How to Play Pai Gow Mines Games Easy Way Poker: A Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners
If you’re no stranger to online casinos, you may have come across something called “pai gow poker” but have never dared press play because you aren’t sure what the rules are.
Still curious what pai gow poker is and how it’s played? Would you like to try your hand at this card game yourself?
Well, you’re in luck because today we’re going to look at pai gow from all sides, dive into its origins, break down how to play pai gow poker, and provide you with tips and tricks on how to make the best of the hands you may be dealt.
Pai Gow Origins
To start off, pai gow is a Chinese gambling game that has been around since the Song Dynasty (960–1279 AD). It is played with 32 dominoes and is said to be the ancestor of the dominoes we know today.
Pai gow poker, while definitely not the same as pai gow, is loosely based on the Chinese tile game.
Namely, in the 1980s two American casino managers Sam Torosian and Fred Wolf decided to adapt the domino game, use cards instead of tiles believing that change would attract more players, and thus turn pai gow into a simplified and soon-to-become extremely popular card game named pai gow poker.
How to Play Pai Gow Poker
Pai gow poker is sometimes also called double-hand poker, which probably immediately tells you a thing or two about the card game.
In addition, pai gow poker is both a game of luck and skill; you need to be aware of certain rules in order to play the game. Being able to read poker tells doesn’t hurt, either.
But how is pai gow poker played?
For starters, the game requires a regular 52-card deck, with the addition of a single joker. 53 pai gow cards total.
As for the number of players, the standard is six plus the dealer. The goal of every player is to defeat the banker. The banker, however, doesn’t necessarily need to be the casino dealer, although it can be. Sometimes the banker is one of the other players, or even a player who teams up with the dealer so that they’re both co-bankers.
Dealing Pai Gow Poker Cards
Knowing poker rules is not enough; you need to know the specifics of pai gow poker as there are significant differences between the two. In fact, there is even a difference between dealing regular poker cards and dealing pai gow poker cards.
When four cards are left, the dealer places them in the discard pile known as the muck.
In pai gow poker, the dealer deals seven hands of seven cards (one for each player and the dealer). The seven piles are all face down. When four cards are left, the dealer places them in the discard pile, which is also known as the muck.
Card Arranging Phase
During the card arranging phase, players have to arrange their cards in such a way that the value of their five-card poker hand is higher than the two-card poker hand. Additionally, the cards have to be laid face-down on the table as soon as players are done arranging them.
Pai Gow Poker Showdown
The moment of truth: everyone reveals their hands. As the dealer reveals their cards and comes up with the best combination, the hands are then compared to the rest of the players’ hands.
How to Win at Pai Gow Poker
We’ve shown you that the goal of pai gow poker is to beat the banker. So, how do you win at pai gow poker?
First, you have to make two poker hands out of the seven cards you’ve been dealt:
- A five-card hand, which is known as the high hand, back hand or big hand
- A two-card hand, which is known as the low hand, front hand or small hand
The catch here is that your high hand has to beat your low hand.
Now, onto the question of how to win at pai gow poker. In order to be the winner, both of your hands need to be stronger than the dealer’s. If, however, only one of your hands is stronger, then it means it’s a draw. Lastly, if both hands are tied with the dealer’s, then the dealer wins.
To sum up: there are three possible outcomes in pai gow poker:
Now, we’ve mentioned one instance where the dealer wins, but that’s not all. In fact, here are other situations where the player loses:
- If both the dealer’s high hand and low hand are higher than the player’s.
- If the high hand or low hand is identical to the corresponding dealer’s hand. The identical high hand is called a “copy hand”. The dealer wins all copy hands.
- If the player’s high hand is lower than the low hand (as that is considered a foul hand).
- If the player touches their hand after having seen the dealer’s hand, the player’s hand is considered a losing hand.
Pai Gow Poker Hand Rankings
The pai gow poker hands rank differently than regular poker. The ranking is as follows:
- Five aces (4 aces and a joker)
- Royal flush
- Straight flush
- Four of a kind
- Full house
- Three of a kind
- Two pairs
- One pair
- High card
What Is the House Way in Pai Gow Poker?
Every pai gow poker game has a predetermined setting of the dealer’s hands depending on the cards they receive. The house way may differ from casino to casino, so it is always best to check beforehand what the specific casino’s house way is.
It is said that it is always best for new players to choose the house way when arranging their pai gow cards until they’ve understood the rules better and feel more comfortable playing the game.
What Is the Joker in Pai Gow Poker?
In pai gow poker, the joker card has several functions. It can be used:
- As an ace
- To complete a straight
- To complete a flush
- To complete a straight flush
- To complete a royal flush
Pai Gow Poker Progressive Side Bets
In pai gow poker there is something called a “fortune bet”. This is an optional side bet a player may place and it’s based on using all seven cards to arrange the best possible hand.
Pai Gow Poker Strategy and Tips
Knowing poker terms is a good prerequisite to even start learning all about pai gow poker. Still, there are certain pai gow poker strategies and tips you can employ when playing this game, too. Let’s go over some of them together, shall we?
The general advice is:
- Be sure you understand the game and know the pai gow poker rules inside out.
- Learn how to use the joker to your advantage.
- Make sure you understand the difference between poker hand rankings and pai gow poker hands rankings.
- Don’t create any foul hands.
Remember not to create any foul hands when playing pai gow poker.
And now onto some specifics:
- Say you get a pair or better; it’s best you place the highest card in your high hand and pick two second-highest cards to put them in your two-card hand.
- If you have three of a kind, place them in your five-card hand. That is, unless they happen to be triple aces. If that is the case, put the high ace in the low hand and play the other two aces in the high hand.
- Have four of a kind that are jacks or better? Split them into two pairs.
- Lastly, if you have a full house, split it into three of a kind and a pair. What’s more, if you have an additional pair, play the high pair in your small hand.
Pai Gow Poker Odds and Payouts
The odds of winning at pai gow depend on a few factors, including the player’s skill level, the house rules, and the number of players.
Broadly speaking, the odds of winning at pai gow are about even for the house (casino) and the players.
The house edge in pai gow is typically around 2.5% (sometimes even 2.84%), meaning that the house house will usually win a bit more often than the players.
What’s important to remember is that there is no way to influence which pai gow cards you are going to be dealt. However, learning how to arrange your cards into the best poker hands will help you increase your chances to get a tie or even a win.
What Is the Goal of Pai Gow Poker?
We’ve mentioned it before but it bears repeating once more: the goal of pai gow poker is always to beat the banker. Beat the dealer and you’ve won.
What Is the Best Hand in Pai Gow?
There is a special hand that is considered the best hand in pai gow poker. This would be the seven-card straight flush. It occurs when you form a straight flush from the seven cards of the combination of both the front and back hands.
What Does Pai Gow Mean?
Before we sign off, it doesn’t hurt to look back on the name origins for a quick second. If you’ve wondered what pai gow means, the term, when loosely translated, can be understood as “make nine” or “card nine”. This is reflected in the fact that, although there are some high-score exceptions, the maximum score for a hand is nine.
Have You Learned How to Play Pai Gow Poker?
We sincerely hope our blog has managed to bring you one step closer to understanding the pai gow poker rules, how the game is played, and which tips and tricks might help you play it better.
In the meantime, if you still haven’t explored other types of poker, we suggest trying out online poker and then moving on to pai gow poker. Start easy, you know? Good luck!