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What is Pai Gow Poker?

Pai Gow Poker is based on the Chinese Domino game of Pai Gow.

Pai Gow Poker was invented in 1985 by Sam Torosian, the owner of the Bell Card Club in
southern California, USA. Unfortunately he did not become well known while other people earned millions by inventing casino games.
Sam received bad legal advice that card games were not patentable; therefore he never filed a patent for his game.  When his game became a success at his own casino there was nothing to keep competing casinos from offering the game and they didn't have to pay Sam a cent!

Pai Gow Poker is known to be a low risk game with a slow rate of play and lots of pushes.
This fun, social game of skill is not difficult to learn, especially because the rules are so similar to the standard game of poker.
The low risk factor encourages you to play without the fear of losing.
Pai Gow is set up so that players are betting against the dealer, not each other which can make the game significantly easier.  Players even develop a sense of camaraderie between them since they are all attempting to beat the same opponent!

Pai Gow is played with up to 7 players, with each player playing against the Banker.

Pai Gow Features

Beginners to Pai Gow Poker can choose to use a ‘House Way’ feature which automatically sets their hands using the same rules with which the dealer sets their hands.
For those who are not sure how to play this is a safe way, although it won’t give the best advantage.  
With Multiple hands at play it’s useful to know that the cards have dedicated spots on the table:
The 5-Card hand is placed closer to you, in the Back, so it is called the ‘Back Hand.’
The2-Card hand is placed in Front of the Back Hand on the table, referred to as the ‘Front Hand.’

Playing the Game

Pai Gow Poker is played with 53 Cards - a standard 52 card deck plus 1 Joker card.
The Joker must be used to complete a Straight or Flush, otherwise it will function as an Ace.
Both the Player and Dealer receive 7 cards.
Players cards are Face Up, the Dealer’s cards are Face Down.
Pai Gow is played with 2 Hands:
one 2-Card Hand is called the Front Hand
one 5-Card Hand is known as a Back Hand.

The ultimate aim of this game is to beat the Dealer’s 2 Hands.
The 2-Card Hand must have a lower value than the 5-Card Hand.
To determine who wins each hand, there are 4 possible outcomes:

You win both the 5-Card and 2-Card Hand against the Dealer you get your bets paid out.
You win one hand, the Dealer wins the other hand - this is a 'Push', and nobody wins.
Dealer wins both hands then you lose and the dealer takes the stakes.
If you Tie on the 2-Card or 5-Card Hand, then the Dealer get to win the hand.

General Rules Of Pai Gow Poker

The Joker is semi-wild which can be used as an Ace, complete a Straight, Flush, Straight Flush or Royal Flush. After the player makes a bet, the Dealer will deal the player and himself 7 cards each.
The player will separate his 7 Cards into a 5-Card high hand, and 2-Card low hand.
The high hand must be of a higher poker value than the low hand.
The 5-Card hand is ranked according to standard poker rules.
The only poker hand in the 2-Card hand is a Pair or No- Pair, thereafter the individual cards determine the value.
After the player has set his hand, the Dealer turns over his cards and divides his hand in the same manner, according to specific rules known as the ‘House Way.’
The 2 high hands will be compared, and the two low hands, the hand with the higher poker value winnings.
If there is a tie, for example both 2-Card hands are Ace/King, and then the tie goes to the ‘Banker.’
If the player wins both comparisons, he will win even money on his bet, less a 5% commission.
If the player wins one and loses one, then the bet shall Push.
If the player loses or ties both, he will lose his wager.
The player may bet against the Dealer and other players, this is known as ‘Banking.’
The turn to act as Banker should rotate around the table, but at some casinos it zig-zags between the dealer and each player in turn.
The player may always decline to bank, and then the option reverts to the next player, or dealer.

Pai Gow Bonus Payout Chart

Players have an option to make a bonus wager, and when they hit a big hand they win a bonus. The size of the bonus will depend on the size of the bet and the hand the player gets.

  • 7-Card Straight Flush (No Joker)                -  pays 8 000-1
  • Royal Flush plus two 2's                 -  pays 2 000-1
  • 7-Card Straight Flush with Joker -  pays 1 000-1
  • Five Aces                                              - pays 400-1
  • Royal Flush                                          - pays 150-1
  • Straight Flush                                     - pays 50-1
  • Four of a Kind                                     - pays 25-1
  • Full House                                            - pays 5-1
  • Flush                                                     - pays 4-1
  • Three of a Kind                                  - pays 3-1
  • Straight                                                 - pays 2-1

Pai Gow Tips

Take the time to learn the game and strategies, and don’t rush into making decisions.
Unlike regular poker which results in a simple loss if your hand isn’t ranked as highly as you thought in Pai Gow if your Front hand ranks higher it results in a ‘Foul Hand’ which will disqualify you from the game and you automatically lose your bet.

Should your Front hand outrank your Back hand, then the game won’t let you press submit.
This actually prevents you from being the cause of your own loss!

A Little Bit About Pai Gow

Pai Gow Poker is a very interesting game that has evolved from the Chinese Dominoes game into an Americanized conversion into playing cards.
By learning the basic skills and strategies a great amount of money can be won.

Baccarat tables are often kept separate from the rest of the casino in a ‘Baccarat Pit.’ The Baccarat table is easy to recognize. It is often quite large and can have seating for as many as twelve people.


Last Updated 3 October 2017

Pai Gow Poker