How to Play Pai Gow Poker

Pai Gow Poker Strategy & Guide.

Pai Gow Poker is one of those games in the casino that people tend to walk by and think to themselves, “I’ll have to try that game one of these days.”

Poker sounds easy enough, but that “Pai Gow” part tends to make people a little bit nervous when they think about laying down their money and trying to play a game they don’t quite understand. The truth is, though, that Pai Gow poker really isn’t very difficult to learn and it’s actually one of the game in the casino that comes with the lowest risk and best casino game payout rates.

When you understand the game and play with the proper strategy, you can actually play with about a house edge of less than three per cent. There aren’t many games in the casino that will offer you those kinds of odds.

So let’s jump in and make you an expert in Pai Gow Poker. The next time you log to your online casino account, you’ll have one more game that you’ll be able to sit down and enjoy. With everyone else.

The game itself moves along fairly slowly compared to other casino games. Similar to a game like blackjack online, the players at the table are all playing against a single hand and tend to win or lose together. Pai Gow also tends to end in a lot of pushes (the hand is a draw and no money changes hands) which also makes it a pretty low-risk game as well.

The Basic Rules Of Pai Gow Poker

  1. One 53 card deck is used. It contains the usual 52 cards plus one joker. The joker is semi-wild and can be used to complete a straight, a flush, a straight flush, or a royal flush. (It can not be used to make a pair.)
  2. After players place their bets, the dealer will deal himself and each player seven cards.
  3. Hands are made according to standard poker rules except that the “wheel” (A2345) is considered to be the second-highest straight in some casinos. (Some casinos have dropped this rule.)
  4. The player will separate his cards into one five-card hand (the high hand) and one two-card hand (the low hand). The five-card hand must be of a higher value than the two-card hand.
  5. The five-card hand is ranked according to traditional poker rules. If the two-card hand is a pair, it is ranked as such, otherwise, the value of the two individual cards determine the value of the hand.
  6. After the players have set their hands as they wish, the dealer will set his hand according to specific rules which are called “the house way”.
  7. The two high hands and the two low hands will be compared. The hand with the higher poker value wins. In the event of a tie, for example, if both low hands are Ace/King, then the “banker” is considered to win that hand. The banker may be the dealer or another player.
  8. If the player wins on both hands, then he wins back his bet minus a 5% commission.
  9. In case the player wins one hand and loses the other, then the bet is a push (draw), and no money changes hands.
  10. If he loses or ties on both hands, he loses his wager.
  11. In this game, players are offered the chance to act as “the banker”, meaning they will have to cover any bets made. The player always has the ability to decline his or her turn to be the banker—and this is usually what happens.
  12. In some casinos the offer to be the banker will rotate around the table, in others, it will go from player to dealer, to player, to dealer, etc.
  13. When a player declines to be the banker, the option will go to the next player at the table, or to the dealer, depending on the house rules.
  14. Each card in Pai Gow Poker has a point value. Two through ten are worth their face value. Jacks, queens, kings, and aces are worth 11, 12, 14, and 15 respectively.

The Pai Gow Poker Strategy

The following strategy is designed for when the dealer is playing as the banker. If will make for an estimated house edge of about 2.68%. This, of course, will vary slightly with how much you vary from the strategy.

The strategy is broken into two basic sections. The first section is for hands where you don’t have the cards you’d need to make a straight or flush in your five-card hand and the second section is for hands where you do have the cards you’d need to make a straight or flush of some kind in your five-card hand. Once you’ve looked at all seven of your cards and determined which set of cards you have, you’ll want to arrange your cards in the form that appears highest on the list.

Pai Gow Poker Payouts
Pai Gow poker payouts to take into consideration

Section One: You Can’t Make A Straight Or Flush

If you have the cards to make a straight or flush, you’ll skip to the next section. If not, look at the cards you have and arrange them according to the highest hand on this list that you can make.

Five Of A Kind + One Pair

Play a pair of aces in the low hand and the rest in the high hand.

Five Of A Kind

Put a pair of aces in the low hand.

Four Of A Kind + Three Of A Kind

Split the four of a kind if the cards are at least two ranks higher than the three. Otherwise split the three of a kind.

Four of A Kind + One Pair

Play the pair in the low hand.

