A Basic Guide to Playing Pai Gow Poker

One variation of casino games that is seeing ever-growing popularity is Pai Gow poker online. It’s 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 that enjoy interaction with their poker. It provides a natural “us against them” spirit, since every player’s success depends on how the banker’s hand turns out.

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How to Play Pai Gow Poker

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 To Win

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.

General Rules

The banker only risks the amount of money they place on the table. The banker usually lays down enough money to cover all player bets.  But the casino may allow the banker to risk less money than that wagered by the Pai Gow poker players. The banker will shuffle the 53-card deck, and then deal seven stacks of seven cards. The players make their bets, and the dealer rolls dice from a teacup to determine which player gets the first stack of cards.

Once the stacks have been disseminated to all the players, they separate the seven cards into two hands, one of five cards, called the high hand, the other of two, called the low hand. This is known as setting. The following table lists the hierarchy for Pai Gow poker hands.

Pai Gow Poker Hand Rankings

pai gow poker hands

Strategy for Setting Hands

Setting your high and low hands is crucial to winning in Pai Gow poker at an 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.

  • 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

Pai Gow Poker Term Definition
Chips the tokens on the table that represent a certain value or dollar amount
Banker the person who takes the bets, typically the dealer in online casino settings
Front Hand the name of the two card hand in Pai Gow
Back Hand the name of the five card hand in Pai Gow
Fouling your hand when your two-card is stronger than your five-card hand
Joker / Wild Card the 53 card in a standard deck can be used as a wild card in Pai Gow
Split the act of taking the initial 7 cards you receive and splitting into 2-card and 5-card hands
Copy hand / copy player’s hand that ranks same as dealer, tie always goes to the house
House edge the mathematical advantage the casino has over the player
Bankroll your stack of Pai Gow poker chips
Down to the Felt out of chips
On Tilt emotionally fueled poker betting void of reason or strategy, trying to make up for ones losses

Pai Gow Poker FAQs