The Thrill of the Spin: Pai Gow Poker!

Pai Gow Poker has been steadily increasing in popularity in recent years. It is especially popular in casinos and online poker sites. 

The game combines the traditional Chinese game of Pai Gow and the American game of poker

Pai Gow Poker is very easy to learn and can be played at various levels of stakes. 

Additionally, the game offers an exciting and unique twist on the traditional poker game. 

Pai Gow is popular among players who are looking for a more strategic game with a higher level of skill involved.

So, without any hiccups, let’s learn the game and sweep the game floor with the wins.

We’ll be learning about what the game of pai gow poker means, how the pai gow poker game is played, betting in pai gow, rules for play in pai gow poker, history of pai gow, odds and payout in pai gow, winning strategies in pai gow poker, and responsible playing in pai gow.

Let’s roll…

What Does Pai Gow Poker Mean?

Pai Gow Poker is a variation of the Chinese domino game Pai Gow. It is played with a 53-card deck, including a joker. 

The game’s objective is for players to create two hands out of their four dealt cards and the dealer’s five cards. 

The player must make a higher-ranked hand than the dealer in both the front and back hands in order to win. 

The bet is pushed if the player wins one hand and the dealer wins the other.

Confusing?… Let’s read about how the pai gow poker game proceeds and is played.

How Is Pai Gow Poker Played?

Pai Gow Poker is played with a standard 52-card deck and a single joker. The joker can be used as an ace, or as a wild card to complete a straight, flush, or straight flush. 

The game of pai gow is played between the player and the dealer. 

Each player is dealt seven cards, which they must split into two hands—a five-card hand (the “high” hand) and a two-card hand (the “low” hand).

The object of the game is for the player to beat the banker (dealer) by creating two separate five-card hands from the seven cards dealt. 

The five-card hand must be higher ranking than the two-card hand. 

The player must arrange their hands so that the five-card hand outranks the two-card hand.

If both the player’s hands beat the dealer’s hands, then the player wins the round.

If both the dealer’s hands beat the player’s hands, then the dealer wins the round.

And if one hand beats the other and the other loses, the round is a push.

The highest two-card hand is a pair of aces, and the highest five-card hand is a royal flush. 

The house edge in Pai Gow Poker is around 2.5%.

Poker Hands in Pai Gow Poker Game

Pai Gow Poker hands are the same as traditional poker hands, but there are some slight variations. 

The highest ranking hand in Pai Gow Poker is the Five Aces, which consists of four Aces and a Joker. 

This is followed by the Royal Flush, which consists of an Ace, King, Queen, Jack, and 10 of the same suit. 

Straight Flush is the third highest hand, which is made up of five consecutive cards of the same suit. 

Four of a Kind follows, which is four cards of the same rank. 

A Full House is three of a kind, plus a pair. 

A Flush is five cards of the same suit, but not in consecutive order. 

A Straight is five cards of different suits in consecutive order. 

Three of a Kind is three cards of the same rank. 

Two Pair is two cards of the same rank and two cards of another rank. 

One Pair is two cards of the same rank. 

High Card is the lowest ranking hand, which is any five cards that do not form any of the above hands.

Betting in Pai Gow Poker

Betting in Pai Gow Poker is done before the cards are dealt. 

The usual setup is that the players put down their ante, along with any optional side bets they want to make. The dealer then deals seven cards to each player. 

From those seven cards, each player will form two hands – one five-card hand and one two-card hand. 

The five-card hand must be higher than the two-card hand. The players then compare their hands with the dealer’s. 

If the player’s hand is higher, the player wins the ante and any side bets. If the dealer’s hand is higher, the player loses the ante and any side bets. In some cases, the player will tie the dealer and the bet is a push. 

Betting in Pai Gow Poker can also be done in a more aggressive manner. 

For example, if a player has a strong hand, they may choose to raise their bet. This is known as a “poker raise”. This is a risky move as it means the player is risking even more money if they lose the hand. 

In general, betting in Pai Gow Poker is not as intense as in other forms of poker. The game itself is a slow-paced, strategic game and as such, it does not encourage aggressive betting.

History Of Pai Gow Poker

Pai Gow Poker is a popular casino game that is based on the ancient Chinese domino game of Pai Gow. 

The origin of Pai Gow Poker can be traced back to the mid-1880s when the game was first introduced to the United States by Chinese immigrants. 

The game has seen many variations since then, but the basic concept of the game remains the same. Players are dealt seven cards and must make two hands, one of five cards and one of two cards. The two hands are then compared to the dealer’s hands and the player must win both to win the game. 

The modern version of Pai Gow Poker is said to have been invented in 1985 by Sam Torosian, the owner of the Bell Card Club in California. 

Torosian was inspired by the game of Pai Gow, which he had seen played in California’s Chinatowns. He created the game with a few modifications, including the use of playing cards rather than dominoes, and the use of a joker as a wild card. 

Since then, the game has grown in popularity, becoming a staple of many casinos and home poker games. Today, it is popular around the world, with versions of the game being played in casinos and online. 

The Pai Gow poker game remains a favorite among players of all skill levels and is a great way to pass the time while enjoying the thrill of gambling.

Pai Gow Poker Table Layout Structure 

The traditional layout for a Pai Gow Poker Table is typically a semicircle with seven players. The dealer’s seat is located in the center at the back of the table. 

