling Hall (Mississippi)
- Hollywood Casino St. Louis (Missouri)
- Kiowa Casino (Oklahoma)
- Osage Million Dollar Elm Casino (Oklahoma)
- Mount Airy Casino Resort (Pennsylvania)
- SkyCity Darwin (Australia)
- Casino Arenia (Mexico)
- Christchurch Casino (New Zealand)
- SkyCity Auckland (New Zealand)
- City of Dreams Casino (Philippines)
- Resorts World Manila (Philippines)
- Solaire Resort & Casino (Philippines)
- Widus Hotel & Casino Clark (Philippines)
- Casino Rouge et Noir (St. Maarten)
- Grand Hotel & Casino (Vanuatu)
As the Mara Games website states, however, Lunar Poker is continually being added to new casino properties. You can stay up to date with new locations by checking out the list of Lunar Poker casinos.
When it doubt, don’t hesitate to place a few phone calls to your favorite local casinos and ask around. A friendly table games manager may have heard of a recent Lunar Poker installation, and they’ll usually be happy to take inquiries from interested gamblers.
Lunar Poker Strategy
In terms of analyzing Lunar Poker strategy to arrive at optimal plays given any possible scenario – which you may be familiar with if you’ve ever studied blackjack basic strategy – this game doesn’t cooperate as easily.
In fact, according to America’s top casino game theorist and gambling mathematician Michael Shackleford, who runs the invaluable Wizard of Odds website, Lunar Poker provides an astounding 627,392,769,491,403,000,000 possible outcomes. When Shackleford, who has spent much of his professional life analyzing casino games, deems one to be essentially unsolvable, you can be sure that he’s put in the work to test that theory.
Basic Lunar Poker Strategy
Thankfully for Lunar Poker fans around the world, the game’s overwhelming complexity didn’t dissuade Shackleford from creating a basic outline for Lunar Poker strategy, one which helps simplify the game’s multilayered decision-making process.
Take a look at the basic strategy guidelines for Lunar Poker to see the best way to proceed with the first decision and second decision:
|First Decision: Play, Fold, Buy, or Exchange|
|Straight Flush||Players should Buy the sixth card.|
|Four of a Kind||Players should place the Raise bet.|
|Full House||Players should Buy the sixth card only when the dealer’s up card doesn’t match one of your cards.
When the dealer’s up card does match one of your cards, you should place the Raise bet instead.
|Three of a Kind||Players should Exchange two cards only when the dealer’s up card doesn’t match your three of a kind card rank.
When the dealer’s up card does match up, you should place the Raise bet instead.
|Two Pair||Players should place the Raise bet.|
|One Pair||Players should Buy the sixth card only when holding any straight or flush draw as well..
When your one pair rank is higher than or equal to the dealer’s up card, you should place the Raise bet.
When your one pair rank is less than the dealer’s up card, you should Exchange two cards.
|Ace-King High||Players should Buy the sixth card only when holding any straight or flush draw.
Otherwise, you should Exchange two cards.
|Ace-King (Lower)||Players should Buy the sixth card when holding any straight or flush draw.
Exchange two cards when holding any ace or king plus another face card.
Exchange all five cards in all other scenarios.
|Second Decision: Play or Fold|
|Ace-Queen-King or Better||Players should always place the Raise bet.|
|Any Other Hand||Players should always Fold.|
When you adhere to these basic guidelines at the Lunar Poker tables, you can be sure that your play is maximizing your expected value given the variables for each of the two decision points.
Lunar Poker Launched
The hybrid table game known as Lunar Poker was initially launched by casino game manufacturer TCS John Huxley in 2009.
By late 2012, however, ownership rights on the Lunar Poker concept had been acquired by Mara Enterprises Limited, a casino game design firm which is also known as Mara Games.
Today, the game is licensed for use by a third casino game company, Catco Gaming.
Lunar Poker Roots
According to casino game lore, the idea behind Lunar Poker, while officially credited to TCS John Huxley, actually stems from casino gamblers in Russia. There, players at the Caribbean Stud Poker tables decided that the game would be more fun with an option to draw additional cards in hopes of improving one’s hand. Eventually, a few clever casino operators catered to this growing demand for a draw based Caribbean Stud Poker alternative, and Lunar Poker was born.
Alternate Names and Variations
Depending on the location, Lunar Poker is also played under the names Royal Poker, Russian Poker, or Oasis Poker.
Adding to the intrigue, another hybrid table game was invented by online casino software provider Gamesys N.V. to mimic the rules and structure of Lunar Poker. This online-only alternative is known as 6 Card Poker 1 2 5, and you can read up on the game on our 6 Card Poker page.