How to Play Pai Gow
Pai Gow is a form of poker which is played against the dealer. As a result, it is generally considered a casino game rather than a poker game. If you're looking to play Pai Gow online, try an online casino rather than a poker room. In a land-based casino, you'll probably find it near the other table games, such as Blackjack and Roulette. As many as sever players can play Pai Gow at once, but since they don't play against each other, online casinos often offer it as a one-on-one game.
Origins of Pai Gow
Pai Gow is a poker game, but it is based on a Chinese domino game by the same name. Like other poker games, Pai Gow uses a standard deck of cards. In Pai Gow, however, a single joker is left in the deck. The joker may be used as an ace or to complete a straight or flush.
How to Play
To begin the round of play, each player puts up a stake. Then the dealer deals seven cards to each player. Players divide their cards into two hands – a high hand and a low hand. The high hand consists of five cards, and the low hand consists of two cards. The higher hand must have a higher value than the lower hand. Otherwise the whole hand will be disqualified. Online casinos will not allow you to create a hand that does not meet the standards. At a regular casino, the dealer will probably re-arrange your hand the first time or two, but after a while, you may be asked to leave the table or study the rules more before playing.
The first hand is ranked the same as any other poker hand, except that A-2-3-4-5 is ranked as the second highest straight, after 10-J-Q-K-A. The second hand can be a pair or it can simply be the highest cards available after the first hand is made. A 2-card hand that consists of a pair will automatically beat a 2-card hand that does not have a pair. If both dealer and player have pairs, the higher pair will win. If both have pairs of the same value, the dealer is the winner.
After arranging the hands, players are shown the dealer's hand, and the hands are compared. The dealer's five-card hand is compared to the player's five-card hand and the dealer's two-card hand is compared to the player's two-card hand. If the dealer wins both hands, the house wins. If the player wins both hands, the player wins. If the dealer wins one and the player wins one, it is a push, and the money is returned to the player.
Most casinos take a small rake when the player wins. This rake is usually 5% of the winnings, meaning that if the player bets $100 and wins, the casino will return $195, rather than the full $200. This is part of the house edge. The other way that the casinos make money on Pai Gow Poker is in the rule that lets the dealer win a tied hand. It is unusual for a dealer to have an identical hand to the player for the five-card hand, but for the two card hand, a combination of Ace-King, for example, is not uncommon. As a result, even with perfect strategy, the house has a slight edge. Compared to other casino table games, however, the house edge is relatively small.
Why Pai Gow is Great
Many gamblers enjoy Pai Gow Poker, because there is an element of strategy, rather than simply luck. Many other table games are only games of luck, and players have very little control over what occurs in the game. Pai Gow is a more hands-on game and is a lot more fun than games where the player is less active.