There are two betting circles on either side of the dealer’s seat, and each one is labeled with the minimum and maximum bets. 

The players’ seats are arranged in a clockwise fashion around the table with the dealer’s seat in the center.

The players have their own designated area to place their cards and chips. 

The center of the table has the community cards, and the banker’s cards are placed in the center of the table in front of the dealer. 

The table also has a discard tray for the players to discard their cards after each hand.

Rules To The Game Of Pai Gow Poker 

The rules to follow while playing Pai Gow poker include

  1. The game is played with a 53-card deck, which includes a joker. 
  2. Each player is dealt seven cards. 
  3. The players must then divide their cards into two hands: a five-card hand and a two-card hand. 
  4. The five-card hand must rank higher than the two-card hand. 
  5. The dealer will then compare the player’s hands with their own. 
  6. The player wins if both of their hands rank higher than the dealer’s. 
  7. If only one of the player’s hands is higher, the round is a push. 
  8. If both of the player’s hands are lower than the dealer’s, the player loses. 
  9. The joker can be used to complete a straight, a flush, or a straight flush. It can also be used as an ace. 
  10. The highest possible hand is a Pai Gow, which is a seven-card straight flush, with the joker as the highest card.

Odds and Payout In Pai Gow Poker

In Pai Gow Poker, the odds and payouts vary depending on the house rules. 

Generally, a winning hand will pay out even money (1:1) and a losing hand will result in a loss of the entire bet. 

Depending on the casino, a push (tie) may result in either a loss or a return of the original bet. 

In some cases, the house will pay out on a push at a ratio of 2:1. 

It is important to check with the casino or online gaming site you are playing at to find out the exact odds and payouts for the game.

Winning Strategies In Pai Gow Poker

You can try the following strategies while playing pai gow poker, in order to increase your chance of winning.

  1. Learn the House Edge: Knowing the house edge of the casino is important for any Pai Gow player. The house edge is the amount of advantage the casino has over the player. Knowing this number can help you plan for better strategies. 
  1. Know Your Opponent: Paying attention to your opponent’s moves is important in any game of poker. Knowing how your opponent plays can help you better plan your own strategies. 
  1. Manage Your Bankroll: Having a good bankroll management system is essential for success in Pai Gow Poker. Knowing how much you can afford to lose is important and will help you play better in the long run. 
  1. Know When to Fold: Knowing when to fold is a skill that any poker player should have. If a hand is not likely to win, then it is best to fold and save your chips. 
  1. Don’t Bluff Too Much: Bluffing can be an effective strategy in Pai Gow Poker, but it should be used sparingly. Bluffing too much can put you in difficult situations and can lead to losses. 
  1. Use the House Way: The house way is a guideline for how the casino expects players to play their hands. Use it as a reference for your own decisions to ensure you are playing optimally. 
  1. Improve Your Bluffing Skills: Bluffing can be a key part of Pai Gow Poker. Improving your bluffing skills will help you gain an advantage over your opponents. 
  1. Practice: As with any game, practice makes perfect. Playing Pai Gow Poker regularly will help you improve your skills and give you a better chance of winning.

How To Play Pai Gow Responsibly 

In order to not get caught up in betting and problem gambling, try following the below-given suggestions.

  1. Set a limit: Before playing, decide how much money you’re willing to spend, and stick to it. Don’t let yourself be tempted to go over your budget. 
  1. Don’t play to win back losses: If you’re losing, don’t be tempted to increase your bets in an attempt to win back your losses. This is a sure way to lose more money than you had planned. 
  1. Don’t get too emotionally caught up in the game: Remember to take regular breaks and pace yourself. Don’t let yourself get too emotionally attached to the game. 
  1. Know when to walk away: If you’re having a particularly bad night, it’s best to quit while you’re ahead and take a break. Don’t let yourself get too carried away and end up spending more than you had planned. 
  1. Be aware of your alcohol consumption: If you’re playing for real money, remember to stay sober. Don’t drink alcohol while playing; it will impair your judgement and make it harder to make the right decisions. 
  1. Take breaks: Don’t get too caught up in the game. Take regular breaks to keep your mind fresh and focused. 
  1. Enjoy yourself: Pai Gow Poker should be a fun game. Don’t let it become a source of stress. Enjoy the game and the social aspects that come along with it. 
  1. Seek help if needed: If you find yourself struggling to control your gambling, don’t hesitate to get help. There are plenty of resources available to help you manage your gambling.


It’s important to remember that Pai Gow Poker is a game of chance, and while it can be fun and entertaining, it can also be a source of frustration and disappointment. 

Therefore, it’s important to remember to play responsibly, setting limits on the amount of money and time you spend playing. 

It’s also important to be aware of the risks and understand the odds before placing any bets. 

Never gamble with money you cannot afford to lose, and if it starts to feel like a chore or you’re losing more than you’re winning, it’s time to take a break.

sarah manning
Sarah Manning

Sarah Manning, a luminary in professional poker, boasts a decorated career spanning over a decade. Renowned for her strategic acumen and numerous championship titles, Sarah not only dominates the tables but also mentors aspiring players. Her mentorship extends beyond coaching, delving into strategic analyses shared in poker publications. Sarah's passion lies in unlocking the intricacies of the game, dissecting its dynamics, and shaping the next generation of poker enthusiasts.

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