What Is Pai Gow Poker, Rules & Strategies

Date:2023-03-10 Category: Games
What Is Pai Gow Poker

What Is Pai Gow Poker, Rules & Strategies

Pai Gow, pronounced as pie now, is a combination of Seven-Card Stud Poker and a Chinese dominos game. The name comes from its Chinese roots, where players played the game using dominoes instead of cards. Although it may sound weird and confusing, if you are well familiar with poker hand rankings, you will learn the game by the end of this article because it is played at an easy, relaxing pace! This article will discuss the gameplay, rules, odds, and some strategies to play and win Pai Gow Poker.


Pai Gow Poker Basic Rules Explained

Pai Gow Poker Basic Rules Explained

The game is played with a standard deck of 53 cards, 52 cards, plus a Joker(more on this later). As shown in the picture above, the game is played on an oval-shaped table like blackjack. In this poker variant, players play against the house instead of each other.

At some casinos, players can play as the banker (house), and the role rotates around the table. However, if you decide to play the banker role, make sure to have enough money to cover the bets of all the other players at the table. But you can pass the role and let the dealer take over.

A typical Pai Gow poker has room for six players and a dealer. But the game begins even if all the positions are not occupied. At old land-based casinos, a roll of the dice by the dealer determined the first player dealt. However, at modern and online casinos, RNGs do that and randomly generate all table positions from one to seven to determine the first player.


How To Play Pai Gow: Step-BY-Step

Like any poker game, Pai Gow begins with the player placing a wager before the cards are dealt. This bet is the only one you make during a hand. Although the MIN&MAX betting limits vary from casino to casino, your wager should be within the limit. At some casinos, you can also place a bonus bet on whether you’ll make a premium hand which is typically three of a kind or better. The wager you place on the bonus bet does not depend on whether you win your main bet. The bonus bet payout depends on your premium hand; the higher the premium, the higher the payout. The most common bonus bets are:

Most Common Pai Gow Bonus(Side) Bets
Bonus Bet Description
Fortune Pai Gow You can place a side bet on trips or better.
Pai Gow Mania You can place two side bets.
Progressive Fortune Pai Gow You can place side bets with a combined seven-card straight flush winning the jackpot.

As mentioned, payouts depend on the strength of the hand and would vary from casino to casino. However, the typical payouts are as follows:

Typical Pai Gow Bonus Bets Payouts
Hand Payout
Straight 2 to 1
3 of a kind 3 to 1
Flush 4 to 1
Full House 5 to 1
4 of a kind 25 to 1
Straight Flush 50 to 1
Royal Flush 150 to 1
5 Aces 400 to 1
7 card straight flush with Joker 1,000 to 1
Royal Flush and Royal Match 2,000 to 1
7 card straight flush/No Joker 8,000 to 1

But before we go on, let me give you a million-dollar advice: avoid bonus bets at all costs! The house advantage with this bet is insanely high. If you want to try it once for an extra adrenaline pump, go for it, but remember you are guaranteed to lose a lot of money over time by placing bonus bets.

Now that you and other players have decided and placed wagers, it is time to deal cards. The dealer now deals seven sets of seven face-down cards regardless of whether the table is full. After the dealing is over, the dealer removes cards from the empty seats. Weird? You are right, but this is the game’s ritual that should be followed! The remaining four cards will be left face-down as a muck pile. Now each player should set their two Pai Gow hands. This is the most challenging part of the game, which requires a well understanding of poker hand rankings(see the following section to learn how to set winning hands!).

When you set your cards: a five-card hand called the big, high or back hand and a two-card hand called the small, low, front, or second-highest hand, you should place them face-down at their designated areas on the table( see the picture above). Be careful while playing at land-based casinos; if you fail to properly place the high and low hand, you foul your hand and lose your bet! In addition, you are not allowed to touch the cards after placing them in their positions.

At this step, the dealer turns over their cards and sets their two hands. Then, every player’s hand will be turned over and compared to the banker(the dealer)’s hand. The high hand will be compared to the high hand and the low hand to the low hand. Now it’s showdown time! If both of your hands(high and low) beat the dealer(the banker)’s hands, you will be paid out even money after a 5% commission is subtracted from the winning. Some casinos charge a flat fee per hand, depending on the bet amount. However, 40% of the time, the player wins one hand and loses the other. In this case, push happens no matter which hand won or lost, and the player wins nothing. The last scenario is when one of your hands is the same as the dealer’s hand. In this case, copy happens, and the house wins that specific hand; this is not considered a tie.