Four Of A Kind

  • Never split 2s, 3s, or 4s
  • Keep 5s together with Ten-high or better, otherwise split
  • 6s together with Queen-high or better, otherwise split
  • 7s or 8s together with King-high or better, otherwise split
  • 9s, 10s, or Jacks together with Ace-high, otherwise split
  • Always split Queens, Kings, or Aces

For example, if you have four 3s, keep the four 3s in your high hand and make the best of your low hand. If you have four 7s and a King, keep them together and make the best of your low hand, otherwise split the sevens, make a pair of sevens in your low hand, and use the rest for your high hand.

Two Different Three Of A Kind

Play a pair from the higher set of three as a pair in your low hand.

Three Of A Kind + Two Pair

Play the higher pair in the low hand.

Three Of A Kind + One Pair

Play the pair in the low hand.

Three Of A Kind

Play the highest two kickers in your low hand unless you have three aces. In that case, make a pair of aces in your high hand use the third ace with the highest kicker you have in your low hand.

Three Pair

Play the highest pair as your low hand.

Two Pair

Decide what is the best low hand you can make if you play both pairs in the high hand. Then calculate the value of the two pairs. (For example, a pair of tens and a pair of nines would be 19) and arrange your cards as follows:

  • 6 points or less: play Two Pair with Queen-high or better, otherwise split the pairs
  • 7 to 11 points: play Two Pair with King-high or better, otherwise split the pairs
  • 12 to 16 points: play Two Pair with Ace-high, otherwise split the pairs
  • 17 or more points: split the pairs

One Pair

Play your highest two kickers in the low hand.

No Pairs

Play your second and third highest cards in the low hand.

Section 2: You Can Make A Straight Or Flush

This section is for when you are dealt your cards and you’ve determined that you can make some sort of straight or flush in your high hand. Note that some casinos may count A2345 as the lowest straight or straight flush. When the joker is wild in a straight or flush, it assumes the highest rank missing from the four natural cards.

In each situation, you will be able to make your straight, flush, straight flush or royal flush as well as one of the hands or combinations of hands below.

Four Of A Kind

Play the highest straight or flush you can make that will leave two aces in the low hand. (remember, the joker can be used as an ace.)

Three Of A Kind + One Pair

Play the straight or flush if the pair left in the low hand is sevens or better. Otherwise, play the three of a kind as the high hand and the pair as the low hand.

Three Of A Kind

Make the best low hand you can that will leave the straight or flush in the high hand.

Three Pair

Play the pair of aces as your low hand.

Two Pair

Decide what is the best low hand you can make if you play both pairs in the high hand. Then calculate the value of the two pairs. (For example, a pair of tens and a pair of nines would be 19) and arrange your cards as follows:

  • 6 points or less: play the Two Pair with Queen-high or better, otherwise play the best high hand
  • 7 to 11 points: play the Two Pair with King-high or better, otherwise split the pairs
  • 12 to 16 points: play the Two Pair with Ace-high, otherwise split the pairs
  • 17 or more points: split the pairs

One Pair

Play the best possible low hand that will leave a flush or straight in the high hand, with one exception. If you have a pair of nines, tens, jacks, or queens, play ace-king in your low hand if you can.

No Pair

Make the best possible low hand that you can that will leave you with a straight for flush in your high hand.

And there you have it…Everything you need to know to make the most of your money at the Pai Gow Poker table. Obviously, this strategy is not something you’re going look over once and become an expert. You’ll need to study it a little bit and practice, but in the end, it will make you a better player and no matter how much money is in your bankroll when you hit the casino, you’ll be able to play and enjoy yourself for longer.

Cheers And Good Luck!

Pai Gow Poker FAQ

How can I play Pai Gow poker?

Pai Go poker isn’t a difficult game to learn. When you understand and play it with proper strategy, you can decrease the house edge less than 3%, which makes it one of the best casino game payouts. Check this guide to learn basic Pai Gow poker strategy and different payouts.

What does Pai Gow mean?

(Chinese: 牌九; pinyin: pái jiǔ; Jyutping: paai4 gau2), refers to a gambling card game called Pai go poker or “double hand poker”

What is the house advantage on Pai Gow Poker?

It is 2.84% and makes it one of our top #6 best payout casino games.

Is Pai Gow Poker the easiest casino game to win?

No, it is not. Actually Blackjack has better odds, because if you learn to play it correctly, using proper blackjack strategy, you can minimize the house edge to 1%

Can online casinos cheat at Pai Gow?

The answer is a straight forward NO. Reputable online casinos are monitored by third party specialized companies for their fairness and game result randomness, so you should feel safe playing there.