Pai Gow Poker
Pai Gow Poker originated as a variation of the Chinese domino game Gai Gow. Pai Gow is played with a 52-card deck plus one Joker. The players complete one on one against the banker, with the objective of making the best possible poker hands out of seven cards. Pai Gow players use their seven cards to make a two-card hand and a five-card hand. A “Pai Gow” is a hand with no pairs, such as Q-J / K-7-8-6-2. Pai Gow poker tends to be a fairly slow paced casino game. A small buy in can usually last a long time.
|The Pai Gow table layout has 7 spots, one in front of the dealer and 6 for players, like this:|
The game of Pai Gow Poker begins with the each player making a wager. The dealer then gives each player seven cards. The banker usually designates which hands go to which player by shaking a dice cup with three dice; the banker’s position is either 1, 8 or 15 and the hands are passed out counterclockwise. Each player then arranges their seven cards into two hands, a five-card hand and a two-card hand. The five-card hand is ranked as in standard poker, with the exception that an A-2-3-4-5 straight is the second highest straight. The two-card hand will either be a pair or two individual cards. The highest two-card hand is a pair of aces and the lowest is a 2-3.
A player puts their two-card hand face down in the box closest to the dealer, and their five-card hand face down in back. After all the players have arranged their hands the banker then arranges their seven cards according to a set of fixed rules, called the “house way.”
The player’s five-card hand is then compared to the dealer’s five-card hand and the player’s two-card hand is compared to the dealer’s two-card hand. If there is an exact match between hands the tie goes to the banker, this is know as a “copy.” If the player beats the dealer with both hands the player wins even money, less a 5% commission. If the player wins one hand and loses one hand then the bet is a push. Pushes are very common. If the player loses both hands the player loses the entire wager.
The two-card hand may not rank higher than the five-card hand. For instance, if a player is dealt A-A-1-2-6-8-K, the two-card hand may not be A-A unless the five-card hand is single suited. If the two-card hand is higher ranked then both hands are deemed “foul” and both lose. The joker can only be used to complete a straight, flush, or straight flush; otherwise it is treated as an ace. In some casinos, if there is an empty seat the dealer will also deal a “dragon” hand. Another player may assume the dragon hand if they wish, essentially playing two positions rather than one. The player may have to use the house way in setting the dragon hand.
Any player may elect to be the banker in turn. If a player banks, the 5% commission is charged on the net win. When a player is the banker the dealer will still play, betting an amount equal to the last bet the player made when the dealer was banking. It is to the advantage of the player to be the banker as much as possible because the dealer wins on copies and the 5% commission is charged after losses are set against winnings.
The opportunity to bank usually rotates from person to person, including the house, but sometimes will zigzag between the players and the dealer. If the player wants to bank they must have enough money on the table to pay off all winning bets of the other players and the dealer. The player must also have played a previous hand against the house banker to bank. Some casinos will allow the player to co-bank with the house. If this option is elected the casino will assume half the financial responsibility of the outcome. The player must set their hand according to the house way if co-banking.
The best way to increase your odds in Pai Gow is to increase the ratio of how much is bet when you are the banker to as a player. Another important factor is how well you arrange your cards. The house way is a very safe strategy that is difficult to improve upon. The house way to arrange the seven cards is how the dealer arranges their own hand. It can vary from place to place but the differences are marginal.
|Pai Gow Poker Strategy – The House Way|
The probability of forming any specified poker hand in Pai Gow Poker is shown in the table below. These probabilities have been calculated considering all seven cards in the initial Pai Gow hand, regardless of how the player may choose to play the hand.
|Pai Gow Poker Hand Probability|