Pai Gow Poker: Learning the Fundamentals

2021-07-07

In 1985, an American club owner named Sam Torosian created the card game of Pai Gow, which he loosely based on a Chinese gambling game of dominoes. Also called double-hand poker, Pai Gow has become a casino staple over the decades. It's likewise offered by online casinos and can be played on desktop computers or on mobile devices.

Pai Gow Poker: Learning the Fundamentals

It may take some effort and time to learn and understand the basics of Pai Gow. However, doing so results in opportunities to be challenged, entertained, and rewarded by the game.

How to Play Pai Gow

In many types of poker, players play against other players. In Pai Gow, however, the player tries to defeat a banker or house dealer. Up to six players can be hosted in the game. Pai Gow uses a standard deck of 52 cards, plus one joker. The joker can be used as a substitute card to complete a straight or a flush. Otherwise, it always serves as an ace.

The usual poker hand rankings apply to Pai Gow. From lowest to highest, these are the high card, pais, two pair, three of a kind, straight, flush, full house, four of a kind, straight flush, and royal flush.

The player's goal is to complete two poker hands. One hand consists of 5 cards while the other has 2 cards. If a player's two hands defeat the dealer's two hands, he or she wins. If only one of the player's hands wins, the outcome is called a push. If both of the player's poker hands lose, he or she loses the wager.

Bets are placed at the start of the game. The player and the dealer each receives seven cards. The player needs to divide their cards into two separate hands: the high or big hand with five cards and the low or small hand with two cards. The high hand should always be better than the low hand. A player whose low hand outranks his or her high hand has fouled their hand and loses their bet.

Payouts in Pai Gow Poker

Regular Pai Gow hands present a straightforward payout of 1:1 on a bet when a player beats the dealer. The house edge is around 2.84%, which is the result of most players losing in the event of a tie. However, players can choose to make a bonus wager, which is where the chances of getting a good high hand are greater. The following are typical payouts:

  • Straight – 2:1
  • Three of a kind – 3:1
  • Flush – 4:1
  • Full house – 5:1
  • Four of a kind – 25:1
  • Straight flush – 50:1
  • Royal flush – 150:1
  • Five aces – 400:1
  • 7-card straight flush with joker – 1,000:1
  • Royal flush plus two deuces – 2,000:1
  • 7-card straight flush without a joker – 8,000:1

Practicing Pai Gow Poker

Players can familiarize themselves better with Pai Gow's rules and gameplay by practicing online. In addition to mobile Pai Gow apps that can be downloaded, there are many online casinos that offer Pai Gow games that are free to play. These games allow players to develop strategies, experiment with betting methods, and build up their confidence before moving on to playing Pai Gow for real money.

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