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Pai Gow Poker Guide

Pai Gow Poker Guide

Pai Gow Poker has been around for some time now. Despite having a short history, the game has become famous across casinos in the USA and the world. As it is a fun game, it is understandable why it has gained popularity among casino enthusiasts. To understand how good this game is, you need to continue reading this Pai Gow Poker Guide. It is a little different from the usual poker. Ideally, we will cover its origin, how to play, arrange hands, apply strategies, and so much more.

Pai Gow Poker Guide: Learning What Pai Gow Poker Is

If you’re new to the world of casino games, you have probably heard of the Pai Gow Poker game but still wonder what the game is about. Worry not, this Pai Gow Poker Guide will get you through the topic so you can select your favorite Pai Gow Poker tables and start winning soon!

Pai Gow Poker is an American seven-card game derived from the famous Chinese domino game called Pai Gow. The name pai gow translates to “make nine.” The domino game roots back many centuries in China, but Pai Gow Poker is an invention of the eighties. The poker game combines the basics of the Pai Gow game and the usual kind of poker casino games we know and love. Pai Gow Poker is also referred to as Double Hand Poker. This is because a player has to divide the seven cards dealt to them into two hands, high and low. On the one hand, you should have a five-card and the other two cards. Your two hands must beat the dealer’s hand to win.

Strap up as we break down the concept for you below.

Pai Gow Poker Guide: The Basics of the Game

The first thing to do to enjoy Pai Gow Poker is to understand its components. And we will put everything in plain English.

So, the game is played with a standard 52-card deck of cards plus a Joker card, acting as a wild card. This wild card can be used as an ace or to complete a straight, straight flush, or a flush. The game requires six players and a dealer around the table. If you are playing at a land-based casino, the role of the banker will move around players. If you are playing online, the dealer will always be the banker.

The ultimate goal of any gaming should be to get entertained. But, there is another thing you should do while at it. When playing Pai Gow Poker, your goal should be to beat the banker. This banker can be a dealer, another player, or a team-up. Beating a banker in this game means having a better hand than they do. You do this by creating two poker hands from the seven cards dealt to you. On the one hand, you should create a big or high five-card. On the other, it should be a small or low two-card hand. The five-card hand must be at least equal or have higher ranks than the low hand.

The History of the Game

Pai Gow originated in China more than a century ago. Players used numbered tiles to play the game. By the time it reached America, the tiles were replaced with cards to appeal to Westerners.

Pai Gow was first played at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas in 1979. Six years later, Sam Torosian invented Pai Gow Poker at his club, the Bell Card Club in California. The game became popular among those who visited the club, leading to it dominating the entire floor. Later, the club became an exclusive Pai Gow Poker Club. Torosian was introduced to the Chinese game but found it complicated for Western players. So, he replaced the original hands with poker hands, something the Americans were familiar with. He also added the idea of the Joker card. The game quickly took off. Unfortunately, he did not patent the game following someone’s advice that it was not possible.

Initially, the game was played by up to eight players. Each of these arranged their tiles to form two hands, which today are called the low/front and high/backhand. Players needed to use the two hands to beat the house and win. Today, the only thing that changed is using cards instead of tiles. Also, players have to form two hands, one with five cards and the other with two cards.

By the 1990s, the game was popular across casinos in the US. It then spread to South America and Europe before landing in Macau, where the residents embraced Pai Gow Poker. Today, the game is famous both in land-based and online casinos. It is considered a low-risk game that attracts high rollers.

Hand Rankings

Before you learn how to play Pai Gow Poker, it is crucial you understand hand rankings. This is combining different cards to form a winning hand. Remember, the game uses regular poker hands with several variations. Here is a list of hands in Pai Gow Poker, starting with the best/top to bottom.

