How To Play Pai Gow Poker and Win Big

Pai Gow Poker, also called Double Hand Poker, is a relatively new casino card game that has become popular and enjoyed by many. The game is played at a more relaxed pace compared to other card games, yet it remains exciting and engaging.


The game of Pai Gow Poker is simple to learn and play. All you need is a basic understanding of the traditional 5-card poker hands and a few straightforward rules.


Whether you’re a complete beginner or a seasoned player looking to sharpen your skills, this guide will teach you everything you need to know about how to play Pai Gow Poker and increase your chances of winning.


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The Basics of Pai Gow Poker

Pai Gow Poker has its roots in ancient China and draws inspiration from the game of Pai Gow, which is played with Chinese dominos. The card game, as we know it today, was developed in the United States in the 1980s.


The blending of traditional poker elements with Pai Gow dominos created a game that appeals to both poker enthusiasts and those intrigued by the complexity of dominos.


Comparison to Traditional Poker

While Pai Gow Poker shares the name “poker” with traditional poker games, it differs significantly in terms of gameplay:

  • Number of Cards: Traditional poker typically uses a 5-card hand, whereas Pai Gow Poker uses a 7-card hand, split into a 5-card “High” hand and a 2-card “Low” hand. The High hand must outrank the Low hand. Your goal is to beat the dealer’s hands with both your High and Low hands.
  • Wild Card: Pai Gow Poker includes a Joker, making it possible to create unique winning combinations. The Joker can be a game-changer, as it can be used as an Ace or to complete a Straight or Flush in the High hand. In the Low hand, the Joker should be used strategically to form the best possible hand.
  • Strategy: Unlike traditional poker, where players compete against each other, Pai Gow Poker is a player vs. dealer game.


Equipment and Layout

  • Card Deck: Pai Gow Poker is played with a standard 52-card deck along with a single Joker.
  • Table Layout: The Pai Gow Poker table typically accommodates up to six players and a dealer. It features designated areas for players to place their bets, as well as sections for the High and Low hands.
  • Dealing Cards: The dealer shuffles the deck and deals seven cards to each player, including themselves.


Step-By-Step Set Up

Here’s how the game is set up:

  • Players place their bets on the table.
  • The dealer shuffles the deck, and each player receives seven cards.
  • Players arrange their cards into two hands: a “High” hand with five cards and a “Low” hand with two cards.
  • The goal is to beat both the dealer’s High and Low hands to win.


Hand Rankings and Payouts

Mastering Pai Gow Poker requires a solid understanding of hand rankings and how to strategically set your 7-card and 5-card hands.


Introduction to Hand Rankings

Pai Gow Poker employs a unique set of hand rankings, combining elements of traditional poker with dominos.


To succeed in this game, you need to familiarize yourself with these rankings:

  • Five Aces: The highest-ranking hand consists of four Aces and the Joker.
  • Royal Flush: An Ace, King, Queen, Jack, and 10, all in the same suit.
  • Straight Flush: Five consecutive cards of the same suit.
  • Four of a Kind: Four cards of the same rank.
  • Full House: Three cards of one rank and two of another.
  • Flush: Five cards of the same suit, not in sequence.
  • Straight: Five consecutive cards of different suits.
  • Three of a Kind: Three cards of the same rank.
  • Two Pair: Two sets of pairs.
  • One Pair: Two cards of the same rank.
  • No Pair (High Card): When no other hand is possible, the hand with the highest card wins.



Payouts in Pai Gow Poker can vary slightly from one casino to another. However, they typically follow a standard pattern:

  • Winning Both Hands: When both your High and Low hands beat the dealer’s hands, you win even money, minus a small commission, usually around 5% taken by the casino.
  • Winning One Hand: If only one of your hands beats the dealer’s hand, it’s a push, and your bet is returned.
  • Losing Both Hands: If both your High and Low hands lose to the dealer’s hands, you lose your bet.


Keep in mind that bonus payouts might be available in some Pai Gow Poker variations, such as Fortune Pai Gow or Emperor’s Challenge. These bonuses can provide significant rewards for specific hand combinations.


Strategies for Winning

To increase your chances of winning in Pai Gow Poker, consider these fundamental strategies:

  • Split Aces and Kings: If you have two pairs, one of which is Aces or Kings, it’s often best to split them and play the stronger pair in the High Hand.
  • Balance Your Hands: Strive for a balanced High and Low Hand to maximize your chances of winning at least one hand.
  • Play Your Joker Wisely: The Joker can be used to complete a Straight or a Flush in your High Hand or as an Ace in your Low Hand. Use it strategically.
  • Study the House Way: Many casinos have a “House Way” for setting their hands. You can ask the dealer to set your hand following the house rules.


Tips for Novices

If you’re new to Pai Gow Poker, here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Learn the Hand Rankings: Familiarize yourself with the hand rankings and understand the value of each hand.
  • Practice Online: Many online casinos offer Pai Gow Poker with free play options, which allow you to practice without risking your money.
  • Manage Your Bankroll: Set a budget for your Pai Gow Poker session and stick to it. It’s easy to get carried away, so discipline is key.
  • Ask for Help: Don’t hesitate to ask the dealer or other players for advice. Pai Gow Poker is a social game, and players are usually happy to help newcomers.
  • Practice Patience: Pai Gow Poker is a relatively slow-paced game. Be patient and take your time when making decisions.


Advanced Strategies for Pros

For experienced players looking to up their game, consider these advanced strategies:

  • Optimal House Way: Memorize the “House Way” of the casino you’re playing at. This will give you a solid foundation for setting your hands.
  • Banking: Consider banking, which allows you to be the dealer and set your hands against other players. This can give you a slight edge in the game.
  • Bankroll Management: Advanced players know the importance of managing their bankroll. Have a clear strategy for when to increase or decrease your bets.
  • Bluffing: Although Pai Gow Poker is not typically associated with bluffing, experienced players can use strategic deception to gain an edge.


Etiquette and Casino Play

Pai Gow Poker, like many other casino games, has its own set of etiquette rules:

  • Be Courteous: Always be polite to the dealer and other players at the table. Rudeness can ruin the atmosphere.
  • Setting Hands: Be sure to set your hands within a reasonable amount of time. Delays can be frustrating for others.
  • Tipping the Dealer: It’s customary to tip the dealer when you win, especially if you’re banking.
  • Know When to Leave: If you’re on a losing streak, it’s wise to walk away. Don’t chase losses.
  • Responsible Gambling: Keep in mind that gambling should be a form of entertainment, not a means to make money. Set limits and stick to them.


Play Pai Gow Poker at Capitol Casino

Pai Gow Poker is a fun and strategic casino game that offers a unique blend of skill and luck. Mastering the game can be incredibly rewarding. By following the rules, understanding hand rankings, and implementing basic and advanced strategies, you can enhance your chances of success at the Pai Gow Poker table.


Remember, practice makes perfect, so hone your skills and enjoy the journey of becoming a Pai Gow Poker expert. We wish you the best of luck!

Put your Pai Gow Poker skills to the test! Join us at Capitol Casino today and experience the excitement of this captivating game for yourself. Email to learn more or come by personally at 411 N 16th St, Sacramento, CA, 95811. Let the cards fall in your favor!