What’s Up With Pai Gow Poker?

2 June 2018 4 minutes to read
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Pai Gow Poker sounds like an exotic Asian game laced with intricate rules and strategy. You’ll notice that it’s just another poker game where you’re dealt 7 cards from a regular deck of 52 cards, a joker is thrown into the mix as well. The aim of the game is to beat the dealer’s hands by making the highest possible hand.

Players make a wager on their hand, on the bonus bet and on the progressive jackpot if they feel lucky. Both the player and the dealer each receive seven cards. You can use the joker to complete a straight or a flush – the highest hand in Pai Gow Poker is a straight flush while a hand with no pair is the lowest, plus a 9-high Pai Gow is lower than a 10-high Pai Gow.

You must make a high-hand of five cards and a lower two-card hand. Now, if you want to win, your high-hand must beat the dealer’s hand, this includes your low-hand too. In Pai Gow Poker the highest straight is the Ace-King-Oueen-Jack-Ten. The second highest straight is Ace-two-three-four-five (”Wheel”). It’s important to keep this in mind when you set your hand.

Tip: Because the edge to the house on the bonus is high don’t bet the bonus!

How Do I Arrange My Cards In Pai Gow Poker?

When your 7 cards are dealt split them into two poker hands. The big hand/high hand also known as the back hand will be your standard 5-card and the low hand/front hand consists of 2 cards. The low hand can be a pair or two high cards.

“House Way” Pai Gow Rules

In Pai Gow Poker the dealer must set his/her cards in specific ways this is known as the “House Way.” Obviously it differs from one casino to the next, before you play always check what the casino’s House Way is.

What Does A Winning Hand In Pai Gow Poker Look Like?

Your corresponding two hands must be compared to that of the dealer’s:

  • A bet of 1:1 can be made on condition both your hands beats the dealer hands.
  • When it’s a push only one of your hands beats the dealer’s.
  • You’ll lose the bet if both your hands are worse than the dealer’s.
  • If it’s a tie the dealer wins.


What’s The Joker’s Value?

You can use the Joker in the following three ways:

  • It can be used to complete a Straight.
  • Can be used to complete any any suite or a Flush.
  • If the Joker cannot be used for either of the above it’s always an Ace. This specifically applies to the two-card hand.


The House Edge

What gives the house the edge is the tie aspect, 2.6% of the time two hands will tie. Furthermore, on winning wagers the house charges a commission of 5%, in other words your $10 bets gets paid $9.50. On the bonus and the progressive wager the house also has a larger edge. Suffice to say the listed payoffs are tempting simply because the house edge is high and it’s hard to resist a progressive wager if the payout is a few hundred thousand dollars!

Essentially Pai Gow Poker has a low house edge of around 2.8% assuming it’s played with optimal strategy. For every hand you win the casino takes a commission of 5%, the banker has an advantage of 1.3% because there’s no House commission.

Setting Your Hand

The setting of each hand is done in a specific manner to reduce the chance that it will lose both the high and the low sometimes passing on the chance to play the highest possible hand. Here’s an example, when the 7-card starting group includes two pair and a straight, the house passes on the straight and plays the best pair in the high-hand with the lower pair in the high-hand. It’s important that you do the same.

What happens when you’re dealt four Aces with a King, Queen and Jack? Should you play the four Aces with the Jack in your high-hand and the King-Queen in the low-hand chasing the win, or should you play a pair of Aces in the low-hand knowing that you can’t get beat? In this scenario always play a pair of Aces in each hand. Don’t gamble – always play a good two-card low-hand to protect your wager, if you play like this not only will you protect your bankroll but you’ll secure another round.

Whatever you do don’t let your small hand outrank your big hand because you’ll lose the bet you’ve made. This is known as “fouling your hand”.


Pai Gow Strategy

You can’t lose against the dealer if one of your hands beats his. In order tro get the strongest possible two-card hand split your hand – it must not be higher than your five-card hand! Aim to make your five card hand a straight or better. If you don’t have a pair of pairs do the following:

  • The highest value card must be left in your big hand (back).
  • The second 2 highest cards must be placed in the small hand.

If you have one pair do this:

  • Play it in your big hand and add your two highest cards to your low hand.

Should you have two pairs split them like this:

  • If you have a pair of Aces.
  • If you have two Jacks or two Aces (two high pairs).
  • One medium pair or a high pair (AA, JJ).

For optimal strategy in Pai Gow Poker always play 3-of-a-kind, if you have three Aces, slot one Ace in your high hand and the other Ace to your low hand. If you don’t have two pair play straight or flushes in your high hand. If you have quads (4-of-a-kind) split them into 2 pairs but they must be JJ or higher.

If I Have a Full House What Must I do?
The pair that is in your 2-card hand always play it and if it’s 3-of-a-kind in your high hand. Split your cards if you have a Joker or 5 Aces.


1. https://www.pokerlistings.com/casino-rules-pai-gow-poker

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