Pai Gow Poker
Pai Gow Poker Games
Pai Gow Poker is the casino version of a Chinese game called Pai Gow. Although many will call what is played in the casino simply Pai Gow, they are not the same game and casinos actually offer Pai Gow Poker.
However, Pai Gow flows off the tongue much easier than Pai Gow Poker, and almost always refers to the version played in casinos, but just realize that they are actually two distinct games.
You can play Pai Gow Poker at Bovada Casino, PartyCasino and Rushmore Casino. Each of these casinos offers high quality games and PartyCasino and Rushmore Casino even offer no download casinos, so you can play Pai Gow wherever you happen to have internet access.
Pai Gow Poker is a fun game in which the players play against the dealer, similar to blackjack. Unlike blackjack, Pai Gow Poker uses a 53 card deck. The normal 52 card deck is used plus the addition of one Joker, which acts as a wild card. The Joker can only be used to complete a Straight or a Flush as any card. Otherwise it is always an Ace.
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The best hand in Pai Gow Poker is 5 Aces (4 standard Aces plus the Joker). A key difference between regular poker hands and Pai Gow Poker hands is that the wheel (A, 2, 3, 4, 5) is the second best straight after A, K, Q, J, 10. Otherwise, the hands rank in the same order as with other forms of poker.
Players are dealt seven cards and must make their best 5 card hand and an additional 2 card hand. One other rule of Pai Gow Poker is that the 5 card hand must always be better than the 2 card hand. So if you have only one pair in your seven cards, the pair must play in the 5 card hand.
In multi-player Pai Gow Poker, the players do not play against any other hand but the dealer’s. In brick and mortar casinos, the player can opt to be the dealer on a rotating basis.
This is one of the best ways to improve your odds while playing Pai Gow Poker, but because online it is just one player versus the dealer, this is not an option at internet casinos.
When starting a new Pai Gow Poker game, the first step is to place your bet. There is only one bet in Pai Gow. There is no additional ante, raise or call, so choose your bet appropriately. The dealer then deals 7 cards to each player, including himself. The dealer’s cards are dealt face down. The player then makes two hands from his seven cards. One five card poker hand and then an additional two card hand.
The goal is to beat the dealer’s two hands with each of your two hands. Win with just one hand and it is a push, or tie. Lose with both and you lose your bet. The trick is to know when to split big hands in order to win both.
For instance, if you had 5 Aces, you might be tempted to keep them together to show the nuts. However, the proper play most of the time is to split them so you have a better chance of winning both hands. The exception may be if you have 5 Aces plus another big pair which could play in the two card hand.
Optimum strategy in Pai Gow Poker is to play what is called the “House Way”. This is basically the strategy that dealers must follow and is proven to maximize value and odds of winning.
The strategy is quite in-depth as you might imagine. Here are the rules:
With no pair you should play your highest card in the 5 card hand and the next two highest in your two card hand. With one pair you should play the pair in the 5 card hand and the highest two single cards in the 2 card hand.
Two pair should be split if you have Aces and any other pair. Likewise you should split the pairs if you have a pair of face cards and sixes or better. If the two pair are both below sixes, then never split them. However, any other two pair should be split, unless you also have an single Ace, then do not split, and play the Ace in the 2 card hand.
With three pair you should play the highest pair in the 2 card hand. With three of a kind you should never split them unless you have 3 Aces, then play the pair of Aces in the five card hand and Ace and the next highest card in the 2 card hand. If you happen to get three of a kind twice, play the smallest trips as the 5 card hand and split the bigger trips as a 2 card hand.
Straights, Flushes and Royal Straight Flushes play pretty similarly. You should generally try to play the smallest Straight, Flush or Royal in your 5 card hand and play the other cards in the 2 card hand.
A Full House should generally be split into trips and a two card hand. If you have trips and two pair, play the highest pair as the two card hand. If you have a Full House with an A or K, play the Full House as the 5 card hand and Ax or Kx as the 2 card hand.
If you are dealt four of a kind, this can be a bit complicated as well. If you get four of a kind plus a pair or better, then play the pair in the split hand and the four in the main hand. If the four of a kind is sixes or worse, then do not split the four.
If it is sevens through tens then split a pair of the four, unless a different pair or an Ace and another face card can be split. Four Jacks or better should be split, unless you can play a different pair in the 2 card hand.
As you can see, there is a lot to remember here. It would be difficult to memorize it all, but if you pick up a few things then that could really help. Pai Gow Poker has a pretty small edge to the house.
Combine that with the fact that ties come more often than either party winning both hands and you can gather that you can usually play for a long time before losing your bankroll. That’s one of the things that makes Pai Gow Poker so fun.