Pai Gow Poker Guide
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Introduction – What is Pai Pow?

The game of Pai Gow originated in China. The game was played with Chinese dominoes. The westernized version is the Pai Gow Poker. It is also called double-hand poker. The westernized and American versions are played with playing cards. These playing cards carry poker game values. Pai Gow Poker and the Super Pan-9 were the creation of Sam Torosian and Fred Wolf.

Standard 52 card deck plus a joker is used to play Pai Gow. The table is meant for seven players. One of them is the dealer. One of the players assumes the role of the banker by choice. If no one opts to be the banker, the dealer will be the banker by default.

How to Play Pai Gow

Each player is dealt seven cards. He or she has to create two hands out of it. One of them is a 5-card hand which is called the high hand. The other one is a 2-card hand that is called the low hand. The high hand is also known as the hand “behind”, “bottom”, “high”, or “big”. Similarly the low hand is also known as “front hand”, “on top”, “small”, or the “minor” hand. Your aim will be to finally set your both hands in such manner that they are higher than the corresponding hands of the dealer or the bank.

Introduction to Pai Gow

Like all card or poker games the game starts with a deal. Cards are shuffled. Then they are dealt on the table. Seven face down piles each consisting of seven cards are formed. This makes a total of 49 cards. The last four cards remain unused whatever is the number of players. Cards will be dealt in seven piles even if some players are absent and consequentially the seats are lying vacant.

Positions for betting are assigned the numbers 1 through 7. The player who is the banker will be the No.1. The counting will move counter-clockwise around the table. Thereafter a random number is chosen. The selection is made either with computers or manually with the help of dice. The deal begins from the said number and moves counter clock wise. Sometimes a traditional system is used. You will take three dice with six sides. Thereafter you will count the betting spots going clockwise starting from the first position till you reach the number achieved throwing the dices. For instance you got 6+5+4 = 15 with the three dices. You start from number 1 and the 15th position will be again the same number 1 where the deal will start. On the other hand if the counts of dices were 16, it would be number 2 position where the deal would start.

If one or more of betting positions are vacant, the hand will be assigned as usual to the vacant place. However after that the cards will be placed on the discard pile besides the 4 unused cards. Some of the casinos may allow you an additional dragon hand. This means one of the players will play with two instead of one hand. When all the players complete setting their original hand, they will be asked if they wish to place another bet. If a player places another bet he or she will be eligible to play dragon hand.

Objective of Pai Gow

The dealer will deal seven cards to each player. In addition, each player must figure out how to create two separate hands of poker. These two hands are a two card poker hand as well as a five card hand.

The two card hand cannot exceed the value of the five card hand so it requires mathematical and critical thinking abilities. Many times the two card hand will be referred to as the small or minor hand or the one that is on top or in front. Contrastingly, the five card hand is frequently referred to the bottom or big hand or the one that is behind. Part of the reason the hands have these terms associated with them is because of the way the cards are placed in front of them.

Dealing the Cards

When it comes to dealing the cards there are seven face down piles dealt each with seven cards in each pile. The cards are shuffled first and no matter how many people are playing there are four cards that go unused.

Whoever is the banker that particular hand is assigned the number 1 and then the other players are assigned the other numbers through seven moving counter clockwise. Then, a random number is chosen and this may be done with dice or electronically. Whatever the number is that is where the deal begins and then goes counter clockwise. The most common method of determining the number that identifies the dealer is to roll three dice with six sides each. Then, count the betting spots in a clockwise fashion until you reach the number on the dice.

Should a player not be sitting in a particular spot then a hand is still given to that number and then placed on the discard pile with the other unused cards.

When it comes to this game there are only high cards and one pair that can occur in the two card hands.

In Pai Gow, poker hand rankings are used with five card hands. There is an exception that players should be aware of because it is in most Nevada casinos. In these casinos the hand a-2-3-4-5 is higher ranking than the king high straight yet it ranks below the ace high straight. Those who plan on playing in Nevada casinos should be well aware of this. Otherwise, it could be a big surprise to those with a king high straight.

The joker may be used in the five card hand as whatever it is needed for to compete a flush or a straight if enough cards are available. If not, then the joker is considered an ace. When the joker is used in the two card hand it is an ace. There are very few casinos that allow the joker to be totally wild although there are some in California.

