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Pai Gow Poker
Introduction   |   Strategy    |  The Rules   |   Tips
Pai Gow Poker  

Pai Gow Poker, a relative newcomer to casinos, is an alternative style to Poker Holdem where the player is gambling against the house opposed to players at the table.

The games objective for your 2 hands to beat both the dealers hands. Pai Gow is very easy to learn, and does not have a lot of complexities though it does take some getting used to when it comes to splitting up your initial deal into two hands.

After the wager has been placed the dealer and the player are both dealt 7 cards from a 53 card deck. This deck comprises of a regular deck plus a Joker (who has a much defined role in this game). You and the dealer both split your cards into 2 separate hands – one of 5 cards and one of 2 cards. The 2 card hand, though, cannot be higher in value than the 5 card hand. What we mean by this is that if you have 2 pairs in your 7 card hand (let’s say a pair of 7’s and a pair of 10’s) and decide to split the pairs so you have one in each hand, you can’t put the pair of 10’s in the 2 card hand as that is higher in value than the now 5 card hand.

It’s now time to compare hands (best poker hand in the 5 card, and best pair or high card in the 2 card). If you both of your hands beat the dealers (yay!) you win, if the dealer’s hands beat yours they win (not so yay). Should you each win one hand it’s a push and you get your wager back. If it’s a tie, the dealer automatically wins.

Now that you’ve had a brief introduction, read through our tips, strategies, and rules to gain some further insight on the best ways to play Pai Gow Poker!
Playing Pai Gow Poker   Being as all bets are final before the cards are dealt, there’s no raising, no bluffing, and no drawing of cards…the only real strategy to this game is in successfully splitting your cards into their separate hands.

Your objective is to split the cards so that you have the highest power possible in BOTH hands, rather than just one. 

While we can’t promise that the following strategies will give you winning hands each time (sorry, the dealer won’t let us peek at his cards!) they are sound in optimizing your chances of having the winning hands.

Keeping in mind that the 5 card hand is called High and 2 card hand is called Low, here is what to do if you have:
Nothing in your hand – highest card stays in High, next two highest in Low
1 pair – pair stays in High, next two highest in Low 17%
2 pair – highest pair in High, lowest pair in Low 3%
3 pair – lowest two pair in High, highest pair in Low
3 of a kind – all three in High, next two highest cards in Low (*see note below)
3 of a kind x2 – lowest 3 of a kind in High, 2 highest cards in Low
5-7 card straight – lowest cards that form the straight in High, highest cards in Low (**see note below)
Full house – 3 of a kind in High, pair in Low
4 or 17: 29.1%
5 or 16: 47.22%
6 or 15: 30.5%
7 or 14: 9.7%
8 or 13: 12.5%
9 or 12: 18.9%
10 or 11: 12.5%
*An exception to this would be if you had 3 Aces: keep 2 A’s in high and place one A in Low

**If you are dealt a 5 cards straight keep the straight together and place the 2 cards out of the straight in the Low. If you are dealt a 6 or 7 card straight keep the lowest 5 cards of the straight in the High and other 2 cards in the Low.

These are the basic strategies for the more common hands. While there are many variables to take into consideration (such as the placement of Aces and the Joker) the fundamentals will still apply to all hands.

Now that you’ve read all about Pai Gow, you can head to a free room to put your knowledge into practice. You can find a free room at any of the best casinos listed in our Casino Review section!
Pai Gow Poker Tournament   The Pai Gow rules are fairly easy to understand, but it can take a bit of adjusting to getting your mindset out of regular poker hands into these hands.

The Joker is a wild card – but it is a wild card with set limitations. While it can take the place of a regular card in linking any straight, flush, straight flush, or royal flush it cannot be used in place of any other card. You cannot use the joker to create a pair, 3 of a kind, or any other combination of hand.

When the Joker is not used to fill in on the flushes or straights, it is always considered to be an Ace (which is the highest card in Pai Gow). Jokers can carry a lot of strength, but you have to remember its only role in the game.

When separating your 7 cards into 2 hands, the 2 card hand (Low Hand) cannot be of a higher point value than the 5 card hand (High Hand). Let’s say you have a hodge-podge hand and cannot make anything out of it, but it does contain a K and a Q; your only possible winning hand is “high card”. Keeping in mind that you want some power in each of your hands you will decide to move one of the high cards to the Low Hand. Since the Low Hand can’t be higher in value than the High Hand you have no choice but to move the Q into your 2 card hand, as the Q is lower than the K.

Determining the winner is easy. If both of your hands beat the dealer’s hands, you win. If the dealer’s hands beat both of yours, the dealer wins. Should you each have a winning hand it’s a push and all wagers are off. The one area which differs depending on the casino you’re playing at is in the event of a tie (such as you and the dealer both have a pair of 5’s in your low hand). Some casinos automatically grant the dealer the win in such as case, but other casinos determine the winner based on the value of the non-tie hand.

Read through our Tips and Strategy sections for ways to improve your Pai Gow game, and then have a lot of fun with this very unique version of poker!
Develop your Pai Gow Knowledge   While still a game based on Lady Luck, a successful separation of your cards greatly increases your chances of winning; therefore, skill definitely is a factor in Pai Gow Poker.

If you’ve read our Strategy section you will see that it is all based upon how to split your cards. If you find this daunting, or are not highly confident in your ability to split them to their highest advantage there are two avenues open to you.

One tool which we highly recommend, in this and all games, is the use of the free rooms (also called practice rooms). Here you can practice your splitting technique, and once you see your hands compared to the dealer’s hands you can study why your split was or was not successful. This will allow you to learn from your mistakes and make adjustments. Practicing in this way often enough will have you splitting your cards like a pro in no time at all, without having to use your own real money to learn how!

The other avenue you can travel down to learn is called “House Way”. When you click on this button the cards are separated for you following the same rules the dealer uses to separate his cards. Because the house knows what they’re doing this affords you the chance to see how they split the many different combinations of cards to optimize the playing power of each hand.

You can combine the two as well; play a few hands the “House Way”, then practice splitting a few hands on your own. Alternate back and forth as you feel comfortable with. Either way, both methods are great study aids to help you on your road to winning at Pai Gow!

To find the best online casinos offering free rooms and Pai Gow Poker stop by our Casino Review section for unbiased referrals to reputable online casinos that provide the best bang for your hard earned buck!
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