How Is Pai Gow Poker Different from Chinese Poker?

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2021-07-14

There are dozens of poker variations that players can choose from in both land-based and online casinos. Two of these are Pai Gow and Chinese poker, which are two games that are distinct from each other. Though both trace their roots to China, they are played differently.

How Is Pai Gow Poker Different from Chinese Poker?

A Brief History of Pai Gow Poker

In 1985, Los Angeles club owner Sam Torosian created Pai Gow poker. He did this by combining classic poker with elements of the traditional Chinese dominoes game called Pai Gow.

The original Pai Gow game is played with 32 dominoes while Pai Gow poker is played with a standard deck of 52 cards plus one joker. Torosian's new game, an enticing blend between the gaming cultures of the East and West, was an instant hit.

Background of Chinese Poker

There are several theories about the origin of Chinese poker. For example, some believe that the Chinese poker and Pai Gow emerged around the same time in China hundreds of years ago.

Another theory is that the traditional Pai Gow dominoes game, brought by Chinese immigrants to the United States in the 19th century, merged with poker games such as Stud and Draw. It was allegedly from these hybrid games that Chinese poker emerged.

What is certain is that the World Series of Poker (WSOP) included Chinese poker in 1995, but dropped it in 1997. Chinese poker itself has spawned several variations, including open-face Chinese poker and badugi.

Contrasting and Comparing Pai Gow Poker and Chinese Poker

Both poker variants are similar in the sense that they require luck and skill. However, they are different in several other aspects.

Number of Players

Chinese poker is played between two to four players while Pai Gow poker involves six players.

Poker Hands

A Pai Gow poker player receives seven cards from a 53-card deck while a Chinese poker player is dealt a hand of 13 cards.

Also, Pai Gow players need to make two hands: a one-card hand and a two-card hand. In Chinese poker, players group their cards into three hands: one three-card hand (the "front"), one five-card hand (the "middle"), and another five-card hand (the "back").

Betting

In Pai Gow poker, players typically place their bets before being dealt any cards. The only bet that that is made for the duration of the hand, it needs to fall within the table's minimum and maximum betting limits.

Chinese Poker, on the other hand, does not involve any betting. Instead, the game is played for stakes that are known as units. A unit consists of a predetermined amount of money that the players agree on before starting the game.

Complexity Level

Although both games are easy for beginners to learn, it's arguably easier to become more proficient in Chinese poker because of its relatively simple gaming mechanism and combinations. On the other hand, Pai Gow's rules are more elaborate, which may take a bit more effort to master.

These two poker games are available in both land-based and online casinos. Beginner and seasoned gamblers alike can also play Chinese poker and Pai Gow online for free or for real money.

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