Pai Gow Poker is the ideal alternative for those who know classic poker all too well and want to try a new variant of the game. It is an ancient game that is believed to have emerged in China hundreds of years ago before it hit the casinos. The term stands for "getting a new one" in Mandarin and the original version was played with domino bricks. In the 19th Century, it found its way to the North American continent, where it evolved into the Pai Gow Poker casino game that we know today. It was imported by the first Chinese migrants that settled in America in search of opportunities for a better life. As domino bricks weren’t commonly available, people started using playing cards instead and adjusted the rules accordingly. From there, Pai Gow Poker soon spread to gambling establishments across the United States. Let’s learn more…
The version of the game that you can play in a large number of casinos, both online and offline, is quite unique. Each player, as well as the banker, receives more cards than in most other poker variants. These cards are then divided into two hands that are played simultaneously. This puts you in front of some interesting decisions where you have to smartly balance the strength of each of your hands. The hand values are relatively similar to other iterations of the card game. Aside from that, however, Pai Gow Poker doesn’t feel like a typical poker game at all.
If you want to win a Pai Gow Poker game, you need to master the rules. When playing Pai Gow Poker online, you compete directly against the dealer. There are also more traditional versions of this game where you can test your skills against other players, but these are mostly played offline. To win at regular Pai Gow, then, you simply need to have better hands than the banker.
According to Pai Gow Poker rules, you play with a deck of 53 cards. Among these is a joker. This has a special role: it allows you to complete powerful combinations such as a Straight, Flush, or even a Royal Flush.
The player begins by placing a bet on the table. Then, both parties will each receive seven cards. The objective is to divide these cards into two hands: a strong hand and a weak hand. The strong hand consists of five cards, while the weak hand is formed by the remaining two cards. Numerically, the strong hand will be clearly superior to the weak hand. The composition of the hands is based on the same basics as in traditional poker.
Once players have looked at their cards, the dealer will ask everyone at the table to show them. This is so they can compare the hand values. Three outcomes are possible in Pai Gow Poker:
You should note that if the dealer and the player hold the same card value and would tie a hand, the dealer always wins. It’s worth noting that in some Pai Gow games, you can also bet against the hand of other players. So, be sure to check which version of the game you are playing.
If you want to learn how to play Pai Gow Poker the most important thing is to know the hand rankings. Basically, it’s not much different as in a regular game of poker. However, since this variation includes a joker card, some interesting combinations are possible. For example, the joker opens up the opportunity to hold Five of a Kind, which otherwise wouldn’t be possible.
The Pai Gow Poker strategy is relatively simple and there is always an optimal way of playing, no matter if you play against other players or the bank. Here, we have listed the perfect moves that will give you the best possible results for each situation:
GoodLuckMate’s best tips for playing Pai Gow Poker:
If you are new to the game, we recommend trying free Pai Gow Poker online in order to get a feel for it. Most online casinos offer RNG versions of the card game that can be played without having to make a deposit. You can then play for as long as you want, without the risk of losing any money. Once you are familiar with the rules, you can load some funds on your casino account to test your luck. Pai Gow Poker is also a staple in many live casinos where you can play against a real dealer. This provides an extremely immersive experience. Plus, it has the added benefit of not putting your fortune in the hands of a random number generator.