  • Five Aces: The best hand arrangement, four aces, and a joker, which acts as an ace too.
  • Royal Flush: This is a collection of A, K, Q, J, and 10, all in the same suit.
  • Straight Flush: Five cards in one suit and in sequence. An ace can be the highest or the lowest. For example:
    • A, K, Q, J, 10 – Highest
    • A, 2, 3, 4, 5 – Lowest
  • Four of a Kind: Four similar cards plus one different card. For example, 3, 3, 3, 3, 5.
  • Full House: Three cards from the same rank plus another two from another rank. For example, 7, 7, 7, Q, Q or K, K, K, 6, 6.
  • Flush: Five cards wearing the same suit. They don’t have to follow a sequence.
  • Straight: Five cards in sequence but not in the same suit. Examples include:
    • A, K, Q, J, 10 – Highest
    • 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 – Lowest
  • Three of a Kind: Three cards of the same rank.
  • Two Pair: Two sets of cards, with each group having two cards of the same rank. For example, Q, Q, 3, 3, 4.
  • One Pair: Two cards of the same rank.
  • No Pair: This is where you have the second and the third-highest cards in the front/low hand.

How to Play Pai Gow Poker and the Rules

Pai Gow Poker is played by a maximum of six players and a dealer. If you are playing online, the dealer automatically takes the role of a banker. The dealer must give the six players seven cards, including himself. If there are no six players at the table, the cards will still be dealt to those missing. The goal is to remain with four cards on the deck. Take a look at this Pai Gow Poker guide section, how to play in sequential stages.

Placing Bets

Once you load the game on your browser, place a bet. You will find clear instructions on the minimum and the maximum you can bet. Usually, the amount you want to bet buys chips placed on the table. Choose the chips’ value depending on how much you want to bet.


The second step is dealing. If you are playing in a land-based casino, the cards are dealt face down. The cards are dealt face-up if you are playing online because no one can see them except for you. A random number generator will allocate each of the players a betting number. The dealer automatically takes the first number. Whichever number you get, it doesn’t affect the game. The dealer then deals the cards, seven at once, to each player. Four cards will remain untouched regardless of the players at the table.

Dividing the Cards

Divide the seven cards into a 5-card hand and a -card hand. The total value of the cards in the -card hand must be lower than that of the 5-card hand.

Determining the Winner

Once you arrange the cards, it is time to find out who won between you and the dealer. This is done by comparing the value of the player’s two hands individually to the banker’s. You can win two hands, one hand, or lose both. If any of your hands ties to the dealer’s/banker, you lose it.

Pai Gow Poker Variations

Pai Gow Poker has grown in popularity. This has contributed to the invention of various variations of it. These include:

  • Fortune Pai Gow
  • Pow Gow Mania
  • Emperor’s Challenge
  • Progressive Fortune Pai Gow


All these have a side bet giving you a chance to win even if you lose to a dealer. For example, if you are playing Fortune Pai Gow, you could lose to the dealer if you have a low ranking straight while the dealer has a high ranking. But, you could win according to the payout provided by the casino. Refer to the payout table below for more of this.

Pai Gow Poker Payout and Odds

Understanding the Pai Gow Poker payout and odds will help you make smarter decisions about arranging your hands. Below is a table showing the standard figures of payouts and odds for both the land-based and the online casino.

Pai Gow Poker Hand Payout Odds
High card 0 13:3
Pair 0 5:
Straight :1 14:1
Three of a kind 3:1 20:1
Flush 4:1 25:1
house 5:1 36:1
Four of a kind 25:1 500:1
Straight flush 50:1 750:1
Royal flush 150:1 6000:1
Five aces 400:1 140000:1
7-card straight flush w/ joker 1000:1 800,000:1
7-card straight flush w/o joker 8000:1 5000000:1
Royal flush w/ suited royals 2000:1 2000000:1


This payout table is applicable when you place a side bet. Usually, you win a bet when you have a better hand than the dealer’s. But, if the game allows a side bet, you could win even if the dealer has a better hand than you. For example, if the dealer has three of a kind 7’s and you have three of a kind. The banker will win the hand. But, if you wagered on the side bet, you could win 3:1 but lose the primary stake. A side bet is available in several Pai Gow Poker variants. For example, you can find it on Fortune Pai Gow Poker.

