Pai Gow Poker is one of the variations of the casino game Pai Gow. This version of the game is also sometimes referred to as double-hand poker. Unlike the other variations, pai gow poker is played with cards and not dominoes or actual pai gows.
The game is played with a standard 52-deck of cards that includes one joker card. If you are playing at an online casino, it’s you against the casino software. Land-based casinos allow up to 6 players at the table at a time and there it’s you against other players and the dealer.
The primary objective in the game is to beat the banker. We explain more on this and how to play for real money below.
As mentioned above, your goal is to beat the banker. But, the role of banker isn’t necessarily assigned to the dealer. The banker can also be another player on the table too. In the game, you will receive 7 cards and to beat the banker you must build the best possible 2 hands with the 7 cards given to you.
Your two hands will consist of 5 cards and 2 cards respectively. The hand that has 5 cards is called the high hand, while other players call it the big hand. The hand holding two cards is known as the low hand, or small hand. Your high hand must always be the better of the two. For example, if your low hand has a pair of 3’s, your high hand must have better value. We’ll get into the different hand rankings and their value later.
How to Deal Cards in Pai Gow Poker
Before cards are dealt, the pack must be properly shuffled. Of course, if you are playing pai gow poker online the shuffling will be done by the random number generator. At a land-based casino, dealers manually shuffle the cards.
Then, the cards will be divided into 7 piles, each containing 7 cards. All 6 players at the table will receive a pile, and the remaining pile will go to the dealer. The four remaining cards will be discarded.
Players will then be numbered relative to the dealer’s positions. A random number will be drawn to decide who receives cards first, to be handed in a clockwise rotation.
Hand Rankings in the Game
Standard poker hand rankings apply to your five-card hand. For your two-card hand, you can only build two pairs or high cards, so those are your only two-hand rankings for the small hand.
Below is an image showing all standard hand rankings for your 5-card hand.
Pai Gow Poker differs from other casino games because there is no betting round in the game. So, your chances of winning largely depend on how the cards are dealt.
There are however side bets that you can make if you’re really desperate to use more of your bankroll. With the side bet you are simply supporting our initial bet, and betting on which on the varied hand rankings you might receive. There are different kinds of bets that you can make and they do come with bonus payouts. But, experts say that side bets in pai gow poker is best left alone because they have a negative expectation.
Possible Outcomes in Pai Gow Poker
There are three possible outcomes in the game. It’s either you (the player) wins both hand and gets paid out the full value of that bet. Or, the dealer wins both and the house collects your losing bet. But, the round can also result in the dealer winning one hand while you win the other. In this case, nobody will receive a payout.
The game can also end in a tie. Ties are an unfortunate outcome in the game because the rules are that all ties be handed to the dealer, meaning the dealer wins and the player loses. A tie would obviously mean that you and the dealer hold exactly the same hands.
Pai Gow Showdown
The showdown stage signifies the near end of the game and a this point all players are meant to place their cards. The rules state that you must place the small hand in front, and the big hand at the back. Remember, you are placing your cards provided that the big hand outranks the smaller hand. If this is not the case, so if your small had has a better value than your big hand, this is considered a foul hand and you may forfeit your bet for that round. But, what happens at this stage may also depend on the unique rules of the casino.
Payouts in Pai Gow Poker
You should know that the casino deducts a 5% commission on average from all player bets during a pai gow poker game. This may seem unfair to the player, but those are the rules.
Based on the hand rankings image below, you can see that a straight flush using all seven cards is the most desired outcome in pai gow poker because it pays the best. The second-best hand is a royal flush.
At this point, it’s important to mention the function of the joker. Jokers can be used to complete the top 2 rankings hands, namely a straight flush or a royal flush. If you don’t have either hands, the joker must take the value of an Ace card.
See the potential payouts for each hand in pai gow poker.
Straight flush w/ 7 cards
8000 to 1
Royal flush w/ royal match
2000 to 1
Straight flush w/ joker
1000 to 1
400 to 1
150 to 1
50 to 1
Four of a kind
25 to 1
5 to 1
4 to 1
Three of a kind
3 to 1
2 to 1
Pai Gow Poker Strategy Tips
Pai Gow Poker is a game of luck, but skill can come in handy, especially when it’s time to build your high and low hand. Finding a cut throat strategy to use in the game is tricky because there’s so many possible hand combinations that can come from a 52-card pack.
Our best piece of advice is to go with your gut feeling. But, if that doesn’t feel right, some land-based casinos allow you to communicate with the dealer for advice on how to place your hand.
The game uses a standard 52 card deck. This is sufficient seeing that every player only receives 7 cards and 6 players are allowed around a table at a time. Your hands will consist of 2 and 5 cards each.