How to Play Pai Gow

paigowThe game of Pai Gow combines the fun of playing poker with the ease of playing a casino table game. You don’t have to be a poker shark to play and learn how to win at Pai Gow, you just need to know a couple of simple rules. One of the best things about playing Pai Gow poker is that a lot of hands result in a push, which means that the hand has no winner and the bets are returned to the players. This lets you enjoy the game longer than most casino table action.

The game is played with a 53-card deck (one joker is added) and the object is to split seven cards into a high-hand of five cards and a low-hand of two cards. Once players are dealt their cards they are given time to split them themselves or they can opt for the dealer to help split them the “house way”. You’ll want to have a basic knowledge of poker hand rankings so you understand how to split your cards.

Splitting Cards

When splitting your cards it must be done in a way that the high hand is greater in value than the low hand. If you get dealt the joker it can be used as an ace or to complete a straight or flush. Poker hand rankings are used to determine hand strength, with the one exception that a low straight (A-2-3-4-5) is the second highest ranked straight and will beat a straight of K-Q-J-10-9.

To win even money less 5% on your bet, both your high hand and your low hand have to beat the dealer’s hands. If you win one hand but not the other the hand becomes a push and your bet is returned. If the dealer wins both hands your bet is lost. In the event that your hand is exactly the same as the dealer’s it is considered a “copy”, and all copy hand situations go to the dealer.

Banking Action

The rules of Pai Gow also allow for the player to act as the dealer, called “banking action”. When a player banks action the dealer will remain in the hand and will wager an equal size bet to the one that the player banking action made in the previous hand. It’s a big advantage to bank action because all the usual dealer benefits like copy hands will now go to the player dealing, and same applies when playing at casinos on the internet. Another advantage to banking action is that the 5% commission owed on winning hands is only charged after losses are set against winnings.

The opportunity to bank will rotate around the table but not every player will want to do it. In order to bank action you must have played the last hand against the house dealer and you must have enough money on the table to cover all of the other bets. You’ll want to bank as much action as the game allows you to if you want to maximize your odds of winning.

Pai Gow Bonus Bet

With a bonus bet option offer you have the opportunity to profit from a big hand. This optional bet will pay out anytime you are dealt a hand of three-of-a-kind or higher. The odds on the payout depend on how big the hand is, and can pay as much as 8000 to 1 on a natural seven-card straight flush. Bonus bets are made at the beginning of the hand at the same time that you place your regular bet and are not played against the dealer. If you don’t get at least three-of-a-kind out of your seven cards your bonus wager is lost. No commission is paid on the bonus bet because the house edge is big enough for the casino to profit without it.

As you get to know the in’s and out’s of playing Pai Gow there is information that can help you lower the house edge over you even further. There are systems for splitting hands that can increase your odds to win a bit over splitting hands the house way, and they are worth learning if you plan on playing Pai Gow with any regularity.