Pai Gow Poker is based on a traditional Chinese game played with dominos, which has been adapted for play using a deck of 53 cards. The extra card is a joker, which can be used to complete a Straight, a Flush or a Straight Flush, or can otherwise be used as an ace. The game is played between the player and the banker. The game of Pai Gow Poker at an online casino begins by placing a wager and clicking the DEAL button. Seven cards are dealt to both players, and each of them must form two poker hands, one of 5 cards (high hand) and one of 2 cards (low hand). The object is to beat the banker on both hands.
The high hand in Pai Gow Poker is ranked like a regular poker hand, except that fives aces (four aces and the joker) is the best-possible hand rather than the Royal Flush. The low hand can either be a pair or a high card, and is ranked accordingly, with the highest hand being a pair of aces.
When the seven cards are dealt out the player must arrange the cards into the high and low hands. It is mandatory that the overall poker ranking of the high hand is bigger than the ranking of the low hand, otherwise the bet will be deemed a "foul" and the bet will be lost. Usually online Pai Gow Poker games provide you with a warning to prevent this from occurring.
Once the two hands have been chosen, the banker's hand is revealed. The player's hands are then compared to the banker's, and if both of the player's hands beat the banker's then they are payed out even money, less a 5% commission. If it's a tie, otherwise known as a "copy", the banker wins the bet. If the banker wins one hand and the player wins the other, then the bet is a push and is returned to the player.
Pai Gow Poker also sometimes offers the unique opportunity for the player to play as the banker. In this situation the player must arrange their cards in the "house way", which is essentially the fixed way that the dealer would play to provide the best opportunity to win. The house still takes 5% commission from any winning bet including the banker's winnings.
Pai Gow Poker can be a fun option for new casino players, as there are often many ties with the bet being pushed, and generally a modest buy-in can last a long time!
Pai Gow Poker Strategy
The most important thing to know about Pai Gow Poker strategy is that in order to win you must make both of your hands fairly strong. However, the High Hand must always remain better than the Low Hand or you will get a “foul” and lose the game. There are also certain guidelines regarding how one should set their hands. The table bellow shows the basic principles of Pai Gow Poker strategy and how the hands should be formed.
|Player's Hand||High (5-Card) Hand||Low (2-Card) Hand|
|No Pairs||Hand with the highest card||Second and third highest cards|
|1 Pair||A pair||2 highest cards|
|2 Pair||The higher pair||The lower pair|
|2 Pair (1 pair of Aces)||A pair of Aces||The other pair|
|3 Pair||The second and the third pair||The highest pair|
|3 of a Kind||3 of a Kind (if its Aces, split them and leave 2 Aces here)||The remaining 2 high cards|
|5, 6 or 7-Card Straight||The lowest Straight||Two highest cards left form the Straight|
This table covers the most common Pai Gow Poker hands and the way they should be played. The same card-splitting principles apply to the rest of the hands. This makes Pai Gow Poker strategy rather easy to learn, although some players might need more time to make up their hands.