Casino & Poker

Pai Gow Poker Game: How to Play, Rules & History

pai gow poker game

Looking for a new poker variant to get stuck into? Pai Gow Poker is the one for you. The game mixes elements of poker with the ancient Chinese domino game and is popular all around the world. Want to know more about this poker game? You’re in the right place!

What is Pai Gow Poker?

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s explore what this poker game actually is. This casino game is best described as a combination of Chinese dominoes and poker. Invented in 1985, it’s grown in popularity over the years and is now popular worldwide, particularly in the USA and Asia. Pai Gow Poker is played with a standard deck of 52 cards and one joker. The object of the game is to create a five-card poker hand and a two-card poker hand from seven cards, with both hands beating the bank’s hands.

Rules of Pai Gow Poker (house rules)

Pai Gow Poker is played by six players. Once everyone has placed their bets, the dealer gives seven cards to each person at the table. The cards are dealt face-down onto the table. The player must then split their cards into two hands, one consisting of five cards and the other consisting of two. The hands are then compared with the dealers, and if both the player’s hands are higher, he wins the bet. If the dealer beats with both hands, the player loses the bet. If the player and the dealer have equal hands, the banker wins.

In Pai Gow Poker, the hands are grouped into High and Low hands. The High Hand is the hand with 5 cards, while the Low Hand consists of 2 cards. The rules of this poker game state that the 2-card hand cannot be higher in rank than the 5-card hand.

How to deal

To deal the cards in Pai Gow Poker, the first thing to do is shuffle the deck. You must then deal out seven cards face-down to each player. Before starting the game, randomly choose a seat to begin the deal and distribute the cards counter clockwise around the table.

If you’re playing with the maximum of six players, you’ll deal out 42 cards to the players and the another seven for yourself. This brings the number of cards in play to 49. When playing with a 52-card hand plus the joker, there will be four extra cards left over. These can be set to one side in the muck.

Pai Gow Poker House edge

Like many casino games, the house edge depends on your level of experience. Seasoned gamblers can lower the house edge by using strategies and techniques to increase their odds. While this game can be enjoyed by anybody, those unsure of how the game works will play with a higher house edge.

Hand rankings

There are only two different two-card hands – one pair and high cards. Five-card hands use the standard poker hand rankings. There is one exception to this rule: in most casinos, the hand A-2-3-4-5 or the “wheel” is the second-highest straight. In Pai Gow Poker, A-2-3-4-5 is the lowest possible straight.

In here, the joker can be used to complete a flush or straight if possible. In all other hands, the joker acts as an ace.

History of Pai Gow Poker

poker variant game

Pai Gow Poker is a variation of the Chinese game Pai Gow, which is traditionally played with dominoes. Pai Gow Poker was invented in the mid-1980s in the USA, by a man called Sam Torosian. Torosian was the owner of the Bell Card Club and had heard of a different game called Chinese Poker, where each player used 13 cards. To make the game easier for newcomers to learn, he created a simplified version using just seven cards.

Unfortunately, Torosian didn’t patent the game at the time, so didn’t end up making any money from it. Pai Gow Poker gained rapid popularity during the 1980s and was soon available in most casinos in Vegas. Today, the Pai Gow card game can be played in both online and land-based casinos.

Pai Gow Poker variants

Like most any other games such as Blackjack, Pai Gow Poker has a few variants. Many of these allow you to place side bets. For instance, Fortune Pai Gow allows you to place a side bet that you will make trips or better in your high hand. If you do, your bet is paid out accordingly. Other Pai Gow card game variants include Pai Gow Mania and Emperor’s Challenge, which offer a side bet on making a “no hand”, which means you cannot make a straight using all of your cards. When playing this poker game online, there are also progressive variants that offer the chance to win a generous jackpot.

While some gamblers like to use land-based casinos, others prefer betting online. Online casinos allow you to play your favourite games from your mobile phone.  Thankfully, you can now play Pai Gow Poker online at any good online casino.