Pai Gow Poker

pai gow poker online gamePai gow poker is the brainchild of Commerce Casino manager Fred Wolf and his friend Sam Torosian in the 1980s. Trying to draw players in the crowded Los Angeles market, the duo went on a quest to create new card games, and pai gow was probably their biggest hit. Based on a Chinese domino game, pai gow poker uses traditional poker hands in a revamped format that pits players against a single banker. Pai gow poker online is one of my favorite games to play for its complexity and strategy. Here are some of my recommended places to play:

How to play

If both of the player’s hands beats the banker’s, then the player wins. If he or she only wins one hand, then it’s a push (tie). If the banker wins both hands, then the player loses his or her bet. The banker wins if one or both hands result in a tie (for instance, if the banker’s five-card hand wins and the two-card hand is a tie, the banker wins).

game play – Cards are shuffled and dealt, with seven face-down piles of seven cards per pile. This leaves four unused cards left over. Seven piles must be dealt, even if fewer than seven players are involved. Players are assigned a number 1-7, and then one of those numbers is chosen randomly. The player corresponding to the number chosen will receive the first pile and the deal will then proceed counterclockwise. Players then put forward one five-card hand and one two-card hand.

Winnings hands: The order of winning hands is almost identical in pai gow poker as it is to regular or online poker, but there are exceptions:

-In some casinos, an A-2-3-4-5 straight ranks higher than a king-high straight, but below an A-K-Q-J-10 straight.

-One Joker is left in the deck and acts as a “bug.” The Joker can be used to complete a straight or a flush, but not to make pairs. In a two-card hand, the Joker plays as an Ace. (There are a few casinos that play the Joker as completely wild, but those are rare online).

Strategy: for pai gow poker can get pretty complicated, which makes it a fun game. One tip I can give you is that it pays to be the banker when you can, since the banker has better odds.

Another is that the best pai gow pokers players manage to strike a balance between their five-card and two-card hands — don’t just go all in on the five-card and forfeit the two-card hand. For instance, if you can build a full house, you actually shouldn’t play it in your five-card hand. You’re better off with three-of-a-kind in your five-card hand and a pair in your two-card hand.

Pai gow poker vs regular poker

As I mentioned above, one key difference between pai gow poker and regular poker can be the order of winning hands and the addition of the Joker to the deck.

Another difference is that instead of playing against all the players at the table, gamblers are only betting against the banker. This creates for less variability. If you’re playing Texas Hold’em, two pair is sometimes the best possible hand, and sometimes it’s not even worth playing.

The odds – In pai gow poker, the odds are always going to be the same. Instead of worrying about how to ready other players, you instead just need to know the best way to arrange your own hand. The best players can bring the house edge down to a narrow minimum.

Playing Pai Gow poker online

More than most games, it’s important to find an online casino that suits your needs. If you’re new to the game, I highly, highly recommend finding a site that offers free pai gow poker first so you can learn the rules such as Spin Palace. If you try to play real money pai gow right off the bat, you’re setting yourself up to burn a big hole in your wallet. Take it slow, figure out what hands work and what don’t, then go ahead and start laying some dough on the table.

You also will want to research what the house edge is at different online casinos. The best pai gow sites will clearly explain what their house rules are and hopefully tell you what the house edge looks like.

If you’re unsure, I can promise you’ll find a winner among the top pai gow casinos I recommended at the table at the top of this page.

Pai Gow poker tips

As I mentioned before, pai gow strategy can get very intense. I’m merely an okay player myself — good enough to enjoy thinking through the strategy, but not expert enough to run you through the gauntlet of dos and don’ts.

Here are a few quick tips:

  • You get better odds playing as the banker, but it also helps to have a bigger bankroll if you’re going to play from that spot.
  • Try to strike a balance between your five-card and two-card hands. There’s a real science to this if you want to learn the specifics, but generally, if you keep in mind that both hands need to have some value, you’ll do okay.
  • If you get two pair, you’re almost always going to split them. The exceptions are when you’re kickers include a Q or better — in that case, throw both pairs in your five-card and put the Q, K or A in your two-card hand. It’s actually a bit more complex than that, but if you’re looking for a quick, dirty estimator on how to handle two pairs, that has worked for me.