Pai Gow Poker, a popular Chinese game played in casinos, is a card-based version of the ancient Chinese dominoes game. It combines elements from other casino games – poker, blackjack, dragon tiger game, and Pai Gow – to create a unique casino experience. The game has been popularized in the West and can now be found at most major casino establishments. If you want to get into Pai Gow Poker, here’s what you need to know.
Pai Gow Poker – rules for beginners
Pai Gow Poker is a two-player game that utilizes a regular deck of 52 cards plus one joker. The players split their seven-card hands into five and two. The game aims to create better hands than your opponent, similar to other forms of poker.
To start with Pai Gow Poker, each player should ante up and receive seven cards face down from a single deck (with jokers). The dealer will receive seven but doesn’t need an ante if playing against just one person. After the cards are dealt, the players arrange them into two hands – a five-card and a two-card.
The player whose both hands are better than the dealers will win even money (1:1) on their bet. If only one of the player’s hands beats the dealer, it is a push – no winner or loser, and your bet stays as is. And finally, if both of the player’s hands lose to the dealer, they forfeit their ante and any other bets made during that hand.
As for Pai Gow Poker’s ranking system, it uses the conventional poker hierarchy, meaning a flush would beat a straight, and so on. However, you must also consider the two-card hand when evaluating who has won. One player can have a better five-card hand but lose because their two-card hand is weaker than their opponent’s.
“Hands” in the game
A good combination is essential to a successful Pai Gow Poker strategy. When a player arranges their seven cards into two hands, one must always be the five-card, and the other should make up their two-card.
You want to put together the strongest combination possible with the high hand. The Low Hand is also quite important and can be any combination of cards that doesn’t form a Straight, Flush, or Pair. While it is typically not given much attention, it’s still important to remember that both of your hands must beat your opponent’s for you to win the pot.
It is always the five-card hand. This could be any standard combination in poker. It aims to create the strongest possible value and beat your opponent’s similar 5-card hand. Here are some examples:
- A Straight Flush consists of cards in sequential order, all from the same suit.
- A Flush is any five non-sequential cards of the same suit.
- A Full House contains three matching cards of one value and two matching cards of another value.
- Three Of A Kind consists of three identical valued cards, with the remaining two irrelevant.
- Two Pairs means you have two sets of pairs, for example, 4s over 9s. The 5th card will act as a decider if both players share this combination type.
- Pair simply means you have two identical values.
As you can see, the high hand is all about getting together a strong combination using the standard five-card rules. We recommend studying basic strategies to get the most out of your hands in Pai Gow Poker. It’s also useful to quickly familiarize yourself with the different hand rankings to assess your own hands and those of your opponents.
The low hand is still essential, though, as it provides another opportunity to win a portion of the pot. It always is a two-card combination that doesn’t form any kind of Straight, Flush, or Pair. This leaves you with a few options:
- One Pair is the only possible winning combination and occurs when both of your cards are identical in value.
- High Card means your two cards don’t form a Pair but still have some value individually. The higher the card values, the better your chance of winning with this low-hand type.
As you can see, the low hand is much simpler. You don’t need to worry about any complex poker strategies; you must make sure your two cards form one pair or high card values.
Looking for a balance
Creating a good Pai Gow Poker strategy balances your hands. You need to make sure both are strong enough to give you a chance of winning, but you also don’t want to put too much emphasis on one at the expense of the other.
A common mistake new players make is overvaluing their high hands and forgetting about their low hands altogether. While creating a strong five-card poker combination is essential, you mustn’t forget that your opponent can still win if they have an identical high hand and a better low hand than you.
While it’s true that the Low Hand is less critical, you still need to create a hand with some value. Otherwise, you risk losing out if both players share an identical high hand. The key is to balance these two competing interests and ensure both hands are strong enough.
Let’s say you’re dealt a Flush in your high hand. This is already a very strong hand, but you must ensure your low hand can still compete. If you have a pair of 8s, this should be fine; however, if you have a pair of 2s, this isn’t such a strong hand. If an opponent has a better low hand than you in this scenario – say, a pair of Aces – then there will be a draw, and you’ll receive your original bet back.
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Where can I play?
The good news is that Pai Gow Poker is now offered at most land-based and online casinos. Many Online Casinos offer this game as it has become increasingly popular over the years. However, choose a reputable casino to play at, as some may not be safe or offer a fair game. Some factors you should look for include the following:
- License from a reputable gambling authority. Good examples are the United Kingdom Gambling Commission, the Malta Gaming Authority, and the Curacao iGaming.
- Multiple accepted payment methods. It indicates that the casino is doing its best to satisfy the needs of as many players as possible.
- 24/7 Support in your language. If you are not a native English speaker, you will want to be able to contact customer service in your mother tongue.
- Payment processing within 24 hours. As a rule, e-wallets offer the fastest payouts, followed by credit and debit cards.
- A secure website with the latest encryption technology. It will ensure that your personal and financial information is kept safe from cybercriminals.
When playing Pai Gow Poker online, the software will typically do the card-dealing for you and automatically allow you to set your hand. This can take away from the experience of playing in a physical casino, but it does make things more straightforward. If you’re new to Pai Gow Poker, this might be the best way to get started until you feel more comfortable with the rules and gameplay.
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Most gambling establishments offer the game in demo mode, so you can try it out before risking any hard-earned cash. It’s well worth taking advantage of this to get a feel for how the game works and what strategies you can employ.
Pai Gow Poker is a fun and challenging casino game that players of all levels can enjoy. Creating a good balance between your hands is essential if you want the best chance of winning. Pai Gow Poker is now offered at most casinos, both land-based and online, so you shouldn’t have trouble finding a place to play. Be sure to try it out in demo mode first before risking any money.