Pai Gow Basics

Pai Gow Basics

Learn How to Play Pai Gow Poker

Also known as double hand poker, pai gow poker is a fun and slow-paced card game that is easy to learn and play. Simply make the best five-card hand and two-card hand possible out of your seven cards to beat the house. While the game took inspiration from the Chinese domino game pai gow, it uses some conventional poker hand rules. So if you know how to play poker, you can easily get the hang of pai gow poker. If not, you can start playing the game by knowing the basics of pai gow poker.

Pai Gow Poker Cards

Pai gow poker uses a standard, single deck cards consisting of 52 cards plus a single Joker in play. The Joker plays two roles in the game. It can act as a wild card for a straight, a flush, or a straight flush or as an Ace for other poker hands. For instance, you are dealt seven cards consisting of 2 of Spades, 3 of Hearts, 4 of Diamonds, 5 of Clubs, and a Joker (2♠-3♥-4♦-5♣-J). You can use the Joker as a substitute for 6 of any suit and play a straight.

If you do not want to make a foul hand, which disqualifies you from the game, make sure that the value of your five-card hand (back hand) is higher than that of  you two-card hand (front hand). To do so, you can place your high-ranked cards in front and the lower-ranked cards in the back. Take note that pai gow poker ranks your five-card hand according to standard poker rules, but with a few difference.

Pai Gow Poker Hands


Notice that 5-of-a-kind is the highest hand in the game instead of the royal flush. 5-of-a-kind is a pai gow poker hand consisting of four Aces and the Joker. Since the game features only a single Joker card, the odds of hitting this hand is small. Another difference between the hands in pai gow poker and those in standard poker is the straight hand. In standard poker, the second highest straight is composed of five cards with a King, Queen, Jack, 10 and 9 (K-Q-J-10-9). But in pai gow poker, the second highest straight is an Ace, 2, 3, 4, and 5 (A-2-3-4-5).

Pai gow poker ranks your two-card hand according to pairs or high cards. The cards are ranked as A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, and 2 in descending order. Considering this, the best pair you can get is two Aces, as Ace holds the highest card value in the game. But if you do not have a pair to set in your front hand, you can pair a high card with another card. The best unpaired-hand you can form is A-K, and the lowest is 3-2.

You should know how to split your cards strategically in order to beat the house. Check out several easy-to-follow pai gow poker tips to help you deal with your cards and make the most out of your game.

Pai Gow Poker Gameplay

Playing pai gow poker may look daunting, but the game is actually simple. Simply follow these rules to know your way around the game.

Pai Gow Poker Table

  1. Begin the game by placing your bets on the pai gow poker table. You will be dealt with seven cards, which you have to split into two poker hands – a five-card hand and a two-card hand. Remember, your five-card hand must ALWAYS be higher than your two-card hand.
  2. Place your five cards on the High section and your remaining two cards on the 2nd highest section.
  3. The dealer will arrange his hand according to the House Way, or the predetermined set of rules that a casino follows in arranging a pai gow poker hand, but these rules may vary from casino to casino.
  4. The dealer will then evaluate your five-card hand against his back hand cards and your two-card hand against his front hand cards.
  5. If both of your hands beat the dealer’s hands, you win back your bet minus a 5% commission charge. Suppose you place a US$100 bet and won, you will receive US$95. If the dealer outranks both of your hands, you lose your stake. In addition, if the dealer wins one hand and the other hand tied is with yours, the dealer still wins. This is also the case if your two hands tied with the hands of the dealer. But in the event that one of your hands is tied with the dealer but your other hand wins, the game will result to a push or a tie. Your bet will remain on the table and another round will ensue.

One interesting rule of pai gow poker is you have the option to be the banker. As a banker, you will collect ties, losses, and pay all winnings using your bankroll. But note that the casino will get a 5% commission from the game. When you play as the banker, you get a lower house advantage of 1.46% compared with the 2.66% house edge for players. Unfortunately, being the banker is not a very common option in online pai gow poker. You can usually enjoy being a banker when you are playing the game in a land-based casino.

Now that you know how to play the game, you are ready to split your cards and score your way to big jackpots. Test your luck by playing a round of pai gow poker today. Better yet, maximize your online betting experience by learning how to play other casino games. Simply visit HappiStar Tips – your go-to online learning hub for casino games.

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