Pai gow poker is an offshoot of pai gow, a game played with cards instead of the conventional Chinese dominoes. Also known as the double-hand poker, it was introduced in the United States of America by Sam Torosian, the Bell Card Club owner. Sam liked the idea of such a game after he was told about the rudimentary of Pusoy by one of his club’s customers.
He opined that a simple two hands version of the game with 7 cards would be more exciting than the traditional 13 card game with players arranging three hands. Pai gow hit the right buttons among gamblers and by the late 1980s, and the early 1990s had taken both the Las Vegas strip and the world by storm. Sam missed out on a huge business opportunity after he failed to patent the game on his attorney’s bad advice.
How to Play Pai Gow Poker
The game is played with 53 cards – the usual deck of 52 cards plus a joker – on a table for six players and the dealer. The goal is to beat the banker, any other player, the casino dealer, or a player playing with the dealer as bankers.
The pai gow poker players’ objective is to beat the house way, and to do so, you need 7 cards with two poker hands.
- A five-card hand or big hand is also known as the “high hand.”
- A two-card hand called the “low hand” or front hand and small hand.
Once you have the hands set and the dealer shows them together with the house way hands, there are three possibilities.
- The player wins the bet by winning both the hands.
- The player loses the bet when the dealer wins both the hands.
- One hand of the two seven cards hands is won by the dealer and the other by the player. In this case, no real money is paid out or exchanged, and the hand is considered a push. However, the commission and other charges for the hand are collected.
In case of a tie when you play pai gow poker, the hand goes to the dealer rights reserved. For instance, if the dealer and you both have a low hand of A-K, the hand is won by the house way.
The five-card hands are based on the usual poker hand rankings with a single exception only. In most casinos, the “wheel” or the hand A-2-3-4-5 is the second-highest straight, while in the gambling jurisdictions of California and Michigan, the same combination is the lowest possible straight.
The joker has a critical role to play in pai gow poker. In a five-card hand, it can be used to complete a flush or a straight and, in other instances, can be used as an Ace. In a two-card hand, the joker is always treated as an Ace, but southern California casinos have rights reserved to treat it as a “wild.”
How to Arrange a Pai Gow Poker Hand
When you play pai gow poker, you will find the deal method to be fascinating. After the cards are shuffled, they are placed into seven piles face-down in seven cards’ sets – a set for each player, and the remaining four cards are discarded. Each seat around the table is numbered from one to seven with a random number with rights reserved to decide who gets the dealt cards first. Subsequently, the cards are given in a counter-clockwise direction.
For the two-card hand game, it is only possible to make pairs and high cards while the standard poker rankings apply for the five-card hand. The five cards must have a higher ranking than the two-card ones. The joker completes the flush or the straight. If you cannot make a pair or better, it is called a non-hand or pai gow.
After the players have set their poker hands, the two cards hand is placed in the front and the five cards one at the back. This is why when you play pai gow poker, the first is called “on top,” “small,” “minor,” “in front,” or “low,” and the second the “bottom,” “high,” “behind,” or “big” hand.
If a hand is not correctly set when you play Pai, like when the two-card outranks the five-card hand, the deal is canceled, and it is either set as per house way rules, or the casino has the rights reserved to forfeit the hand.
Pai Gow Poker Side Bets
With sustained practice in the poker pai game, you will find that you can easily set your hands. Also, gow poker players place side bets and take a chance when they play pai gow. If you are very sure about using side bets, you will discover that they add to the pai gow poker’s jackpot aspect.
There are several aspects of side bets in the poker pai game. One of them is “Fortune” in pai gow that is a side bet which pays based on the seven-card value. If another player has four of equal value or better, the player who has made the Fortune bet becomes eligible for an “Envy Bonus.”
While the Fortune side bet adds to the jackpot possibility when you play pai gow poker, the house edge is not standardized but is variable. In Fortune bet, it does not matter how you set a five-card high hand or the second card two hands. With three 8s, two Kings, a Jack, and a 4, you can get the Fortune payoff on a full house, regardless of whether you set the cards with 8s in the high hand and the pair of Kings in the second of the two hands.
When you play an online pai gow poker game and the conventional casino game, you will find several pay tables with all starting payoffs at five-card straights. The latest version of pai gow poker running now pays 2-1 on a straight, 3-1 on three of a kind, 4-1 on a flush, and 5-1 on a full house. Others to look out for in pai gow are 25-1 on four of a kind, 50-1 on a straight flush, 150-1 on a royal flush, and 400-1 on five Aces.
There are also big jackpots on three categories of seven-card hands. There is a payout of 1000-1 on a seven-card flush with a joker, a 2000-1 jackpot on a five-card flush along with the same suit King and Queen, and the top prize of 5000-1 bull’s eye for a seven-card flush without the joker.
Where to Play Pai Gow Poker Free?
Play free pai gow poker online and get all the excitement of the casino games. Apart from being free, there are several online versions of the game. Here are some of the most popular free online pai gow games that you can opt for.
- Real-time Gaming –This free category of poker does not offer the best house edge as the rules are rather complex. The edge for this free game is 2.86%, well above that of standard games. But it still is very popular among free pai gow players.
- Playtech – This is not very popular among free pai gow poker games because apart from a few glitches that make it less user-friendly, the free game looks dated too. There are certain technical issues with this free app.
- Micro Gaming – This standard free play has a slightly better edge at 2.7%. The free game allows a $1 wager, which is good amongst the other free pai gow poker versions. Microgaming free game offers an amazing jackpot of up to 8000-1.
Download this free pai gow poker game and have fun just like the casinos.
Pai Gow poker How to Play – FAQs
Pai gow poker is played with a full deck and a joker on a table for six players and the dealer. Two hands are given, and the pai gow poker players have to beat the banker.
How to play Pai gow poker?
Poker pai gow is played with a full deck plus joker. Two hands – five-card and two-card – are dealt, and the six players at a table have to play to beat the banker.
What is Pai gow?
Pai gow poker is an offshoot of pai gow, a game played with cards instead of the conventional Chinese dominoes.
How do you play Pai gow?
Pai gow is played with a full deck plus joker with six players. The goal is to play to beat the banker.
What is Pai gow poker?
Pai gow poker is derived from pai gow, a game played with Chinese dominoes. A free online version is available.