Pai Gow was originally developed in China as a gambling game played using 32 Chinese dominoes. That game is sometimes played in major casinos in China, the US and elsewhere. However, with the development of online gambling, a variation of poker, known as Pai Gow Poker has become popular. This game, sometimes also called double-hand poker, is very loosely based on the original Chinese game. Pai Gow poker uses the 52 cards plus one joker of a standard deck. At most six players sit around the table together with the dealer or banker. The rules of the game are very simple and it’s relatively easy to beat the banker.
Pai Gow Poker is an exciting casino table game that can also be played online. However, unlike other poker variants, where players play against each other, in Pai Gow Poker each player pits their wits (and cards) solely against the banker who is also the dealer. As mentioned above, a maximum of 7 players can join a table. Each hand begins with the players placing their bets on who will win. The cards are then shuffled, after which the banker deals each player and themselves a total of 7 cards in a clockwise direction. Unused cards are placed in the discard or muck pile.
Pai Gow Poker Rules
Pai Gow Poker has a few rules that need to be followed if you want to play and win. These rules are simple and pretty easy to understand. Firstly, from the initial 7 cards that you have been dealt, you need to make two hands – one with 5 cards and one with 2 cards. The most important rule here is that your 5-card hand should be your biggest hand and should beat your 2-card hand. If you set your cards such that your 2-card hand is the highest value hand, this is a foul, and you will forfeit both hands.
Once you have set your hands, the 2-card hand is placed in front and the 5-card hand at the back. The banker displays their cards and sorts them according to very specific house rules. Another important rule to know is the value of the Joker. In most poker games, the Joker is the wild card and can be used to substitute for any value card. Things are a little different in Pai Gow Poker. The Joker can indeed substitute for any card if you are using it to complete either a straight or a flush. Otherwise, the Joker is always considered to be an Ace.
Once all players and the dealer have set their hands, then it’s time to see which bets have won. There are three possible outcomes: player wins, banker wins or the hands are tied. As already mentioned, each player is only playing against the dealer. You compare your 5-card hand to the dealer’s 5-card hand, and then your 2-card hand to the dealer’s 2-card hand. If both your hands beat the dealer’s hands, you win outright and are paid out. If one hand wins and the other loses, it’s a tie or push, but you’ll get your initial wager back. If the dealer’s hands win, you lose.
The main skill needed for Pai Gow Poker is knowing the value of the various poker hands. These are ranked in exactly the same way as any other poker game, with a Royal Flush being the best hand, followed by a straight flush, four of a kind and so on all the way down to a single high card. Remember here, that if you have a Joker that can’t be used to form a flush or a straight, it counts as an Ace. The important thing in Pai Gow Poker is to make sure that you arrange your cards so that your 5 card hand carries the highest value possible.