A Guide to Pai Gow Poker

Last Updated on January 17, 2023 by Jennifer Wright

Pai Gow Poker was created in the 1980s by a Californian casino club owner. It is similar to Chinese Poker and has comparable rules to this game. What players love about this game is that it doesn’t require lots of skill and as long as you have a good understanding of the rules, you should be able to play with no problems.

Here at New Casino Sites, we’re giving you all the information you need to know to play this exciting game including the rules, how to set and win a hand, the best strategy and more. Check out our Pai Gow Poker guide below.

A Guide to Pai Gow Poker

The Basic Rules of Pai Gow Poker

The ultimate goal when playing Pai Gow Poker is the same as most other casino card games and that is to beat the dealer! To win, players must have two separate hands that beat the dealer’s two hands.

To start the game, there will be a 52 card standard deck plus a Joker. In this game, the Joker acts as a semi-wild and can help you achieve a win by completing straights and flushes. The Joker will also be counted as an Ace when it is not helping you achieve straights and flushes win.

Every player and the dealer will receive seven cards face down. You can look at these cards to form your two separate hands. The first hand will be five cards and the second hand will be two cards with the aim of forming two hands that can beat the two dealer’s hands. Additionally, your five card hand should always be stronger than your two card hand in order to win. All players will also have to post their ante bet.

If you are familiar with the standard poker hand rankings, then you are already up to date with Pai Gow Poker as these same rankings are used to define who wins.

  •         1 – Royal Flush – same suit of A, K, Q, J and 10
  •         2 – Straight Flush – five cards in the numerical sequence of the same suit
  •         3 – Four of a Kind – four cards all with the same value
  •         4 – Full House – three matching card values and two matching card values
  •         5 – Flush – five cards of a matching suit
  •         6 – Straight – five cards in numerical sequence but not in matching suit
  •         7 – Three of a Kind – three matching card values and two other cards
  •         8 – Two Pair – two cards with the same value, another two cards with the same value and one other card
  •         9 – One Pair – two cards with the same value and three other cards
  •         10 – High Card – five cards with no combination


The Best Pai Gow Poker Strategy

You don’t have to make any decisions after deciding on your hands when playing Pai Gow and so getting it right at the start is the key to a good strategy. Remember, when playing Pai Gow, you need to make sure that both your hands are strong in order to beat the dealer as it’s not a good strategy to have one very strong hand and the other weak.

The best Pai Gow strategy should involve the following steps:

  •         If you have a joker, split five aces but don’t do this if you have a pair of Kings that can be placed in the front
  •         If you have AA with another pair, two high pairs or a high paired with a medium pair, split them
  •         If you have two medium pairs, a high pair and a low pair with no Ace, split them
  •         If you have two medium pairs or a medium and low pair with no Ace or King, split them
  •         If you have four JJ+, split these into two pairs
  •         If you have four cards at 6 or lower, keep them in the back and whatever your best hand possibly can be, put that in the front


How to Set Your Pai Gow Poker Hand with the House Way

The house way is the set of procedures that a casino or online casino uses to determine how a game is played. Before you start playing, it’s important to know what the house way is to ensure you get the most out of your game. A common Pai Gow house way is:

  •         Three pairs – use the highest pair for your lower hand
  •         Two pairs – don’t split two low pairs, only split low and medium pairs between your low and high hands
  •         One pair- use the highest ranking cards in your low hand and the one pair should be in your high hand
  •         No pair – the highest card should be in your high hand while the second and third highest should be in the low hand

As you can see, there is a procedure on how dealers have to set their hands and when you are able to understand this, you can then use this to help you set your own winning strategy.


Top Tips Playing Pai Gow Poker

Top Tips Playing Pai Gow Poker

While there are no guarantees to win playing Pai Gow Poker, players choose to implement some of our top tips to help increase their chances. Here are some of our general tips that can potentially help you win both the high and low hands:

  •         Players who receive a full house can break up their house to increase their odds. In your five card hand, make sure the three of a kind is placed there and in the two card low hand place the pair.
  •         Players who receive a hand that could become a full house, use the smaller pair in your full house in the back with the bigger of the two pairs on top.
  •         Players who receive a hand containing a straight or flush with two players, try to break them up and split the pairs between the low hand and the high hand
  •         Players who only get one pair should try and put this in their five card hand while the three next highest cards should be placed on top as your low hand

This can seem unclear when you first start playing Pai Gow Poker but with practice, you will be able to implement these strategies to help your gameplay. The best part about playing online is that you can refer back to these tips as you play, rather than having to try and memorise them for a land-based casino Pai Gow game.


Payouts You Can Win in Pai Gow Poker

After all the hands of players have been compared, payouts will be awarded to the winners. Here are the payouts you can be awarded whilst playing Pai Gow Poker.

  •         If you have the same hand as the dealer, then the dealer wins
  •         If you beat one of the dealer’s hand but don’t beat him on the second hand, then it is considered a tie and the bet is pushed back
  •         If you beat the dealer’s two hands, you will be at odds of 1:1 on your ante

The Pai Gow Poker house edge is 2.84% and what can be frustrating for players is that in the event of a tie, the house wins. There is also the casino commission to take into consideration but not all will implement this. Without the casino commission factored in, the house edge drops to an estimated 1.3%.


Side Bets in Pai Gow Poker

What makes Pai Gow Poker even more exciting is the side bets available. If you’re looking to make some big wins playing Pai Gow, then side bets are an absolute must! Your main wager is separate from your side bet and will be paid separately to the outcome of the hand. Here are the payouts you can potentially win when placing side bets in this poker game:

  •         7 card straight flush with no joker – 8000:1
  •         Royal flush and two deuces – 2000:1
  •         7 card straight flush with joker – 1000:1
  •         Five aces – 400:1
  •         Royal flush – 150:1
  •         Straight flush – 50:1
  •         Four of a kind – 25:1
  •         Full house – 5:1
  •         Flush pays – 4:1
  •         Three of a kind – 3:1
  •         Straight pays – 2:1

Side bets will increase the house edge but if you want to win big playing Pai Gow, the only real way to do so is through placing side bets.


Pai Gow Poker FAQs

We are answering all your most frequently asked questions about Pai Gow Poker.

Where is the best casino to play Pai Gow Poker online?
There is no one online casino that will be best for every player. Here at New Casino Sites, we recommend a variety of Pai Gow Poker online casinos for you to choose from and you can compare each of these to see which one will be best for your gameplay requirements.
How can I win playing Pai Gow Poker?
There is no set way to win playing Pai Gow Poker but at New Casino Sites you can read above our top tips and strategies to help increase your odds of winning.
What is the history of Pai Gow Poker?
Pai Gow Poker was launched in the 80s and is based on Chinese Poker. It was created in California by the Bell card club owner, Sam Torosian. As he never patented the rights to the game, other casinos began offering this poker game and it quickly grew in popularity.
What other types of online poker can I play?
There is a huge array of popular online poker games available to play and we would recommend checking out Texas Hold’em, Video Poker, Caribbean Stud Poker, Casino Hold’em and Pot Limit Omaha.