Pai Gow is a really popular game in the casino, mainly down to the fact that the pace of play is pretty slow and a good percentage of the hands will result in a push. This means that your money often goes a long way with Pai Gow Poker and unlike games such as blackjack, which aren’t too dissimilar, the hands per hour for Pai Gow Poker is much fewer, especially if your table includes a multitude of players.
How to play Pai Gow
The process of the game means that you will be dealt 7 cards, and with those 7 cards you need to make 2 poker hands; one made up of 5 cards (back) and one made up 2 cards (front). The aim is to beat the dealer with both the front and the back hand to scoop the pot. If you win only one hand then you push and if you lose both then you lose your stake.
Step 1 – Table rules
The first thing to note when you sit at any Pai Gow Poker table is the table rules.
The game tends to follow a pretty strict set of rules around the world and they don’t fluctuate too much. But, it’s worth noting that some tables will include a Joker in the deck which can act as semi-wild and they may also class a straight of A2345 (the Wheel) as the second highest straight behind TJQKA.
These are rare but they do still occur, so make sure you aware of the rules before you sit.
Step 2 – Place your bets
The next step is for you to place your bets.
This signifies to the dealer that you want to play the hand and if bets aren’t in before they start to deal, you will have to sit that hand out.
Make a note of the table minimum and maximum bet before sitting.
Step 3 – Deal time
The dealer will then deal 7 cards to you that are face down and 7 cards to them that are face down.
You may now look at your cards to create your hand but the dealer must wait until all players at the table have finished before starting to work their hand.
Step 4 – Make a hand
You now need to make 2 poker hands with 5 cards which are called the back, and 2 cards which are called the front.
The back hand should always be higher ranked than the front hand.
Hand rankings are the same as any other format of poker with Royal Flush being the best, then straight flush, four of a kind and so on.
Step 5 – Dealer plays their hand
Once you have your hand set, the dealer will then turn their hand over and sort it in numerical order for all the players to see.
They will then create two hands for themselves, the same way you did, with the back hand being that of 5 cards and the front made up of 2 cards.
They are trying to outsmart you and win for the house.
Step 6 – Showdown
The final step is show your hand compared to the dealers hand. If you manage to win the best hand over both the front and back hand then you will win 1:1 on your bet.
If you win just one of the hands and lose the other then your bet will be a ‘push’ and your stake will be returned.
If you lose both hands to the dealer then you will lose your stake in full.
Hints and tips
Split two pairs
You may find yourself in a position where you are dealt two pairs within your 7 cards. Now, the instinct in you may be to cram the two pairs in the back hand to create a really strong hand.
But, in reality even one pair in the back end is still strong and having a pair in the front hand is very strong indeed. Remember, you need to win both the front and the back hand to win the pot, so try to distribute your hands as evenly as possible.
You could follow the same theory when it comes to four of a kind and decide to split these to make two pairs. But, bear in mind that some casinos may offer a progressive bonus payout for hands like these so it may well be worth to keep the four of a kind, depending on table rules.
Play as the banker
In Pai Gow Poker you will get asked if you would like to become the banker for one or several hands throughout the game. Sometimes you will find it moves around the table and players can either accept or usually, decline.
But, don’t decline to play as the banker because the house as the edge will considerably increase in your favour when you do.
For example, when you are playing as your own hand the house will have an edge of 2.68%. When playing as the Dealer this edge decreases to 0.20%, making it much more lucrative for the punter on that hand.