Rules and Strategy

The Rules of Pai Gow Poker

pai gow rules

The origins of Pai Gow poker

Pai Gow is above all a variant of the game of poker, but its roots trace back all the way to a game similar to that of Chinese dominos. Like other poker games, it’s played with a deck of cards with a few differences, most notably the inclusion of the Joker as a wild card which can serve as an Ace or be used to complete hands like a straight.

How to play Pai Gow Poker

At the start of the game each player will make their initial bet. The dealer will then distribute seven cards to each player. At this point players divide their cards into two playable hands; a strong and a weak ‘hand’. The strong hand is composed of five cards while the weak hand is composed of only two cards. The strong hand should always have a numeric value that is superior to the weak hand. If this isn’t the case you could find yourself being disqualified, with some online casinos not tolerating players who flaunt the rules. In a land based casino the dealer will request that you correct your error. After that you risk either being asked to learn the rules or leave the table.

The first hand (the strong hand) has the same value as that in traditional poker, the only difference being that the combination of A-2-3-4-5 would be considered the 2nd highest draw after that of 10-J-Q-K-A. The second hand (the weak hand) may only be comprised of a pair or a draw of weaker cards than those that comprise the first hand. A pair of Aces for examples is considered stronger than a pair of 2’s so if the dealer and player both have a pair, the stronger of the two will win. If both have the same pair, it’s the dealer who wins.

A show of force

After consulting and ordering their cards, the player then shows their hand to the dealer who compares the two hands to get a result. First the strong hand is compared and then the weak hand is compared. If the dealer wins on both hands then the player loses. If likewise the player wins on both hands then the dealer will lose. If the dealer wins one hand and the player wins the other then the round results in a tie and the player earns back his initial wager.

Winnings and the house percentage

Most casinos take a percentage of the player’s winnings. This percentage is normally around 5% so if the player bets $100 and wins, the payout is $195 rather than $200. The second advantage the casino has over the player in Pai Gow poker is the rule that the dealer automatically wins if they have the same pair or same weak hand. Consequently the casinos always manage to obtain a small % of the player’s winnings some way or another.

Why players love Pai Gow poker

Most players adore Pai Gow for the simple fact that it requires some form of strategy to play effectively. It requires way more than just luck to win. The type of player it attracts is the type that likes to have some control over their casino game, rather than just leaving it to pure chance. Pai Gow is a dynamic game which keeps a player focused and entertained from start to finish.

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So now you’re up to speed with the rules, are you starting to feel a bit more confident? Check out another of our pai gow poker articles for more info on this exciting variant of poker: