7 Beginner’s Tips for Pai Gow Poker

Today we continue with our “Beginner’s Tips” series. After today, this post will join our menu under “BEGINNER’S TIPS” so you can easily check again.

Pai Gow Poker as we know it today first came about in the mid 1980’s. While there is some controversy surrounding who first developed the game, its origins are most widely credited to Sam Torosian and his partner Fred Wolf. The game was modeled, named after, and is often times confused and/or associated with the Chinese domino game also named “Pai Gow”  dating back about a thousand years to the Song Dynasty, 960 to 1279.

Pai Gow is an easy game for beginners to dive into, but it’s important to read up on the rules to increase your chances of winning.

Pai Gow Poker Table. The key is how you set up your hand.

Pai Gow Poker Table. The key is how you set up your hand.

Six players join the dealer at the table where they play with a 52-card deck plus one joker. Each player is dealt a seven-card hand. This is divided into two hands, one with five cards and the other with two. The goal is to defeat both of the hands of the banker, a role that is usually filled by either the dealer, (most casinos) unless it is at a card club with commission – then it can be another a player.

pai_gow_poker_introThe standard poker rankings apply but players must make sure that the five-card hand has a greater value than the two-card hand. Once the players have arranged their hands, they play it against the banker’s.

Often times, dealers will help newbies arrange their hands. If you set your cards incorrectly, you’ll automatically lose. Make sure to ask the dealer for placement tips before the hand is dealt.

A player is a winner if both hands beat the banker; they’re a loser if the dealer/banker beats their hands. If one hand wins but the other loses, a push occurs. This means that no money is exchanged. If a player ties with the banker, the banker automatically wins.

Winning one of two hands is a push.

Winning one of two hands is a push.

Here are some basic strategy tips for beginners from Play Pai Gai Poker.org:

  1. Don’t split pairs. You’re better off keeping the pair in back, and, in most cases, will push the hand (at worst).
  2. With 2 pair, place your strongest pair in back (weakest pair in front).
  3. With 3 of a kind, only split them up when you are holding aces. Keep a pair in back, and one ace up front.
  4. With 3 pairs, split them up to have 2 pair in back and 1 pair in front. Place your strongest pair up front.
  5. With 4 of a kind, split them up and put a pair up front. The exception to this rule is if you’re holding quad 2s through 6s. Always keep these hands intact.
  6. Split full houses. This is counter intuitive, I know. But chances are high that if you keep the hand intact (in back) that you’ll push (at best). When you split the hand up you have a (high) chance of winning.
  7. When in doubt, ask the dealer to set your cards ‘the house way.’ This is better than guessing and making less than optimal plays.

joker-cardThe Joker in Pai Gow by  from About Poker.com

Instead of acting as a whatever-card-you-want wild card, the joker in Pai Gow is called a “bug.” It acts as an ace unless it can be used to fill out a straight or a flush. This also means that you can have five aces, which is the best possible five-card hand in Pai Gow..

So there you have it.  I suggest you check out the Wizard of Odds website to practice before you hit the tables.

That’s all for today.



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