The Winning hand in Pai Gow

The hands are separated now and if each of the two hands are better than the banker’s hand then he wins. The player pushes when one of his hands is better than the banker’s. Should both hands be lower than the bankers then he loses two times.

Should there be a tie then the banker wins. An example would be a player tying the banker with his two card hand and losing his five card hand. As a result he loses all around. Because of this the banker has the advantage albeit a small one. When the player hands his cards incorrectly then a penalty will be given. This could be for having the two card hand outrank the five card hand or for having the wrong number of cards in each hand. The penalty will be one of two things. It could be to forfeit the hand or else rearrange the hands so they comply with the house rules.

For bankers, there are certain rules governing their hands. They must use the “house way” to set out their hand so that no strategy is necessary for the dealer to beat the players. The benefit of being the banker is that you can set the hand in whatever way you choose. Yet, there is an option called co-banking and if the game is played this way then the player must set his hand in the house way.

Determining the hand rankings

Like most other games of poker it is necessary to have hand rankings to register wins in Pai Gow Poker. In case of the two card hands there are only two alternatives. It could be a pair or high cards. 5-Card hands on the other hand follow the traditional poker hand rankings. While most of the casino rooms allow the standard rankings, Nevada provides an exception. The exception is that if you have a hand containing A-2-3-4-5 it will rank higher than K-Q-J-10-9. However it will rank lower than A-K-Q-J-10. However, if you are playing at California or Michigan, this type of exception will not be available. A-2-3-4-5 is the lowest possible straight in those states.

The Joker

Joker is use as bug in the Pai Gow games. It can be used for completion of the straight or the flush in the five card hands. Else it will be treated as an Ace. On the other hand in two card hands it is always the Ace. The only exception is the casino rooms in Southern California. There the Joker is a wild card.

Win and loss

You win the game if each of your two hands beat the corresponding hand of the banker. If only one of your hands is higher than the corresponding hand of banker you will push. If none of your hands are higher than the banker’s corresponding hands, you lose. In case it is a tie, the banker benefits with small advantages. If the low hand of player is better than his high hand or the number of cards is incorrect in each hand, it will be foul hand. He will face a penalty for it. Either the house rule will come into effect or he forfeits his bets.

Casino banked Pai Gow games

In this type of game, the banker will have to set the hand in a predetermined way. This is called the “house way”. Dealer need not implement any strategies to beat others. However, if other player chooses to be banker, he will be free to set his hand the way he likes. Players also have an option to co bank with the house. In such case their hands must be set the house way. In California, the casinos charge flat fees per hand in the range of 5 cents of a dollar. Others take commissions of 5% or alike that is called the rake.

How Pai Gow is played

Click the chips. Place your bet and cards will be dealt to you. Arrange your two hand cards first. If it is online game, you click a card to select it or double click to deselect. Click one and then another to set the two card hand. There are no limits on clicks. Similar way you can set the five cards hard. If it is a brick and concrete casino room, perform the same feats manually.

A player gets seven cards of 5 + 2 face up. Dealer gets 7 cards as well but face down. Players will arrange their cards. Then they will click or gesture to see the dealer’s card to determine who the winner is. Remember you can win only if both your hands win. In case of wining one and losing other it is a push and bet is returned. Tie goes in favor of dealer. Joker is used as the missing card in straight and missing highest card in flush. Otherwise it will be treated as an ace. Of course the flush and straight are available for the 5-card hands only.

As already stated the deal will start using randomized computer numbers or throw of dice to determine the position. The dealer will always be 1, 8 or 15. Bets must be made before the final announcement by the dealer about no further bets.

Pai Gow is an exciting game that combines skill with thrill. You can play it in the brick and concrete casino rooms or in online casinos sitting at the cool comforts of your home. The added advantage of online Pai Gow is that you can ask anytime about the setting of your hands and get the required guidance for strategy building.

It also helps you as a good platform for learning the basics of the game starting from the demos. One more thing about Pai Gow you should know. The game that originated basically as a gambling game in China is gradually turning into a popular sports. China banned gambling and so also playing Pai Gow poker for money long since. Western Countries and United States are trying to follow suit banning gambling on one hand and organizing tournaments on the other. Competitive tournaments at national and international levels are giving Pai Gow a new dimension. It is fast turning into a popular sport worldwide.


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