Pai Gow Poker Online: An Expert Guide

Posted by James Guill .

One variation of online casino games that is seeing ever-growing popularity is Pai Gow poker. It has been around for years but has only started to gain popularity recently as more people learn to play. It’s a social game, for those who enjoy the interaction with their poker game. It provides a natural “us against them” spirit since every player’s success depends on how the banker’s hand turns out.

In this guide, we’ll cover:

  • How to play Pai Gow poker
  • How to win Pai Gow poker
  • Pai Gow poker strategies

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How to Play Pai Gow Poker

Pai Gow is a version of poker that uses a 53-card deck: the standard 52 cards, plus a Joker. Online rumors suggest that this game evolved from American poker and pai gow, a domino game invented by Chinese laborers who immigrated to America during the 19th century.

Players bet against the banker in games of Pai Gow poker. Players and the banker alike are dealt seven cards, which they must separate into two hands: one of five cards, and one of two cards. Your intended goal is to beat the banker’s five-card and two-card hands with your own.

How Do You Win at Pai Gow Poker?

A player win in Pai Gow poker requires that both your five-card hand and your two-card hand be of higher rank than the banker’s respective hands.

  • If your two-card is equal in rank to the banker’s, they are called copies, and the banker wins copies.
  • If the banker’s five-card hand beats or is equal to yours, and their two-card hand beats or is equal to yours, the player loses their bet.
  • You tie with the banker if your two-card hand beats theirs but their five-card hand beats yours. In this instance, no money is exchanged at all.

A tie also results when your five-card hand beats the dealer’s, but their two-card hand beats yours.

Pai Gow Strategy and Tips

Setting your high and low hands is crucial to winning in Pai Gow poker at a USA online casino. The following guidelines list some strategy for setting your hands.

  • As a general rule of thumb, you should try to set the highest two-card hand that you can legally set: the best two-card hand that still leaves a higher five-card hand behind.
  • More specifically, a player should expect an average hand to be something like a medium to high pair behind in the five-card hand and an ace-high in front.
  • Optimal strategy is available for setting hands in Pai Gow poker, but it requires memorizing large strategy charts. You can play close to optimal strategy by learning a few basic rules.
  • But remember, you can always ask to have your hand set the house way. The majority of house strategies can be close to playing optimal strategy.
  • Two-pair hands can be more difficult to play. It’s important to think it through carefully, because two-pair hands are common and one wrong move could ruin the outcome.
  • If your high card is an Ace, you’ll more than likely want to include the two pairs in your five-card hand. You can consider using the lower pair as your low hand if none of your singletons are that high in rank.

Pai Gow Poker Glossary

Here are some terms you might come across when learning how to play Pai Gow poker online.

Back Hand

The name of the two-card hand in Pai Gow.


The person who takes the bets, typically the dealer in online casinos.


Your stack of Pai Gow poker chips.


The tokens on the table that represent a certain value or dollar amount.

Copy Hand/Copy

A player’s hand that ranks the same as the dealer; the tie always goes to the house.

Down to the Felt

Out of chips.

Fouling Your Hand

When your two-card hand is stronger than your five-card hand.

Front Hand

The name of the five-card hand in Pai Gow.

House Edge

The house edge is the mathematical advantage that the casino has over the player.

Joker (Wild Card)

The 53rd card in a standard deck that can be used as a wild card.

On Tilt

Emotionally fueled poker betting, usually trying to chase losses.


The act of taking the initial seven cards you receive and splitting into a two and a five-card hand.

Pai Gow Poker FAQs


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James Guill

James Guill is a former professional poker player who writes fro about poker, sports, casinos, gaming legislation and the online gambling industry in general. His past experience includes working with IveyPoker, PokerNews, PokerJunkie, Bwin, and the Ongame Network. From 2006-2009 he participated in multiple tournaments including the 37th and 38th World Series of Poker (WSOP). James lives in Virginia and he has a side business where he picks and sells vintage and antique items.

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