Tips for Increasing Your Chances to Win Pai Gow Poker

If you want to take your gameplay to the next level, these tips will help you brush up on your game and increase your chances of winning.

Start by Playing the Game for Free

Most online casinos offer a game in free mode and real money mode. Always start by playing the game in free mode. Try as many features as possible. For example, look at the chip provided on the poker table. Play several rounds, each with a different valued chip. Master the loops and rules to become a better player.

Know the Rules and Apply Them

After reading the rules of the game, implement them. Pay special attention to hand ranking. Once you do, you will be able to split your hands with slight hesitations as everything will be at your fingertips.

Take the Role of the Banker

If you are playing online, there is no chance you can become a banker. But, if you are playing in a land-based casino, utilize the opportunity. Taking the role of a banker gives you a better edge. But, you must have a good bankroll since you will be covering every player on the table.

Take Advantage of the Bonus

Most online casinos offer bonuses and other promotions. You can use this bonus to boost your bankroll, giving you a chance to play for longer or increase your stakes.

Find Out the Payout of the Game

This is the amount a casino pays out on bets. For example, if a game has a payout percentage of 97 percent, the casino pays $97 for every $100 wagered. The higher the payout percentage on Pai Gow Poker, the better.

Balance Your Hands Correctly

By now, you know you should split your cards into two hands. What you don’t know is that you should not sacrifice one hand over the other. The combined weight of the two hands determines whether you win your bet. Thus, always balance your hands.

Pai Gow Poker Guide Winning Strategies

Gaining an advantage in Pai Gow Poker is straightforward. You just need to figure out how to split your hands. But, if you have to carry only one thing from this casino guide, it should be if you have two ace cards, put them in your low hand. If you do, the dealer can’t have a better two-card hand. The best he can do is tie you. Here are other strategies you need to carry with you:

Splitting Your Cards the Right Way

  • Three-Pair: If you get three pairs, put the highest pair in your low hand and the rest in the higher hand.
  • Five Aces: If you get four aces and a joker, split them into two hands. But, if you have kings to place in your lower hand, let the five aces remain in the higher hand.
  • Three of a Kind: If you have three of a kind, put them in one hand. But, if they are aces, put one of them in the lower hand.
  • Pair: When you have a pair, put in the higher hand if you want to win.
  • Two Pair: If you have two pairs, split them. Place the highest pair in the higher hand and the other pair in the lower hand. If the two pairs are weak, keep them together in the higher hand.
  • High card: Put your highest card in the higher hand and the second and third highest card in the lower hand.
  • House: This is when you have three cards from one rank and another two cards in a different rank. So, put the two cards of one rank in the lower hand. Remember you are given seven cards. So, if you get two pairs, look at the best in value and place it in the lower hand. Place the three cards from one ranking in the higher hand and the other two cards.
  • Flushes and Straight: If you have a straight or a flush, place it in the higher hand. It increases your chances of winning when you don’t have a choice. But, if you have an option such as a king-high flush with six cards featuring the same suit, place the king in the lower hand. Only slip your flush and straight if you have a strong card to place in your low hand or when you are with a pair in your higher hand.
  • Four of a Kind: Keep them together in the higher hand if the four cards dealt to you are sixes or below (5s, 4s, 3s, and 2s). If you get 7s, 8s, 9, or 10s, split them. But, if you also have an ace, don’t split the four of a kind. Instead, move the ace to the lower hand. If you have four of a kind better than 10s, separate them too; if you don’t have a pair, you can place in the low hand.

