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How to Play Pai Gow Poker

Faith Mortensen | November 6, 2020 | Updated on: January 29th, 2021

How to Play Pai Gow Poker Learning how to play pai gow poker is now easier than ever with free play online casino games. And guides like the one we’ve compiled to help you get to grips with it.

So, if you’re interested in discovering how to play pai gow poker and win, keep reading. We’ve listed the basic rules, steps, tips, and poker sites to start practicing!

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Standard Game Rules

When you play pai gow poker, there are some rules you should know about.

  1. Like many poker games, the object is to beat the banker (who can be the dealer, another player, or a player-dealer team).
  2. When you play, you’ll receive two hands from a standard 52-card deck to make up your high hand (five cards) and low hand (two cards).
  3. To win, you need to set up your high (big) and low (small) hands in a way that ensures your big hand outranks your small hand.
  4. When you’ve got your hands set, it’s time for the showdown, which has three possible outcomes:
    • The player wins their bet with both hands
    • The dealer wins with both hands, and the player loses their bet
    • You win one hand, and the dealer/banker wins the other, which results in a push
  5. Typically, casinos charge a 5% commission on your winnings or on each hand, depending on the bet placed.
Play Pai Gow Poker - Virtual Game Table

How to Play Pai Gow Poker Like a Pro

When you’re ready to play the game, whether virtual or live, you can follow these quick steps:

  1. Select a table stake (low, mid, or high) from the options provided, determining the maximum and minimum betting limits.
  2. Then, you might have an option to make a side bet on whether you’ll get a “premium hand” (three-of-a-kind or better).
  3. With your bets on the table, you’ll receive your seven cards face-down and start setting them.
  4. You need to have two cards at the “back” with five cards in your hand in front.
  5. Some casinos will help you set up your hands if you aren’t sure how.
  6. When every player at the table has their hands set, you will reveal your cards.
  7. A player’s hand that holds high cards will be rated according to standard poker hand rankings.
  8. When you’ve got the results, you can keep making the same bet for the next few rounds.
Play Pai Gow Poker  - Live Casino Table

How to Set Your Hands

One of the common strategies used to play Pai Gow poker is to split your cards in a way that gives you a strong two-card hand. However, it can’t outrank your high-card hand, so you should memorize the hand rankings.

Preferably, you should have a pair in your second hand and leave the highest card in your front hand. This makes for the strongest approach and could result in a push.

Here are some common hands you can potentially make:

  1. Play a highly ranked pair in your big hand and the other two highest cards in the small if you have one pair.
  2. Always split if you have a pair of Aces, two high pair (e.g., Jacks and Aces), or one high pair (tens and sixes)
  3. If you don’t have an ace, split a medium hand (sevens and twos) or one high and one low pair.
  4. Now, if you have a King or an Ace, always split a medium and low, or two low pairs.
  5. If you have a three-of-a-kind, keep it in your high hand unless you have a pair.
  6. Split four-of-a-kind (quads) into two pairs if you have Jacks or above, but keep a four-of-a-kind of sixes or lower together.
  7. Only keep four-of-a-kind sevens to tens together when you have an ace.
  8. If you have a full house, play a pair in your two-card hand and three-of-a-kind in your five-card hand.
  9. Lastly, if you have four aces and a Joker, only play five aces in your hand if you don’t have a pair of kings.

Hand Rankings to Play Pai Gow Poker

When you play pai gow poker, you need to keep the standard hand rankings in mind as you set up your hands. These are vital because you could complete a straight or royal flush to get the best hand. So, to beat other players, check out these basic hand rankings:

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Types of Pai Gow Poker

Something else you should consider is the variants of the game, such as these popular pai gow poker versions:

  • Emperor’s Challenge – you can bet on the value of the seven cards.
  • Progressive Fortune Pai Gow – you can make a side wager on a collective seven-card straight flush.
  • Fortune Pai Gow – this variant lets players bet on three-of-a-kind or better.
  • Pai Gow Mania – you can place two side bets before players have set their hands.

You can play these Pai Gow poker variants at some of the best casinos on the web.

Learning to Play Pai Gow Poker

One of the best ways to learn how to play Pai Gow poker is to try free simulators or games. These can help you practice setting your hands. Plus, you can keep your money for the real thing when you’re comfortable.

So, have a few trial runs and get ready to start winning with our tips!