Pai Gow is an ancient Chinese domino gambling game that went through a transformation when it was introduced into the West. In recent times, Pai Gow has been used to refer to a card game, denoted as Pai Gow Poker. Still maintaining elements of the traditional dominoes game and fusing them with classic poker, Pai Gow Poker pits the wits of the online player against those of the casino dealer in a card game duel to determine the winner. Since making its way into America, Pai Gow Poker has become one of USA’s most beloved card games, creating a perfect blend of high stakes gambling and entertainment.

Pai Gow Poker

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What to Consider Regarding Pai Gow Poker

Pai Gow Poker has similar features to classic poker games, both the online and land-based versions of the casino game. Set on a table for six players plus the dealer, the game is played using a deck of 53 cards which include a joker card. A joker card is also referred to as a wild card and may take different numerical values depending on the player’s combination of cards. For instance, it can count as an ace, or it may be used as a substitution for a straight or flush combination.

The dealer gives each player a total number of seven cards facing down. Each player must split the cards into two separate hands. The first-hand consists of 5 cards and is referred to as the ‘high’ hand. The second hand, consists of the remaining two cards is referred to as the ‘low’ or ‘small’ hand. With regards to the ranking of the cards, standard poker ranking rules are applied. Players are encouraged to understand the rules before attempting to play the game.

How Pai Gow Poker Is Played

Before the game begins, each player must place a wager according to the table’s minimum bet set by the online casino. Betting options are given a numerical value from 1 to 7, coinciding with the number of seats at the table. In land-based casinos, the number is chosen manually with a throw of dice. On the other hand, the digital platform uses a random number generator to select the number. Although a seat may be vacant, the card will still be dealt by the dealer. All the cards dealt to the dragon hand will be discarded.

The game of Pai Gow Poker consists of a role called the banker. The role of a banker can be assumed by the dealer or any one of the six players seated at the poker table, and it rotates counter-clockwise from one player to the next. Once a player has decided how to split their cards, the dealer’s cards will be flipped over, and the hands will be compared against one another.

How to Win

The objective of the online player is to beat both of the dealer’s hands by scoring higher averages with the ‘high’ and ‘low’ hand. If the player succeeds by only winning one of the two hands, the round is considered in a ‘push’. If both hands of the dealer are greater, the outcome of the round results in a loss. If one of the player’s hand is higher and the other one is lower, the hand is a push, and your bet is returned. The dealer wins any tie.

Pai Gow Poker History

Following its introduction in 1985, Pai Gow Poker became an instant American casino classic, attracting gamblers from all walks of life to Las Vegas. Sam Torosia was the inventor of the casino game, substituting the Chinese dominoes (or tiles) for the use of cards. He was the owner of the Bell Card Club, and despite coming up with the idea of the game from the advice he got, he failed to patent the casino game.

The original Chinese dominoes game still enjoys much popularity, and since Pai Gow Poker is taken from elements of the tiles game, it shares several similarities. Pai Gow dominoes version is played using 32 tiles that are shuffled and arranged equally into eight stacks of four dominoes facing down. The name ‘pai gow’ translates to ‘make nine’ or ‘card nine’, which signifies the highest score for a hand in the dominoes casino game albeit a few exceptions.

Pai Gow Poker Tips

Most online players have an understanding that a certain level of risk is involved in gambling. Therefore, they have combined years of experience and expertise to render some tricks that have been effective on more than one occasion, for more than a single player. While they don’t actually guarantee to increase a player’s odds, they do offer some insight into how to best better one’s chances of winning.

  • As winning in Pai Gow Poker can only happen if a player wins both hands against the dealer, the trick is not to have one hand higher than the other while it is possible to make them both strong.
  • Players should always use Jokers in a front hand to complete a flush combination rather than a low two-card hand.
  • Should the opportunity to play as the Banker present itself, the online player should take it. Depending on whether the player can afford it or not, the banker presents the best chance to win on the casino table.
  • Two sets of pairs out of the seven cards dealt by the dealer should be split up between the high hand and the small hand. This move reduces the house edge and increases the player’s chances of winning.

Potential Pai Gow Poker Hands

Here are a few possible combinations of a five-card hand that frequently present themselves in a Pai Gow Poker game.

  • 5 Aces: 4 Aces plus a wild card
  • Royal Flush A, K, Q, J, 10 of the same suit. The highest card in this combination is the Ace.
  • Straight A hand made up of five cards of differing suits in numerical order (e.g. A, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Straight Flush Five cards of the same suit in numerical sequence (e.g. 7, 8, 9, 10, J)
  • Four of a Kind Four Ace cards and a different card (e.g. A, A, A, A, X)
  • Full House Three of a kind plus a pair. (e.g. J, J, J, 5, 5)
  • Flush 5 cards that are of the same suit
  • Three of a Kind Three similar cards with two different ones
  • Two Pairs – As the name suggests, two pairs and a different card (e.g. 7, 7, 9, 9, X)
  • One Pair – 2 similar type of cards out of 5 (e.g. 5, 5, X, X, X)

Pai Gow Glossary

For the Pai Gow Poker beginner, there are a few frequently used terms in the game that you need to know.

  • Push – When both the player and the casino dealer have one winning hand out of the two hands it is called a push. In this case, bets are returned to the players.
  • Dragon Hand – The dragon hand refers to vacant seats in a Pai Gow Poker game. These empty seats will be dealt cards offered to players and the first player to accept it, is allowed to play them. The means that a player can play two separate hands.
  • Banker –The banker plays against all the players and is always the last to act. If the banker is a player, they can set their hand in whichever way they want. If it’s a casino dealer, they have to follow the casino’s house way rules on how to set the hand.
  • House Way – The House Way indicates specific casino rules that dictate how a dealer must set their hands.
  • House Edge – This reflects the winning streak of a casino over a long period of time. It is calculated using percentages and the lower the value, the higher the chances that a player will win their money back.

Pai Gow Poker FAQs

What is the difference between Chinese Pai Gow and the American Pai Gow Poker?
What does pai gow mean in English?
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