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An Exciting Variation of Poker with Asian Origins

Pai Gow Poker, also known as Double Handed Poker, is a modern card game based on poker hand values adapted from the ancient Chinese game of Pai Gow. The new version of the game became a big hit and very quickly spread to many casinos once it was modernized in 1985. Over the following years Pai Gow Poker established itself in the gaming halls of Las Vegas before spreading its reach overseas to become an increasingly popular game amongst Asian cultures. In this article, you will find all the information needed to get acquainted with the game, as well as with a few interesting strategies.

What Is Pai Gow Poker?

The game of Pai Gow Poker is played by six players who are all aiming to beat the Banker (dealer). To win in this game, a player must make two poker hands from the seven cards they are dealt – one hand of 2 cards (known as in front, on top, or small hand) and one hand of 5 cards (behind, bottom, or big hand). Both of these hands must beat the Banker or casino. There are two unique differences between Pai Gow Poker and other versions. Firstly, the game is played on a deck of 53 cards consisting of a standard deck of 52 cards plus a Joker. The Joker is used as a wildcard, to represent an Ace or any other card needed to complete a straight or a flush. The second difference is that any player at the table can be the Banker on request; usually, the Banker will alternate between the dealer and another participant during the game. All hands made by a player during a Pai Gow round have standard poker hand values.

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Basic Game Rules and How to Play

When playing Pai Gow Poker, a player can only win by beating the Banker with both hands; therefore, the player attempts to make the strongest two hands possible from the seven cards provided. The big hand of 5 cards must be stronger than the small hand of 2 cards. Having a small hand stronger than the big hand in a live match is considered an illegal move and will result in the player losing the wager. Pai Gow poker is a very simple game to play for players who are already familiar with standard poker hand values described below.

POKER HAND VALUES (HI TO LO)
Hands: Hi to Low Description Example
Royal Flush Ten to Ace same suit 10 + J + Q + K + A Same Suit
Straight Flush Any card same suit in sequence 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 + 7 Same Suit
Four of a Kind 4 identical card values Q + Q + Q + Q
Full House Three of a Kind + Pair A + A + A + 6 + 6
Flush All cards same suit A + 5 + 6 + 10 + K Same Suit
Straight Five cards in sequence 5 + 6 + 7 + 8 + 9 Any suit
Three of a Kind Three identical value cards J + J + J
Two Pair 2 x 2 pairs J + J + 4 + 4
Pair Two identical value cards K + K
High Card Highest card (Ace High) A

Rules – How Is Pai Gow Played?

After each player places an “entry bet” on the table, the dealer gives 7 cards per participant. Players proceed to make the best two hands from the 7 cards, one front hand of 2 cards and a “back hand” of 5 cards. The “back hand”, must be stronger in value than the front hand. Once everyone has arranged their hands, the dealer will reveal their own hand. Bear in mind that a dealer must organize their hands in accordance with casino guidelines (house rules). These house rules may vary between establishments.

Once this is done, the player then compares their hand to the dealer’s, resulting in one of three possible outcomes. In the first one, the player wins when both hands beat the dealer. In the second one, the hand is pushed when only one hand beats the dealer, and in the third one the player loses when both hands do not beat the dealer. Take note that the house takes a small commission of 5% of all winnings (this may vary depending on the casino).

Pai gow poker online table

Tips and Strategy

Poker strategy in Pai Gow Poker is entirely concerned with setting the best possible two hands from the provided 7 cards. The Banker’s edge in this game is 2.6%, + 5% commission to the house when players form the best possible hands, without making errors. Given the nature of Poker, there are thousands of strategy rules which can be employed. Below, we’ve explained some of them in detail.

Bet and Hand Type Awareness

Among the numerous tips, the first one is to opt in to be the banker as often as possible – if the version of Pai Gow you’re playing allows it. If you want to win, don’t play a bet based on any presented bonus offers, as any presented promotions usually indicate a higher house advantage. If no strong hands can be made from the seven cards, try to form one strong hand and one weak to stop (block) the banker from winning.

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Combination Analysis

For single cards with no natural hands, set 2nd & 3rd highest cards together in front hand. If you have a single pair use the two highest cards in the “front” hand and pair for the “back hand”. When 2 pairs are obtained, they are always played differently depending on their values. A “three of a kind” is played together except for Aces, when you would need to use one for the “front” hand.

Managing Your Strongest Hands

Even randomly, there is a chance that you might be dealt a very strong hand. Make sure you keep 4 of a kind together, when you have 6’s or lower – and split them when higher. A full house should also be split, with the pair positioned in a front hand. Always try to keep straights or flushes together in the ‘back hand’ and separate only when you have 2 pairs are available.

Conclusion – A Game of Luck and Strategy Which Appeals to Many

Pai Gow Poker is an exciting game which like most variations of poker is a mixture of strategy and luck. The rules are very easy to learn but understanding the best strategies when making the two poker hands will require practice and experience. This game is enjoyed by players from eastern and western cultures and appeals to all those who like casino games where a player’s awareness and ability can influence success.

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