Playing the House’s Way

The above strategy lowers the house’s edge. But this tip slices the house edge even further. The approach focuses on how the house splits into two pairs. Above, we said you should put the lower-ranking pair in the front/lower hand. But, if you are playing the house way, you can keep these cards together in your back/higher hand. But, you can only do it if:

  • The sum of the cards is less than ten, and you have a king or an ace card.
  • The sum of the cards is less than 16, and you have an ace card.


For example, if you have a pair of 4s and a pair of 10s, the sum of the two is 14. If you have an ace, move it to the front/lower hand and the two pairs in the backhand.

Pai Gow Poker Guide | Terms Used

As you play the online table game, you will come across several terms that might be confusing. Here is a glossary to refer to when that happens:

  • Front Hand: The front hand refers to your two-card hand. It is also called a low or lower hand.
  • Back Hand: This refers to a 5-card hand. It is also called the higher or better hand.
  • Done: If you are playing online, you will come across a button with the word “Done” on it. Click it if you are done placing a bet and dividing your cards for the dealer to reveal their cards.
  • House Way: The house way button is for requesting the dealer to divide your cards on your behalf. The cards are arranged optimally. Thus, you don’t have to worry about the dealer tricking you or disadvantaging you.
  • Hand Ranking: This is a combination of different cards to create a winning hand. We covered this above.
  • Fast Play: You can use the button to increase the pace of the game. Pai Gow Poker is usually slow-paced, but you can change that with the fast play button. The outcome of the game is not affected by the feature. Copy This is when your hand is similar to the dealer’s. If it happens, the house wins. But, if both you and the dealer have an equal hand, such as straight, the one with the higher card ranking wins the game. For example, if the dealer has 3, 4, 5, 6 and you have 7, 8, 9, 10, J, you win the hand because your cards have a better value.
  • Minimum Bet/Maximum Bet: These buttons show the minimum you can stake per round and the maximum you can bet.
  • Repeat Bet: You can use this button to repeat the actions of the first round. When you click it, the cards are automatically split into hands, and the same wagered amount in the previous game is placed.
  • Jokers: The Joker card in Pai Gow is seen as an ace. It is used to complete a flush, a straight flush, or a flush.
  • Deal: The button is used to deal cards to players on the table.
  • Split: This feature divides your cards automatically. You can use it if you are a first-time player and not use it if you really want to learn how to play the game.


Since its invention in 1985, Pai Gow Poker has been nothing but exotic and fun to play. It is, for this reason, that it has grown in popularity. The game can be described as mild in regards to rules and how to play it. Some will tell you it is a challenging game to play. But once you master the rules and practice playing, you will become a pro player. If anything, you have to only remember one thing. That is setting your cards right. Look out for the joker card and always balance your hands. Refer to the strategy tip “1” as much as you can until it becomes a part of you. Then, play the game in free mode before playing for real money.

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Pai Gow Poker Guide FAQs

How Do You Win in Pai Gow Poker?

You win if your two hands beat the dealer's hand. You are given seven cards which you must divide into a 5-card hand and a two-card hand. You can win one hand, both of them or none, by comparing whose hands are better with the dealer.

Is It Safe and Fun To Play Pai Gow Poker Online?

Yes. Once you choose a licensed and reputable online casino, you can trust that playing on that platform is safe. It is also fun to play online.

What Odds Do I Have at Hitting a 7-Card Flush Without and With a Joker Card?

The odds of hitting a 7-card straight flush without a joker are 5,000,000:1 chance. If it's a 7-card straight flush with a joker, the odds are 800,000:1 chance.

What Is the House Advantage in Pai Gow Poker?

The house advantage differs for various reasons, including the casino you are playing at and the game developer. But, most house edges are between .5 percent and .8 percent. You can significantly reduce the house advantage by implementing various Pai Gow Poker strategies.

Can I Play Pai Gow Poker for Free?

Yes, most casinos provide the game in free mode and in real money mode. Play the game in free mode before betting on your real money.