The origin of this game’s name came from a curious fusion. Pai Gow, an ancient Chinese gambling game, is played with a set of 32 Chinese dominoes. It has been around for centuries and is still pretty popular in Asia today, including in major casinos in China. The game of Pai Gow Poker, also named Double-Hand Poker, was created in the United States in the 1980s and is a modern version of the traditional Pai Gow game, with the addition of the traditional poker hand rank.
The name "Pai Gow Poker" was chosen to reflect the game's Chinese heritage and to distinguish it from other casino games. The combination of these two elements creates a unique and exciting casino game that is popular with players all over the world. At first glance, this game may seem quite challenging and confusing. With this guide, you’ll be sure to have a better understanding of the general rules and strategies that can help you beat the banker more often. In the end, there’s a strong possibility that this could easily become one of your favorite poker games.
What is Pai Gow Poker?
Pai Gow Poker is a casino card game played using a 53-card deck, consisting of a standard deck of 52 cards plus one Joker. Typically, there will be 6 players at a table, where one of them will be the designated Banker in each hand and one will be the Dealer (the Dealer can also be the Banker). The social aspect of the game is quite interesting, due to the possibility of each player being the Banker, meaning that players usually win or lose together.
The objective of the game is somewhat simple. Players have to beat the Banker by creating two hands: a five-card hand (the "High Hand") and a two-card hand (the "Low Hand"). This is Pai Gow Poker in a nutshell, but in order for you to have a better understanding of the game, it is important to deep dive into its different aspects.
How to Play Pai Gow Poker?
A round of Pai Gow Poker may be divided into 7 steps:
One person is designated the Banker, which all other players have to compete against. Then, the Dealer shuffles the 53-card deck and creates seven face-down piles composed of seven cards, each corresponding to the number of possible players in the game, even if there are empty seats. The remaining four cards of the deck are then placed in the discard rack.
All players that want to bet on this round need to do so at this stage. The Dealer then shakes the dice cup containing three dice and rolls them onto the table. The value of the three dice is added and the number resulting from that sum determines which player gets the first hand. To do so, the counting starts with the Banker position and goes counterclockwise on every betting position, including open seats.
When all cards are dealt, the Dealer collects the hands of the seats without a wager and discards them.
Now that every player has seven cards, they will use them to define two separate poker hands, one consisting of 2 cards, the “Low Hand”, and another one of 5 cards, also known as the “High Hand”. When defining the hands, if a player has a Joker, he/she can use it as an Ace or complete a Straight, Flush, or Straight Flush. It’s crucial to point out that the “High Hand” should always be of a higher rank than the “Low Hand”. If not, that’s considered a “Foul Hand” and the player automatically loses.
After all the players have set their hands and put them in the designated areas face down, the Dealer turns the Banker’s cards face up and puts them in front of the tray according to the “House Way”. This is a set of pai gow rules for when splitting seven cards into two hands. It is designed to ensure that the house plays a consistent and fair game. It is important to note that if a player touches his/her hand after the Dealer exposes the banker’s hand, this player automatically loses.
Then, in turns, each player turns their cards over and compares them to the Banker’s. Each player’s “Low Hand” is compared against the Banker’s “Low Hand”, and each “High Hand” against the Banker’s “High Hand”.
If the player wins both hands, they win the game and get paid. If the Banker wins both hands, the player loses all money wagered. If one hand is a win for the player and one hand is a win for the Banker, the game is considered a “Push”, in which no money is either won or lost. If one of the player's hands ranks exactly the same as the Banker’s, this is considered a “Copy” hand. The Banker wins all “Copy” hands.
Pai Gow Rules for Hand Ranking
Regarding the ranking of hands, Pai Gow Poker uses traditional poker hand rankings, with the highest-ranking hand being a Five-of-a-Kind, meaning the player has four Aces and a Joker. In descending order, the Five-of-a-Kind is followed by:
Royal Straight Flush
Pai Gow Poker is a casino card game that can also have side bets. A side bet is an optional bet that is separate from the main wager made in the game. In Pai Gow Poker, side bets can be placed on various outcomes, such as a player's hand forming a specific combination or the dealer's hand having a certain ranking.
Examples of Pai Gow Poker side bets include "Fortune Bonus," "Emperor's Challenge," and "Dragon Bonus." The odds of winning and payouts for these side bets vary between casinos. It is important to note that side bets often have a higher house edge, meaning that the odds are in favor of the casino.
The game is considered a combination of strategy and luck, as players must make decisions about how to split their cards into two hands, and the outcome of each hand is determined by the cards that are dealt.
Pai Gow Poker Tips & Strategies
There are several strategies that can help players increase their chances of winning. Here are some of the most important strategies for Pai Gow Poker:
Understand the ranking of hands
It's important to understand the traditional poker hand rankings, as well as the specific rules for Pai Gow Poker, in order to make informed decisions about how to split your cards into two hands.
Split your cards wisely
One of the key decisions in Pai Gow Poker is how to split your seven cards into two hands. You should aim to create two hands that are as strong as possible, while also making sure that the five-card hand is higher in rank than the two-card hand.
Consider the Joker
The Joker can be a powerful tool in Pai Gow Poker, as it can be used as an Ace or to complete Straights, Flushes, or Straight Flushes. When deciding how to split your cards, you should consider the potential uses of the Joker.
Follow the House Way
In most casinos, the Dealer follows a set of rules known as the "House Way" when splitting their seven cards into two hands. By following the House Way when splitting your cards, you can increase your chances of creating two hands that are as strong as possible.
Know when to play conservatively
In some cases, it may be best to play conservatively and split your cards in a way that minimizes your risk of losing both hands. For example, if you have a strong high hand and a weak low hand, you may want to keep the high hand as the five-card hand and the weak hand as the two-card hand.
Know when to take risks
In other cases, it may be best to take risks and split your cards in a way that maximizes your chances of winning both hands. For example, if you have a strong low hand and a weaker high hand, you may want to keep the strong low hand as the two-card hand and the weaker high hand as the five-card hand.
These are some of the most important strategies for Pai Gow Poker. By using a combination of these strategies and paying attention to the cards that are dealt, you can increase your chances of winning and have a more enjoyable and successful experience playing Pai Gow Poker.
Get Ready to be the Pai Gow Poker Master
Pai Gow Poker is a relatively slow-paced game, with each hand typically taking several minutes to play. It is considered a game of strategy, as players must make decisions about how to split their cards into two hands that will give them the best chance of winning. It is also a game of luck, as the outcome of each hand is determined by the cards that are dealt.
Overall, Pai Gow Poker is a fun and exciting casino game that is popular with players of all skill levels, in both brick and mortar or online casinos. Whether you are an experienced player or a beginner, Pai Gow Poker offers a unique combination of strategy and luck that makes it a great choice for anyone looking for a fun and challenging gaming experience. Log into your favorite online casino and start playing Pai Gow Poker online now!