Pai Gow Basic Strategy Guide
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Strategies on Playing Pai Gow


Poker is undoubtedly one of the most popular games across the globe. Both online and the brick and concrete casino room versions are equally popular around the world. There are different versions of the game. Pai Gow is one that is played using tiles following the traditional Chinese way or cards like normal poker games. However success in this version of game requires effective strategy building. That is why learning about strategies on playing Pai Gow poker is important for the gamers.

About Pai Gow Poker

Before embarking on the process of strategy building for Pai Gow poker games, it is essential for you to learn what Pai Gow is. The game of Pai Gow is a derivation from the ancient Chinese game with same name. Now it has merged with the basic poker game creating an extremely popular gambling game. This form of game is even more popular online. Despite not being as notorious as the Texas Hold’em Pai Gow is gaining popularity with the passage of time.

Nature of the game

While the original Pai Gow game was cryptic and symbolic in nature, the modern version is easier in comparison. The earlier game was difficult learning. They were also played using the dominos. Pai Gow poker in modern days is straightforward game. The game has much similarity with the traditional poker games. Naturally the strategies on how to play Pai Gow are largely dependent on the traditional poker games.

Playing the game

You will play Pai Gow with a 53 card deck. It contains the traditional 52 cards of the game and a joker. The use of joker requires good strategy building. It can be used as wild card in 5-card hand. You can complete the straight or the flush with it. At other cases it will be used as an ace. The game is played on black jack table. Like Black Jack the aim is to beat the banker or the dealer. 7 cards are dealt to each of the 7 players with 4 cards remaining unused. Each player sets their hands with 5 + 2 combinations. The aim is to beat the dealer on both hands to win. When both hands are inferior to dealer you lose. If it is 1-1 situation, it is a push. In extraordinary case of your hands becoming exact replica of dealer’s hands, it is a tie. But the dealers get the advantage in such case. You pay a small commission of 5% on each win. So if you wager $10, on wining your return would be $19.50.

Assessing the probabilities

It is extremely essential to assess the Pai Gow game probabilities to build up a set of effective strategies for the game. You may have divergent combinations of hands and the probabilities shall vary accordingly. Experts on the websites have come up with a very interesting table indicating the hand formation and probabilities.


Number of Ways To Make the Hand

Probability (%)

Five Aces



Straight/Royal Flush



Four of a Kind



Full House









Three of a Kind



Two Pair



One Pair






In fact the odds in the Pai Gow poker are a bit more complicated in comparison to their traditional poker counterpart. It is also more challenging in nature. The house edge has been calculated by the experts at around 23%. You will have to gain a lot of experience to reach the standard. Practice makes man perfect and you can achieve this with dedicated practice.

Strategies for arranging your cards

While the house way is one of the safest strategies for arranging your cards and it is very difficult to improve upon it, you can judge the probabilities. It means your strategies for card arrangement shall be built on the probabilities of the winning percentage. It is however difficult to remember all the theories. You could do better looking at some time tested hands that have won the games conveniently. In online games it would be better for you to have online guidance instead of adding the numerical factors to build up your strategies.

Strategies for the banker

Any player can opt to be the banker in Pai Gow. Such player earns a commission of 5% over the net win. Dealer will however continue playing even when he is not banker. He will bet the amount that is equal to the last bet when the dealer was banking. Just as drops make the ocean, the piling up of 5% commission could result in substantial financial gains. So try as much as possible to be the banker. Opportunities to become banker come in turn. Sometimes it is straightforward and sometimes in a zigzag manner. Declination on part of the selected player to become bank will revert back the rights to the dealer. Remember, you can be bank only once in 14 turns. Try not to miss the opportunity.

To be banker you must have enough money to pay all winning bets including that of the dealer. You must also have played a hand against the house banker. In some casinos you can co bank with the house. In such case the casino takes half of the burdens of payment of wager. You have the set hands the house way in such case.

Strategies that are vital

In Pai Gow games, skillful setting of hands is essential. You must set both hands with enough strength to win. The house carries 2.3% advantage in the game. You can try a few tips.

  • Aim at making both your hands very strong so that you can win both. Else you may end up with a tie which is equivalent to losing.
  • Set your backhand higher than the front hand or else you will foul your hand losing the bet.
  • If your hand has no pair set the highest cards in your 5-card hand. Second and third highest cards will constitute the two card hand.
  • If you have one pair put it in the 5-card hand and put the next two highest cards in 2-card hand.
  • If you have two pairs and one Ace in them, keep in the 5-card hand the Ace pair and in 2-card hand the other pair.
  • If your have only two pairs, keep the higher one in 5-card hand and lower one in 2-card hands.
  • If you have three pairs, keep the highest pair in 2-card hand while the second as well as the third highest pair in the 5-card hand.
  • If you have only three of a kind, then keep them in 5-card hand unless they are Aces. If they are Aces, keep two in the 2-card hand.
  • When you have 5, 6 or the 7 card straight, keep the lowest cards to complete straights in the 5-card hand and keep the two highest cards in the 2-card hand.

These strategies will help you with the most common hands. For intricacies you need to make an in depth study of the different strategies that could put you better placed. There are also a host of informative subjects that could help you build your strategies. Above all, don’t forget the probabilities to build up your strategies against the odds.

House Edge Strategies

Your skill in Pai Gow will largely determine your hand setting process. At the same time a lot depends on the actions you bank. Especially in the head on game against the dealer you may follow the Trump Plaza house way, a very convenient game strategy. The possibilities in the games are highest for ties at 41.48%, where player will both hand the lowest 28.61%. Possibilities of Banker wining both hands are marginally better at 29.91%. Similarly the house edge probabilities are highest for the player at 2.66%, lowest for the banker at 0.12% and midway for the combinations at 1.46%. Probabilities of front hand and back hand copying are 2.55% and 0.10% respectively.

When the players used optimal single house ways in this type of game, the banker will have house edge of 0.19% and player will have 2.60% with the average of 1.20%. The house edge as Banker will be positive at +0.20% for the player number 1. For all other players it will be negative starting at 0.02% for the player number 2 to 0.21% for the player number 6.

House way

House way refers to the arrangement of hand by the dealer and it can vary from place to place. You can have the house way to build up your strategies in a number of casinos as follows -

  • Trump Plaza (Atlantic City)
  • Claridge (Atlantic City)
  • Flamingo Hilton (Las Vegas)
  • Golden Nugget (Las Vegas)
  • Texas Station (Las Vegas)
  • Four Queens (Las Vegas)
  • Bally's (Atlantic City)
  • Canterbury Park (Minnesota)
  • British Columbia (Canada)
  • Great Britain

The basic strategies for your Pai Gow game will be to build up your both hands in such manner that you are able to beat the banker or the dealer and come out winner in as many number of hands as possible. Your entire game strategy should be built with this objective.


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