Pai Gow Poker is an alternative poker version, one that came about by combining game elements from classic poker and traditional Chinese Pai Gow dominos.
Instead of playing against each other, Pai Gow poker players play against the house. The game is thought to be invented by a casino owner called Sam Torosian in the mid-1980s, and it’s becoming increasingly popular in recent years.
As opposed to a regular poker game where usually five cards are dealt, in Pai Gow Poker players get seven cards. Read on to see what Pai Gow, everyone’s favorite poker game with a twist, is all about.
Learn the Rules & Lingo
Those who have no idea how Pai Gow works should take some time to read about the game’s rules and lingo. After all, don’t try to run before you can walk. Learn the theory and then start thinking about joining a Pai Gow poker table.
You play Pai Gow, also known as double-hand poker, with a standard 52-card deck with the addition of one Joker card. The primary objective is to make two poker hands from the seven cards each player gets: one 5-card hand and a 2-card hand.
These two hands are often called the back hand and the front hand, the big and the minor hand, or the high hand and the low hand. You need to pay special attention to the Joker card, as you can use it as a substitute for a card to complete a Straight or a Flush.
If it appears in the 2-card hand, the Joker will always have the value of an Ace. The essential rule in Pai Gow poker is that your 5-card hand must rank higher than your 2-card hand. The 2-card hand can only have either a Pair or two High Cards.
Splitting your hand is a crucial moment in the game because if you make the mistake and your minor hand outranks your big hand, you will automatically lose. Once the hands are split across the table, the house compares its hand to each of the players’ hands, and the winnings are paid.
If you have played standard (Texas Hold ’em) poker before, you won’t have any trouble comparing hands in Pai Gow poker. The usual rankings apply, with a few exceptions. We present the ranking below from strongest to weakest:
- Five of a Kind – Four aces and the joker.
- Royal Flush – A, K, Q, J, and 10 of the same suit.
- Straight Flush – Five cards of the same suit in sequence (if both the player and the house hold a Straight Flush, the hand with the highest card wins).
- Four of a Kind – Four cards of matching rank (if both the player and the house have Four of a Kind, the hand with the highest card wins).
- Full House – Three cards of the same rank and two cards of a different yet matching rank.
- Flush – Five cards of the same suit.
- Straight – Five consecutive cards regardless of the suit.
- Three of a Kind – Three cards of the same rank with two cards that don’t match.
- Two Pairs – A double set of two cards of matching rank with one unmatched card.
- Pair – Two cards of the same rank and one unmatched card.
- High Card – In a combination of unmatched cards, the highest one carries the hand.
A round of Pai Gow poker begins with the players placing bets before receiving any cards. In this game, only this one bet is made, and it has to be within the minimum and maximum limits of the table.
When all the bets are placed, the players can receive their cards – 7 cards each, including the house/the dealer (these cards are placed face-down). Once you’ve got the cards, it is your task to arrange them into two poker hands, a standard 5-card hand and a 2-card hand.
For the best results, try to split the hand in a way which gives you the strongest possible hands. Your 2-card hand should also be strong, yet it must not outrank your big hand. The dealer’s hand (the hand of the house) is split according to the House Way, which may slightly vary from one venue to the next.
Once the hands are rearranged and set, the players’ back hand is compared to the house’s back hand and the front to the front. The rankings, as explained above, apply and the hands are evaluated. If both of your hands are better than both of the dealer’s hands, you win and get paid your wager at 1:1 odds.
If only one of the two beats the dealer’s hand, the round is considered a push. In this case, some casinos will return your bet, while in some this will be considered as a win for the house. Obviously, if the house presents stronger hands, both of them, you lose.
Enhance Your Gaming Skills Through Practice
Play a few rounds for free to get used to the feel of the game and to memorise the hand rankings more easily. Demo versions of Pai Gow poker are perfect for practice. By selecting to play for fun, you can test yourself and see if you have mastered all the rules of the game before you actually stake any money.
One of the better ways of learning how to set your hands optimally is through practice, and once you feel you have played enough rounds of trial, simply create an account, make a deposit and start wagering. Of course, make sure you are playing at a licensed, safe casino before you do that.
Incorporate Strategic Tips on How to Arrange Your Hands
Every hand in Pai Gow poker is unique and the game requires thinking and going through multiple different combinations before you can land on the best one for that round.
That’s what makes it suspenseful and exciting. If you find it difficult to see the best hands in the cards that you’re assigned with, feel free to consult some of the strategies available online.
Some of the basic strategy tips include leaving the highest-ranked card in the back (big) hand and putting the second two highest-ranking cards in the front (small) hand if you get a set of 7 completely unconnected cards.
While the strategy doesn’t guarantee a win, it helps lower the house advantage and increases your possibilities of being favoured by Lady Luck.