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Pai Gow Poker may seem like an intimidating game to jump into if you have never played before, but it’s an easy game to get started with. In this article, we will cover the basic rules of Pia Gow Poker, and touch on some basic strategies.

How to Play Pai Gow Poker

Starting Pai Gow Poker can feel alien when you first get to the table, with dice, a single 53-card deck including a joker, and the dealer dealing to empty seats. At its core, Pai Gow Poker is just that, poker, and as long as you know basic poker hands you’ll pick up the game quickly.

To begin the dealer will roll dice in a cup to determine which player will be dealt to first. In addition, this will be used to determine the banker. The banker is either a player or the dealer, but they are the person the table is playing against. So if there is a player-banker they’re responsible for covering the bets of the winners, but they also receive the losses from the losing hands including the dealer. Don’t worry if this sounds intimidating however, you’re never forced to be the banker and if you decline the dealer is automatically the banker again.

The goal of the game is to have 2 hands that are better than the banker’s hand. Each player is dealt 7 cards, including the dealer, and any empty seats. Cards dealt to empty seats are discarded at the beginning of play. Once the cards have been dealt the players have to form two separate hands, a two-card low hand, and a five-card high hand. These hands should be the best poker hands you can make. For example, if you were dealt a pair of Aces, then a 3 through 7 straight, you’d place the pair of aces as your low hand, and the straight as your high. Jokers can also be used, but only to compliment a straight or flush, if that’s not possible a Joker is considered an Ace.

One tricky rule is that the high hand must always outrank the low hand. So if you had 2 pairs, one of 7s and the other 10s, you’d have to keep the 10s in the high hand. If you were to place the 10s in the low that would be a foul, which would result in your bet being forfeit or the dealer resetting your hand to be correct.

After all the players have formed their hands the banker will reveal their cards. From this point three results can happen:

  • The player wins both hands and wins the bet
  • The banker wins both hands and the player loses
  • The player wins one hand and the bet is pushed

If a player and the banker have the same hand, say a pair of 5s as their low hand it’s considered a “copies”, and the banker wins all copies. This can still result in a push if the player wins the other hand.

Another unique hand is called a “Pai Gow” which happens when a player is dealt a hand that cannot form a pair or better. When this happens it is considered a push and the player keeps their bet.

How to Bet in Pai Gow Poker

Betting in Pai Gow Poker is fairly straightforward, but can become complicated. For each hand, players must place their wager before the hands are dealt, similar to blackjack. This bet is placed in front of the player in a designated area on the table. If the player wins the hand they’ll be paidout 1:1 on their wager. The tricky part of wagering in Pai Gow Poker is the fortune side bet.

The fortune side bet rules are a little different. This bet is made at the same time as the main wager, but you are betting on certain poker hands. The minimum fortune bet is normally $1, but can be different depending on the casino. If the player bets $5 or more on the fortune some casinos offer an “envy” bonus too, meaning that if anyone at the table has a certain poker hand they’ll still win regardless of their hand. Below are the winning Pai Gow Fortune hands:

Hand

Payout

Envy Bonus ($5 Minimum)

7 Card Straight Flush8000 to 1 $3000
Royal Flush and Royal Match2000 to 1$1000
7 Card Straight Flush With Joker1000 to 1$500
5 Aces 400 to 1 $250
Royal Flush150 to 1$50
Straight Flush50 to 1$20
Four-of-a-Kind25 to 1$5
Full House5 to 1
Flush4 to 1
Three-of-a-Kind3 to 1
Straight2 to 1

Commission

An interesting quark of Pai Gow Poker is the commission system many tables have. Many tables will have either a flat fee per hand or a 5% commission on player winnings. So if you were to win $100 at the table, you’d owe the casino $5 of your winnings. This is how the house keeps its edge on a 1:1 table game.

Pai Gow Poker Strategies

Strategy in Pai Gow Poker tends to be limited considering player receive their entire hands at once and there are no betting rounds. However, there is some strategy in determining how to play a hand, and what to hedge on.

As an example, a player is dealt 10, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 6. This hand can be broken up in several ways. A player could stack their high hand with 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 and have a weak low hand with a 10, 6. This could be worth a risk especially if a player has a fortune bet hitting the straight. However, a stronger hand could be to split the pairs into 10, 10, 9, 8, 7, and 6,6 to have a pair in both hands. Even though the high hand is considerably worse, a pair in both makes it more likely the player will at least push the hand reducing the risk.

Mitchell Lebrun

Mitchell Lebrun is the head of content at EatWatchGamble, working directly with our team of writers to ensure EWG is the ultimate casino resource. Mitchell is an Oregon State grad and avid NBA fan.

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