Pai Gow Poker is a pokerized version of the popular Chinese game Pai Gow which is played using Chinese dominoes.
The game is played using a standard 52-card deck plus 1 joker. It is played against the banker and because you are playing two hands in a single game, there are lots of pushes (returned bets) so, time wise, it provides some great value for money entertainment.
So, let’s get stuck in and take a closer look at
How To Play Pai Gow Poker
It’s worth noting that our screenshots have been taken from Royal Ace Online Casino so this guide is based on their rules which are standard among most casinos for this game but you might encounter a few slight variations at other online casinos here and there (just something to bear in mind).
Below, you can see the Pai Gow Poker table. There are two sections, one which says ‘Highest’ and another which says ‘2nd Highest’. These are the two hands we mentioned at the top of the show which the player has to make from the seven cards they are dealt.
Right, let’s throw some chips on the table and run through a hand or two to find out more. Once the bet is placed (below), hit ‘deal’.
Both the player and dealer are dealt seven cards, obviously we can see our cards but the dealer’s above are still face down. From the seven cards the player has to make 2 hands. A five card hand and a two card hand. The five card hand follows the same poker hand ranks as all other forms of poker. The two card hand is based either on a pair of simply high cards.
On Royal Ace, once the cards are dealt, they are then arranged into some kind of order – highest to lowest (left to right). If there are any pairs, 3 of a kind or 4 of a kind then they are placed at the head (on the left).
This is worth noting because this software doesn’t indicate to the player if they have a 5 card flush draw or a straight.
For example: you are dealt:
Jd, Kh, 2d, Js, 5d, Ad, 9d
The cards are then arranged as follows:
Jd, Js, Ad, Kh, 9d, 5d, 2d (using this platform)
So, at a glance, we see that we have a pair of Jacks but we are holding an Ace high flush draw on the diamonds which would be a better hand to play as the highest. Therefore, carefully check all seven cards to see exactly what you have – don’t be fooled by thinking the re-ordering is placing them into the best hand for you.
Okay, our cards are on the table and have been re-ordered. Having a look, we hold a pair of Aces, there are no flush or straight draws so the pair of Aces is our best (highest) hand. As mentioned from the seven cards we now have to split them into a 5 card and 2 card hand respectively.
For the purpose of this guide, I have chosen the pair of aces to put into the ‘2nd Highest’ hand bracket. And, as you can see below, we aren’t allowed to do this. The 5 card hand must be stronger than the 2 card hand.
Based, on Pai Gow strategy, if we are holding a single pair, we should place the two highest kickers into the two card hand, which in our case is the 9d and 8h. Select those cards and hit ‘Split’.
The dealer’s cards are then flipped over and we see who has won (below).
Our pair of aces was enough to win the 5 card hand because the dealer only managed Ace high with his main hand. But, the dealer won the 2 card hand with his King high against our 9 high – end result – bet pushed (returned) as it was a tie (each one 1 hand).
In this variant of Pai Gow Poker the Joker is a semi-wild card. This means it can be used as either:
- An Ace
- Any card to complete a flush (any flush including a royal)
- Any card to complete a straight draw.
Below is a hand in which we have been dealt a Joker. As you can see, it has been placed at the head (furthest left) and next to it is the Ace of Diamonds. So, at a glance, the joker forms a pair of aces but upon closer inspection, we are holding 6, 7, 8, 9, so the Joker can be used to complete a straight draw (played as a 10). This is what we say, you must pay attention and don’t be misled by the re-ordering.
We played the Joker to complete the straight meaning we split the Ad and Qh (below) and we won both hands. However, for a $10 bet, we only won an additional $9.50 because 5% is taken as a commission payment on winning bets.
And, that’s basically a simple rundown of how to play Pai Gow Poker.
Pai Gow Poker House Edge
This house advantage varies depending of the player’s skill level and knowledge of the optimal Pai Gow strategy which when used correctly give the casino a house edge of 2.51%.
All-in-all, we think Pai Gow Poker is a pretty decent game. It is definitely one for those you prefer a slower paced form of poker with a bit of thinking involved.