Pai Gow Poker
You may have heard of Pai Gow, the domino game originating from ancient China, but if you’ve ever been to a land or online casino since 1985, you may be more familiar with the contemporary, exhilarating game of Pai Gow poker. Taking the best parts of Pai Gow and poker, Pai Gow poker has been a favorite of gamblers the world over.
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How to Play Pai Gow Poker
The reason Pai Gow poker continues to be a casino staple, both online and off, is because it’s a fun, rewarding game that’s very easy to pick up. The object of the game is to make two poker hands: one 5-card hand and one 2-card hand. If your two hands beat the dealer’s hands, you win! If only one of your two hands beats the dealer’s, it’s a push (a tie) and the bet is neither won nor lost.
To play most version of Pai Gow poker, all you need is a standard 52-card deck with one Joker, which can be used only as an Ace or to complete any straight or flush. The game begins with individual wagers getting placed and the dealer rolling dice in a cup to determine who receives the first hand. Once the order is determined, the cards are dealt in a clockwise rotation as indicated by the dice.
Each player receives seven cards to make their two hands of five and two. The hand containing five cards is known as the high hand while the one with just two cards is known as the low hand. The five-card high hand uses the same ranking system you may already know from standard poker games. The two-card low hand can only be two high cards or a pair, with a pair of Aces being the best possible outcome players can hope for.
It’s important to note that your 5-card hand MUST be higher than your low hand. For example, if you’re dealt an Ace, a Queen, a Jack, two 8s, a four and a six of different suits, your pair of 8s can’t make up the low hand. Because the high hand must outrank the low hand, the pair you’ve been dealt in this example must be the high hand and the Ace, Queen-high would be the low hand.
Failing to make your high hand outrank your low hand is called “fouling your hand” and can cost players their bets. Luckily, when you play Pai Gow poker online at our casino, our games have mechanics built-in to them to prevent players from making this costly mistake. This is a tip reserved for those of you who may venture to a Pai Gow poker table at land casino, but it’s still worth knowing even if you’re playing exclusively online as it’ll help you get accustomed to the flow of the game.
Another important thing to note about playing Pai Gow poker online is to leave everything you know about regular poker at the door--besides what makes a winning hand, of course. Whether you’ve come up playing 5-card stud or Texas Hold ‘Em, if you have any experience with poker then you know that the key to the game is not to play the cards but the players at the table. Real money Pai Gow poker doesn’t work this way. Pai Gow poker is all about beating the dealer. Forget about what cards the person next to you is holding. Just focus on beating both the dealer’s high and low hands.
Online Pai Gow Poker Strategy
Something all players need to remember about real money Pai Gow poker is that you can’t lose your money if just one of your hands beats the dealer. With this in mind, the most common strategy for playing Pai Gow poker is for players to split their hand, giving them the strongest possible two-card hands.
Of course, there are exceptions to every strategy. Include this one. If you’re able to make a strong five-card hand like a straight or better, then splitting your hand could be counterproductive.
When playing hands with no pairs, the best thing for new players to do is to leave the highest-ranked card in the big hand and put the second two highest-ranking cards in the front hand. This way your front hand is as strong as possible without outranking the back hand.
Some basic online Pai Gow poker strategies new players can lean on include:
If you have one pair in your hand: play the pair in your high hand and leave the other two highest cards in your low hand.
If you have two pairs, you should split them up if: you’ve been dealt a pair of Aces, two high pairs (i.e. a pair of any face cards or Aces), one high pair and one medium (pairs of sevens through tens).
If you are dealt two pairs, you should split them up unless you have an Ace. So, two medium pairs or one high pair and one low pair.
You should always play a 3-of-a-kind in your high hand unless you have an Ace. If you’re dealt three Aces, it’s certainly tempting to leave them all in your high hand, but a pair of Aces is typically enough to beat the dealer’s high hand, and an Ace-high in your low hand may be the edge you need to beat their other hand.
You should always play straights and flushes in your high hand unless you also have two pairs. Spreading the wealth across both of your hands can be the difference between winning and settling for a push.
It’s counter-intuitive, but split-up four-of-a-kinds. This is a great strategy particularly if you are dealt a four-of-a-kind of Jacks or higher. In virtually any form of poker, players are over the moon to be dealt a four-of-a-kind because their odds of winning are high from the beginning. However, in Pai Gow poker, you have to beat two hands, so while it may seem counter-intuitive to break up a four-of-a-kind, it increases your chances of avoiding a push.
Break up the Full House. Another counter-intuitive tip for anyone who has ever played a poker game that wasn’t influenced by Pai Gow, but it really comes in handy. If you’re dealt a Full House, place the pair in your 2-card hand and the three-of-a-kind in your 3-card hand. The only exception is if you’re dealt a second pair. In the event that you’re lucky enough to have a Full House with a pair to spare, it’s ideal to put the high pair in your 2-card hand while construction the Full House with the lower pair.
If you have a hand with five Aces...Some card players are probably looking at this with mouths agape, ready to laugh at the egregious error included in this Pai Gow poker strategy guide. However, it is possible for players to be dealt five aces because remember the Jokers are in play and can be counted as an Ace. With this in mind, it is possible for players to be dealt five Aces--even though it’s not common. However, if you ever find yourself with a hand that has five Aces, it’s certainly jarring to see.
Once you get over the initial shock of seeing five Aces in your hand, make sure to split them up so that you have three-of-a-kind and a pair of Aces. The odds of the dealer having a better high hand or low hand are minuscule. The only exception is when you have a pair of Kings with your five Aces. Make your low hand out of the pair of Kings and keep your five Aces together and you’re almost guaranteed to win.
Play Pai Gow Poker Online
Created in the mid-1980s by Sam Torosian, Pai Gow poker has been a casino staple for three decades strong. Now, you can enjoy the game from the comfort of your own home on both desktop and mobile devices. Create an account today to start exploring the wide variety of real money Pai Gow poker games our online casino has to offer.
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Pai Gow poker online is one of our real money casino’s most popular features because the pace of the game allows players to have a seat at the table and play several hands on the same stake. As far as online games go, real money Pai Gow poker offers some of the best player odds and is a low-risk, relaxed way to enjoy themselves all while winning money.
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