Mastering Pai Gow

Posted on: May 1, 2020

The game of Pai Gow Poker 

Pai Gow Poker is a card game where a player is dealt seven cards from which he or she will make two different poker hands. The game was created by an American casino owner Sam Torosian in the 1980s. Since then, the game has become a major hit across the country.   

As mentioned initially, the players have to make two poker hands with the cards they are dealt with – one 5-card hand and another 2-card hand. All you need to do is arrange your cards based on usual Poker card combinations, such as a straight, full house, flush, etc.  

Pai Gow Poker should not be confused with the classic Pai Gow. While the essence of the game is similar – that is, beating the hand of the dealer – the rules are different. The classic Pai Gow, which is said to have originated from China, makes use of dotted dominos.  

The goal of Pai Gow Poker is pretty straight-forward: beat the dealer’s two poker hands. If you only beat one hand, that is called a push. If you lose both hands, you lose your bet.  

Mastering Pai Gow can be difficult without constant practice. What is good about this game is that the chances of losing are relatively lower than other games. The game is a game of pushes, meaning you can play longer for the same stake. For you to lose your bet, both of your hands must lose.  

Tips on mastering Pai Gow Poker 

Playing banker 

In most card games, the banker has more favorable odds than any other player on the table. In Pai Gow Poker, there will be times when a player will have the opportunity to be a player banker. When this happens, do not pass on up this chance. Playing banker gives you a higher possibility of winning. To be a banker, you must first have enough money on you to cover all winning bets. If your money is not enough, some casinos will play co-banker with you. Studies show that the banker wins 29.9 percent of the outcomes, and the player wins 28.6 percent. If you play as a banker, you will have a 1.3% better winning rate. It may not sound as much, but if you combine all opportunities of playing banker for the night, it becomes a considerable sum.  

Moreover, there is also a difference when it comes to the treatment of commission. Player-bankers only pay a 5% commission based on net winnings. For instance, if you win three out of five games, you only have to pay the commission for that one win. (3W – 2L = 1 net win)   

Beating the dealer 

Beating the dealer’s hand is the primary goal of Pai Gow Poker. With that said, you do not only need to memorize the card combinations possible; you also need to be strategic on how to use your cards.  

 Keep in mind some strategies for better card combinations.  

  1. If there are no combinations possible, use your highest card for your high hand, and the next two highest cards for the low hand.  
  2. If you have 3 of a kind, play the cards together unless they are aces. If you have three aces, use the 2 in the high hand, the other 1 in the low card hand combined with the next highest card for the low hand.  
  3. Always try to create a combo such as straight or flush for the high hand. But keep in mind that your low-hand should also high-value cards. For instance, there could be a possible 3-4-5-6-7 and 4-5-6-7-8 combinations. Use the former for your high hand, and keep the 8 for your low hand.   
  4. For four of a kind cards, use wisely depending on the rank of cards. Those whose value is six or lower must be kept in your high hand. Those whose value is seven and up must be played depending on the other cards remaining. If you have an ace, split 7,8,9, or 10. If you have J, Q, K, the best option is always to split them.  

Managing your bets & winnings 

Pai Gow, as mentioned earlier, is a game of pushes. So, it is not as easy to lose money as with other games. You need to be beaten twice before you lose your bet. With that said, you can play longer for a smaller sum of money.  

A good practice is to set up a bankroll. A bankroll is the amount of money designated as the bet for the games played in a single session. Make a habit of only spending the allotted bankroll. Your bet in each game must not exceed your total bankroll for the session. Reduce the temptation of increasing the bankroll impulsively by leaving your ATM in the hotel room or your house. In gambling, as in everything in life, there is always another time. You can try your luck then.  

Another thing to remember is not to be blinded by your winnings. While Pai Gow Poker is a game of strategy, there is an element of luck involved. Set a limit to the number of games or hours you can play, even if you are winning.  

When to leave 

There are two cardinal rules in gambling. First, do not chase your losses. Second, do not be greedy. Knowing when to leave the table is really about self-control. Whether you are on a winning or losing streak, have the discipline to leave the table.  

Chasing losses is never good because you might end up spending more than your bankroll and not win back your money at all. Being too greedy with winning can also backfire. You never know when your luck might run out, or a more strategic player comes in. Be contented with your winnings. It is prudent to set goals ahead of time. For instance, you could tell yourself that if you gain 20% more than your bankroll in winnings, then you will stop. Going in with a clear intention is an excellent way to avoid regrettable decisions.   

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