How to Play Pai Gow Poker

Originally dating back to the ancient Chinese game Pai Gow, once combined with the modern top-ranking casino card game poker, Pai Gow Poker became the next biggest thing. It reminds people of 7-Card Stud, but once you get into the game play, you will see that there are distinctions considered unconventional for the regular poker action.

This game differs in several aspects, including the number of cards being dealt per hand, the ways in which hands are ranked – only in specific cases, not all rankings, and the game pace. Namely, unlike poker, the players here are able to savour the action a while longer, while at the same time thinking for the best possible move and card combination. As long as you put your bet before any cards are dealt, and it’s within the minimum and maximum amount, you should be good to go.

Rules of Game Play

Pai Gow Poker is played with a standard 52-card deck and a single Joker. During game play, each player is dealt 7 cards in total, allowing players to make two hands, one containing five cards and the other containing 2. The five-card hand is also known as high-hand, or ‘behind’, while the 2-card hand is known as the low hand, i.e. up-front.

Upon receiving the cards, players are supposed to arrange them to the best possible outcome, but still ensure that the up-front hand isn’t stronger than the behind, that is, the five-card hand is better. Due to this structure, Pai Gow Poker action is largely synonymous with quite a few pushes – the player needs to beat the dealer with both hands in order to win. Otherwise, a single hand win only gets you a push and your stakes back, while holding two losing hands makes you lose the whole round.

Card Rankings

When it comes to the ranking of the card combinations in both the 5-card high hand and the 2-card low hand, poker players should be able to manage it easily. There are only a few distinct differences, as a part of the game’s specifics.

Namely, the high hand rankings starting off with the highest are:

  1. Five Aces – 4 Aces and 1 Joker (the Joker acts as Ace in all situations except when in the 5-card hand, complementing a Straight or Flush)
  2. Royal Flush
  3. Straight Flush
  4. Four-of-a-kind
  5. Full House
  6. Flush
  7. Straight – the highest is A/K/Q/J/10, followed by A/2/3/4/5, and further on with the King high, Queen high etc.
  8. Three-of-a-kind
  9. Two pair
  10. Single pair.

The low, 2-card hand has but two combinations:

  1. Pair – A is the highest
  2. High card – A is the highest.

Pai Gow Poker Strategy

When it comes to playing Pai Gow Poker, it is similar to finding sports betting picks and it is best to start off with a good understanding of the rules and game play, as well as the pace, and only later move onto strategies such as playing as the banker. Whichever you choose, make sure to put in some practice at one of the numerous play-for-fun online sportsbook websites.