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Pai Gow Poker

Pai Gow is a game of dominoes played by the Chinese. Pai Gow Poker is an Americanized version of this game. It is played with cards that have poker hand values and was created by Fred Wolf and Sam Torosian. The game is played with a standard fifty two card deck and a single Joker. The table is set for six players and each player tries to win against the banker, who is generally the dealer in a casino.

Pai Gow Poker Layout

Fred Wolf is not only the inventor of games such a Pai Gow poker and Super Pan-9, he was also the manager of the Commerce Casino in the 80’s. He needed to overcome larger competition from other casinos and Invented Pai Gow Poker and Super Pan to overcome this competition. These games soon became huge crowd pleasers that spread in the Californian gambling market and eventually world-wide. It was a natural progression for Pai Gow Poker to become a popular online gaming favorite.

How to play Pai Gow Poker

The objective of this game is for the player to make two poker hands from seven cards. The hands should be a five and two card poker hand. The hand of five cards must be higher than the value of the two card hand. Two card hands consist of one pair and high ranking cards.

The five Card hand in Pai Gow Poker is according to standard poker rules, and any exceptions might be that a king high straight ranks below the A-2-3-4-5 ranking. But check with your own particular casino to ses what rules apply in this instance. The joker is the “bug”, this means that it may be used to complete a straight of flush in a five card hand. In the two card hand of Pai Gow, the joker substitutes for an Ace. But check again with your casino, because sometimes the joker can be completely wild.

Most casinos charge a flat fee to play Pai Gow Poker and take a percentage of the winnings as commission (the rake). It might appear that this is a little steep, with some casinos charging as much as 5%. But this game takes a long time to play compared to other games so the house does not collect as often as it might with games such as Blackjack.

Winning at the Game of Pai Gow

Once each player has separated his hands and he wins against the banker, he wins. If only one hand beats the banker, he pushes and of course if both hand are losers then he loses. If a hand ties with the banker, the banker has the advantage and the player loses. If the players five card hand is fouled and is higher than his high hand or has the wrong number of cards the hand will be forfeited or re-arranged, according to the house rules of the casino.

How to Set Hands

In Pai Gow Poker the two card hand is referred to as the “on top”, “in front” or “minor” hand. While the five card hand is the “bottom”, “Behind” or “big” hand. This is the way the hands are placed when the player has finished setting them. The cards are dealt in seven piles of seven cards each. Four cards remain unused.

Each betting position is allocated a number from one to seven, starting with the banker, counter-clockwise around the table. The numbers one to seven is randomly chosen, either with dice or electronically. The deal commences at that number and if a player is not seated at a position on the table the hand will still be assigned to that spot, but the cards will be placed on the discard pile. There are always four cards in the game that go unused, and any other unused cards will be placed with these cards.

In casino banked games of Pai Gow poker, the banker is usually required to set their cards. This means that a pre-specified method or “House way” has to be adhered to. This is so the dealer does not implement a strategy to win against the other players. Players should attempt to set their two card hand in such a way as to the highest two card hand possible.

Online Pai Gow Strategy

Computerized analysis has been conducted in detail to determine the perfect strategy for playing Pai Gow Poker. But learning these strategies requires the player to memorize huge amounts of information and this takes all the pleasure out of the game. Basically all that is required is to stick to a couple of rules of thumb. If you are playing this game and are unsure of how to set your hand, then you are able to request that you hand be set in the “house way”. House strategies are generally as close as possible to optimal strategy.

The best two card hand in the “minor” hand that leaves a higher five card hand behind is not optimal. The best that a player should look for is an ace high in front and a medium to high pair behind. For example if the player only has a single pair in a hand of A-K-K-8-7-5-3 he can play A-8 and K-K-7-5-3, this rule will cover approximately 65% of Pai Gow Poker games.

Obviously there are a great many different hand combinations in playing Pai Gow poker. The best possible way to learn these is by playing and practice. It is a very entertaining game that takes a good deal longer to play than many other casino games.


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