How to Play Pai Gow Poker

Pai Gow is a game that was invented in China. It involves Chinese dominoes and the name Pai-Gow means “make nine” in Chinese. The game of Pai Gow poker was invented in the 1980’s and involves using a standard 52 card deck and 1 joker. It is an offshoot of the original game and maintains the Chinese heritage by adopting the dragon as a symbol of the game.


Pai Gow Poker Rules

Here are the basic rules to play pai gow poker:

A total of seven people can play in a hand of pai gow because each person needs to be dealt 7 cards (7 times 7 is 49 with 4 cards left over). Each person must bet before they get their cards. The dealer will either roll dice or use a random number generator to pick the first person dealt to. Each person is dealt all 7 cards in a row.

You are using basic poker hand rankings with two exceptions:

  1. The wheel is the second highest straight in Pai gow poker (Ace,2,3,4,5) to the royal straight (Ace,king,queen,jack,10)

  2. Because of the Joker card, you can get 5 Aces. This is the highest hand in pai gow poker.

The joker card is special in pai gow poker. It isn’t always wild. The joker’s normal value is an Ace, but it can be used to complete a flush or straight.

After you are dealt the cards, you must break up the seven cards into two hands: a two card hand and a five card hand. In the two card hand, any pair beats a non-pair and a pair of aces is the best hand.

The objective of the game is that you, the player, must beat both the banker’s 5 and 2 card hands in order to win money. If you have the better 5 card hand and the dealer has the better 2 card hand or vise versa, you will push and no money will be won or lost. If you lose both hands, you lose your bet.

If you win, it is important to note that you must pay a 5% commission on your winnings.

If you tie on one of the hands (have identical hand to the banker), it is called a copy hand. The banker always wins a copy hand. Copy hands are the reason why the banker has an advantage of about 2.5% over the player in pai gow poker.

The best strategy to winning at pai gow poker is to play the House Way. The house way is the strategy the casinos have their dealers employ. There is no decisions to make. The casinos do it this way because it gives them the best odds of winning.

It’s a pretty easy decision for you to make as well.

Pai Gow Poker at the Casinos

pai-gow-casinosYou can find pai gow poker played predominantly in American casinos as well as lots of the online casinos. The game itself is played very differently at a casino table as opposed to an online pai gow poker game.

If your playing pai gow poker at the casino, you will find yourself playing with a maximum of five other players and a dealer.

Each hand has a Banker, who is the person that everyone else is betting against. This is not always the dealer in a live casino, in fact players take turns being the banker and playing against everyone else. Players are asked in turn whether or not they would like to be the banker. The reason people do is because the banker has the advantage because he wins the copy hand.

The dealer still deals himself and he will bet the same amount that you bet against the dealer the last time he was the banker.

Another thing you will see at the casino is the “Dragon hand.” The dragon hand is what the dealer can call if a player is missing from the table. The empty spot is dealt to in turn and another player at the table may elect to bet on and play the dragon hand. This gives them two hands that they are playing at the same time.

Pai Gow Poker at an Online Casino

The one thing that you will notice about all pai gow casinos online is that the game is always one to one, you against the dealer and the dealer always gets to be the banker.

Some online casinos do a good job of keeping the spirit of pai gow poker and add features such as giving players the option to play the house way. I’ve seen some that have a random number generator that determines which seat to deal to first and then proceeds to deal all of the cards to the empty table spots as well.

If you like playing pai gow poker online, you should give Rushmore casino a try:

Rushmore Online Casino - Pai Gow

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