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Pai Gow Poker, also called Double Hand Poker, is a version of Pai Gow played with cards instead of Chinese dominoes, or pai gows.
Although it is a fun game, understanding the basics can prove difficult.Have a look.
How to play Pai Gow Poker
Pai Gow Poker uses a standard 52-card deck plus one joker. The dealer and six players can sit at the table together.
The objective of the game is to beat the banker.The dealer, another player at a table or a “player-dealer” “team” can all be the banker.
To do so, you maketwo poker handsWith the seven cards dealt:
- A 5-card “high” hand with five cardsAlso known as the big hand/back hand
- A “low” two-card hand(also called the small hand/front hand)
Your high hand must win over your low hand.If your low hand has a pair fives, then your high hand must have a higher score than the pair fives.
After you have set your hands, the dealer will reveal them to you along with the banker. The dealer will reveal your hands along with the banker’s. There are three possible outcomes.
- The player who wins both hands wins the bet.
- The dealer wins both hands, and the player loses his bet.
- If the player wins one hand, the dealer wins the second. In this case, the hand is a push. No money changes hands except for the commission.
Pai Gow Poker ties go to the dealer. If you have a low hand (A-K) with the dealer, then the dealer will win that hand.
Photo credit: Alejandro Tamayo (San Diego Union-Tribune)
Dealing with the game
Pai Gow Poker offers a unique deal system. The dealer will place the cards into the appropriate slot after they have been shuffled.Seven cards make up seven face-down piles.One for each dealer and one for the playersFour extra cards, unutilizedYou can place them in the trash or muck pile.
Fun fact: Before card shufflers were invented, dealers dealt cards into piles and shaped them as a dragon with a head and body.
Every seat is numbered from 1 to 7, beginning with the name of the banker. Randomly, a number is chosen to determine who gets the first cards. The dealer then gives out the cards in counterclockwise order.
Setting up your Pai Gow hand
It is not possible to make high cards or pairs with a two-card hand. For the five-card hand, standard poker hand rankings apply. The five-card hand must be higher than the two-card. If the two-card hand has a pair or more of aces, then the five-card hand must be superior to the two-pair.
Only a straight or flush can be completed with the joker. If either of these scenarios applies, the joker must have an ace. (Some casinos have other rules about the joker but this is the most common.
A player can’t make a pair with their cards, such as Q-9-7-6-5-3-3-2. This is known as a pai-gow or non-hand.
Pai Gow Showdown
After players have placed their hands, they place their two-card and five-card hands in front and back. The five-card-hand is often referred to as “bottom”, “high,” or behind, while the two-card-hand is sometimes called “on top”, “small,” and “minor,” respectively.
Photo credit: Alejandro Tamayo (San Diego Union-Tribune)
A hand that is not set correctly, such as the two-hand hand having more cards than the five-card hand, is considered a foul and the hand is reset or forfeited according to casino rules.
If the dealer/casino is the banker then the cards should be set according the house rules. If a player is the banker, they must set the cards according to house rules. If a player is co-banking with the dealer, they must set their hands according to the house rules.
The casino usually takes 5% of the winnings. Other casinos may charge a flat fee for each hand, depending on how much you bet.
Editor’s Note: I think more commission is better.
Pai Gow Poker Side Bets
Pai Gow Poker is becoming more popular in casinos. These variants feature side bets that can boost a player’s chances of winning.These side bets do not add or subtract from the wager for the hand.
Instead, the player bets extra on whether they get three of a kind, a full-house, four-of a kind, straight flush or a royal flush. The bonus payout is dependent on the hand’s value.
The following are the most popular and well-known:
- Fortune Pai Gow – Allows players to place side bets on trips and better
- Pai Gow Mania – Allows players to place two side bets
- Emperor’s Challenge – Allows players to place side bets on a pai-gow
- Progressive Fortune Pai Gow – Allows players to place side wagers with a combination seven-card straight flush that wins the jackpot
Envy bonuses are also available at some casinos. These bonuses allow players to wager a certain amount so that another player will have a better hand.
Pai Gow side betting is like any other bet at a casino. It has a much lower expectation than the Pai Gow game. If you don’t feel like gambling, you should avoid them.
Strategy for Pai Gow Poker
Pai Gow Poker success is dependent on the way that the cards are dealt, as there are no betting rounds.To beat the dealer, you need to have some skill in setting up your hand. Sometimes players are faced with hands that can go in multiple directions, which could lead to very different outcomes.
If dealt K, Q or J, for example, a player can choose to set his/her hand as:
- K, 9/Q, Q, J. 10, 9 (mediocre tophand, very strong bottomhand)
- Q, J/K K 9, 9, 10, (mediocre tophand, strong bottomhand)
- 9, 9/K K, Q, J 10 (strong top hand and fairly strong bottom hand).
If a player wishes to almost guarantee a push, then the top option is likely to be the best. However, the most profitable play would still be the bottom option, as it offers a great chance for the player to win.
It comes down to personal preference and intuition in some of these tight spots. Except, as previously mentioned, if the player is co-banking alongside the dealer.
Ask the dealer if you are ever unsure how to set your hand.They are often allowed to assist you in casinos, and will gladly do so.
Pai Gow Poker, another popular poker variant, is very fun to play.
Have you ever played Pai Gow Poker. We would love to hear your comments and experience.
Until next time.