How To Set Your Pai Gow Hands?

As mentioned in the previous section, this is the part of the game where you must apply some strategy and set the hand with the highest chance of winning.

our high and low hands must beat the dealer’s hands to win the game. To do so, your hands must have higher poker rankings. So, make sure to review and practice poker hand rankings. Remember, you won’t be given a second chance; once you split your hands and place them in position, you cannot change it. When you pick up your seven cards and want to set your two hands, first looking for a flush or a straight rather than pairs is better.

One thing you should be very careful about while setting your hands is the hands’ values. Your five-card hand must outrank your two-card hand. In other words, your low hand cannot have a higher value than your high hand. Let me better explain it using the following example:

Suppose you are dealt: A♥ Q♣ J♠ 8 ♦ 8♣ 4♠ 2♥

Now you are allowed to split your cards as follows:

High Hand: 8 ♦ 8♣ J♠ 4♠ 2♥

Low Hand: A♥ Q♣

As you can see, a pair(88) cannot be placed in the low hand as it will outrank the five-card hand.

Another thing to be careful about is that if you don’t split your hands appropriately and do not follow the rule, you will be fouling your hand and losing your bet.

Although the high hand is ranked according to the basic poker hand rankings, since the joker is involved, the A-2-3-4-5 straight, known as a wheel, will be considered the 2nd-highest straight in this game. Hence, make sure to check the house and table rules before getting into action.


Playing Pai Gow With “JOKER”

As mentioned above, in this game, an extra card is involved in the deck; Joker. Joker changes the hand rankings making a wheel the 2nd-highest straight. If you are dealt a joker card, you can use it to set your hands. Joker can only be used in three ways to substitute for a card or make a full hand.

1️⃣Can count as any card to complete a straight

2️⃣Can count as any suit to complete a flush

3️⃣If it cannot be used for either of the above, it will always be an ace

Note: In setting a low hand, a joker is always an ace.


Understanding Pai Gow Poker “House Way”

Understanding Pai Gow Poker “House Way”

In every Pai Gow poker, the dealer must split and set their hands in specific ways; this is the way! No, I don’t mean the Mandalorian way! This is the House Way! The rules for the house way vary from casino to casino, but it is all written in the gaming guide of each casino. So, make sure to check them out before placing your wager. In some online Pai Gow games, you will be given the option to split your hands in the House Way.


Pai Gow Poker Odds and House Edge Explained

Pai Gow is one of the few poker variations that allow you to exercise some degree of skill. If you play the correct basic strategy, you can decrease the house advantage from 2.84% to 2.5%.


Top 4 Strategies To Win At Pai Gow Poker

Now it’s time to learn some tactics to minimize the house advantage as much as possible. The best strategy to win this and any other poker game is to practice and learn poker hand rankings very well. Aside from that, keep these tips in mind because they come in handy the next time you sit at the table.

✅If you are dealt no pair, place the highest card in the high hand and the next two highest in the low hand.

✅If you are dealt one pair, place it in the high hand and the next two highest in the low hand.

✅In case you are dealt two pair, it is usually advised to split them and place the lowest pair in the low hand.

✅If the dealer deals you three pair, always place the highest pair in the low hand and the two lower-ranking pairs in the high hand.


Best Online Casino and Apps To Play Pai Gow Poker In 2023

Plenty of downloadable Pai Gow mobile apps are available on Google Play and App Store. Almost all of them allow you to play for free or fake money. These apps are the best to practice the game and master your skills before playing for real money.

When confident in your playing skills, go to the following online legit casinos to play the best online Pai Gow pokers. These websites are trusted and licensed, offer the fastest and safest banking methods, support players 24/7, offer the most generous promotions, have the most mobile and user-friendly platforms, and have tons of other great features.

Online Casino Welcome Bonus US Players Mobile Gaming
BetOnline $1,000 Accepted Yes
Super Slots $6,000 Accepted Yes
Wild Casino $5,000 Accepted Yes
Bovada $3,000 Casino Bonus Accepted Yes
Ignition Casino 200% match up to $2,000 Accepted Yes


To Sum It Up

Pai Gow poker is relatively easy to learn. Still, you need to well practice the rules and poker ranking hands before getting into the real money action. I recommend figuring out the game on your phone or computer before sitting on a real money table with a loaded wallet!



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Mia - Researcher / Writer

I am a professional poker player and here I will introduce you the best casinos for betting and learn new things about the world of betting.

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