How To Play Pai Gow Poker

pai gow poker tableThe whole purpose of Pai Gow Poker, which takes its name from an ancient Chinese domino game, is to form not just one but two poker hands to play off against the dealer’s two poker hands. One of these poker hands must be a 5 carded high hand and the other one needs to be a 2 carded low one.

In order to win at Pai Gow Poker, both of these hands must beat the dealer in which case you will get paid out at even money. If only one of your hands win, the round will result in a push, while if neither of your hands win, then you will lose your bet. As you might expect, there are a lot of pushes in this game.

Despite its name, the game actually hails from the USA. It was invented in 1985 by American casino owner Sam Torosian who owned the Bell Card Club at the time. The game, which takes its name from the Chinese domino game Pai Gow, is very simple to play which makes it quick to learn as well as being suitably slow-paced for new comers.

Pai Gow Poker uses a standard deck of 52 cards plus one joker and allows for a maximum of six players in a game along with the dealer.

Jokers More Than Just Wild Cards

money and pile of cards with a joker on top

Jokers are more than just wild cards in Pai Gow Poker, they actually step in and replace other cards in particular circumstances. For instance, it can step in as an ace, complete a straight, complete a flush or to complete a straight flush. Once the antes have all been posted according to the table minimum, the dealer then deals each player 7 cards. Standard ranking of poker hands apply and as soon as you have your cards, it is time to set your hand.

As we have already mentioned above, you are looking to split these seven cards across two hands of five and two cards apiece. Obviously you are looking to make the best two possible hands but, there is a catch, however. The 5 card hand must outrank the 2 card hand. If your two card hand contains the more powerful cards, it will be deemed a foul and you will automatically lose. Considering the best 2 card hand you can muster up is a pair, outranking a high card, this isn’t as tough as it first sounds. Naturally, this means that they best 2 card hand is a pair of aces while the worst is the lowest possible 3 and 2.

In Pai Gow Poker, players are able to bet against the dealer as well as the other players, while the optional banker duty rotates clockwise around the table among all of the players in the much the same way as the dealer button does in regular poker games.

Playing Pai Gow Poker

pai gow poker table example hand

At the start of each round, a player gets the chance to be banker but many decline owing to the necessity of needing a hefty bankroll. The house edge in Pai Gow Poker is 2.7% but this is lower when you are playing as the banker. To that end, you should always play as the banker so long as you can afford to of course.

It is also a good idea to attempt to balance out both the 5 card hand and the 2 card hand as much as possible so as to greater improve your chances of winning. There are many players who focus solely on creating the best 5 card hand they can, while ignoring the fact that the 2 carder must win also to make a pay out.

Pai Gow Poker Pay Table

Hand Pay Out
Natural 7-card Straight Flush 8,000 to 1
Royal Flush + Royal Match 2,000 to 1
Wild 7-card Straight Flush 1,000 to 1
5 Aces 400 to 1
Royal Flush 150 to 1
Straight Flush 50 to 1
Four of a Kind 25 to 1
Full House 5 to 1
Flush 4 to 1
Three of a Kind 3 to 1
Straight 2 to 1

Regarding the ranking of hands, Pai Gow Poker uses the traditional poker hand rankings, with the highest ranking hand being a Five of a Kind, which would mean that the player would be holding four Aces and a Joker. In descending order, the table above shows some common Pai Gow Poker hands.

Twice the hands, twice the thought process, hence, while remaining a simple game, Pai Gow Poker is one of the most skilful games around.

Pai Gow Poker FAQs

What Is Pai Gow Poker Exactly?

Pai Gow Poker is a poker game variation in which a player is dealt 7 cards from which they needs to make the best 5 card poker hand and best 2 card poker hand as possible. Winning hand combinations are exactly the same as in regular poker where the best poker hand is the Royal flush and the weakest is a High card. The winner is the player who wins both hands, although there are also exceptions depending on the Pai Gow Poker variant that you are playing as well as possible side bets.

How Do You Play Pai Gow Poker?

In a nutshell, you play Pai Gow Poker by setting your bet or bets before crafting two poker hands from the 7 cards that have been dealt to you, one 5 card hand plus one 2 card hand. The game follows traditional poker rankings which means that the best 5 card hand in Pai Gow Poker is a Royal flush, and the best 2 card hand is a Pair of Aces.

What Are the Table Limits for Pai Gow Poker?

Table limits will vary depending on which casino you are playing at, but minimum bets are normally range from £1, £5 or £15, while maximum bets can range from anywhere between $100 to $500.

Do I Need Any Prior Experience To Play Pai Gow Poker?

Not really, although you will have a better chance of success if you are more familiar with the basics of poker and of course what constitutes a good and bad hand, or in this case hands. Because of this practicing Pai Gow Poker for free online before you put your money at risk would be a smart move.

What Does Pai Gow Poker Actually Mean?

As we mentioned above, Pai Gow Poker gets its name from the Chinese domino game of Pai Gow, which roughly translates to make nine. In the domino game of the same name, the most points you can get for a hand is nine, thus the name.

Where Can I Play Pai Gow Poker?

Pai Gow Poker is available to play at numerous online casinos.

Does Pai Gow Poker Have Good Odds?

The Pai Gow Poker return to player (RTP) rate is normally around the is +97% mark which on a similar level as other popular casino games such as Blackjack, Baccarat and a lot of other video poker games.