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Pai Gow Strategy

September 24, 2020

Pai Gow Poker is the Americanized version of the classic Chinese game Pai Gow. Instead of using Chinese dominoes, this game uses playing cards with poker hand values. At first this game can appear to be confusing and overwhelming, but with a little practice this could become your new favorite casino game!

If this is your first time being exposed to Pai Gow Poker, you will want to learn the general rules and guidelines to the game. If you already know how to play, then proceed below for a general strategy to Pai Gow Poker that can help you find greater success at the table.

How to Play Pai Gow Poker

To play Pai Gow Poker, each player makes a minimum bet before the cards are dealt.

Every player including the dealer is dealt seven cards from a standard deck of 52 cards plus one Joker. With these seven cards, each player must make two poker hands. One of the hands is a five-card “high” hand (also referred to as the big hand) and a two card “low” hand (or the front hand). After every player makes their five-card hand and two-card hand, every player including the banker reveals their cards.

For the player to win, the player must win both hands; their high hand and low hand must be stronger than the banker’s high hand and low hand. This outcome results in the player winning the entire bet.

Alternatively, if the dealer wins both hands, the player loses their bet. If a player wins one hand and the dealer wins another hand, this outcome results in a draw and no money is exchanged. However, if the player and banker hands are the same that is a win for the banker. For example: If the player and banker both have an Ace King for their two-card hand that is a win for the banker.

Pai Gow Poker Strategy

You want to play the “house way” as a general guideline. For example, if you are dealt two pairs, there is two way to play this hand, splitting or keeping the two pair as you five-card hand and placing the next highest two cards as your two-card hand. If you are unsure ask the dealer and he will let you know how the house would set this hand. Know that the final decision on how you want to set the hand is up to you.

If you choose to keep both of your pairs in your five-card hand, you have a greater chance of pushing to the banker. It is important to remember that in order to win in Pai Gow Poker your hand ranking must beat both of the banker’s hands.

According to the rules, your five-card hand ranking hand’s value must be greater than your two-card hand. So, as a rule of thumb, keep your higher pair in your five-card hand and place the lower pair in your two-card hand. In the long run, this Pai Gow hand strategy will give you a greater chance of success.

Just like any other card game, there are hundreds of situation-specific strategies that require an expert level of knowledge and experience. But for the beginner or moderately experienced player, following this Pai Gow hand strategy approach can hopefully lead to a successful and enjoyable experience the next time you visit a Pai Gow table!

For more information about playing Pai Gow Poker, visit SYCUAN’S POKER ROOM.