Pai Gow Poker

Pai Gow Poker is played with a standard 52-card deck, plus a single joker, instead of the traditional Chinese dominoes. It is known as a slow-rated but exciting game with multiple layers of strategy.


What Is Pai Gow Poker? 

Pai Gow Poker is a relatively new casino table game that has Asian roots. In a nutshell, it is the card version of the traditional Pai Gow that uses Chinese dominoes and is played with a standard 52-card deck, plus a single joker.

Pai Gow Poker is often defined as a slow-rated play since there are multiple hands in a tie, resulting in a more relaxed pace. However, don’t get fooled by the term “relaxed pace” because it remains an exciting table game thanks to its multiple layers of strategy, side bets, dice, and wild cards. 


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How to Play 

The object of the game, which can have a maximum of six players seated around the table along with the dealer, is a straightforward one–beat the banker who can be the dealer, another player, or a player-dealer team. 


To beat the banker, you must have two poker hands with the seven cards which are dealt with: 

  • a five-card high hand, which is also referred to as the back hand or big hand
  • a two-card low hand, which is also referred to as the front hand or small hand


The object is to have your high hand beat your low hand. To give you an example, if you have a pair of fours, your high hand must be better than this. Then, once you set your hands, the dealer can show them along with the banker’s hands. In this case, there are three possible outcomes. 

  • The dealer wins both hands, and the player loses the bet. 
  • The player wins both hands and also wins the bet. 
  • The dealer wins one hand while the player wins the other. In this scenario, there is no money exchange except the commission. 

In the event of a tie, it goes to the dealer. For instance, if both the player and the dealer have the same low hand, the latter automatically wins that hand. 

Rules of the Game 

  • Commission. In most cases, the casino takes 5% of the player’s winning as a commission. However, some casinos have a flat fee per hand. 
  • Deal. The game has a unique deal method; after the cards are shuffled, seven piles comprised of seven cards are dealt face-down (one for each player and the dealer). Additionally, four unused extra cards are placed in the “muck” or discard pile. 


Each seat around the table is numbered one to seven, beginning with the banker. The rule is that the number is randomly selected to decide who gets the dealt cards first, with the cards handed out in a counterclockwise direction. 

  • Joker. The joker is only used to complete a straight or flush. If these two situations don’t apply, the joker must be an ace; this is the most common rule, although some casinos have a different set of rules for this card. 
  • Showdown. If the players have set their hands, they put the two-card hand in front and the five-card hand in the back. But if the hand is set improperly–for example, the two-card hand beating the five-card hand–the hand is either reset or forfeited, depending on the house rules. 


If the casino is the banker, the cards are set according to house rules. But if the player is the banker, he is free to set his hand; and if he co-banks with the casino, he should set his hand based on the house rules. 

  • Side bets. They make Pai Gow Poker more exciting because they can increase a player’s winnings. The rule here is that the higher the hand, the greater the bonus payout. 


In a nutshell, side bets are all about betting extra on whether the player will get a full house, a three-of-a-kind, a four-of-a-kind, a royal flush, or a straight flush. 


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