Face Up Pai Gow Poker – A New Variation

During a visit to Las Vegas before the pandemic, I had my first chance to play Face Up Pai Gow Poker while staying at Red Rock Casino Resort and Treasure Island. I first heard about it on the best recreational gaming podcast; You Can Bet on That. If you haven’t heard of Mark & Dr. Mike, you are missing out. I suggest you binge-listen for three days and learn something from these two funny and informative guys.

Face Up Pai Gow Poker
Dr. Mike & Mark at VIMFP with a live podcast

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I have learned to love Pai Gow Poker for many reasons. The low house edge, slow pace, many pushed hands, and a chance to relax. With a high minimum, such as $15, $20, or mostly $25, it’s usually found in Asian game areas or, better yet, high-limit rooms. Hard Rock Atlantic City has Pai Gow Poker in the most excellent Asian Game area I have played in.

Face up Pai Gow Poker – Differences from Original Game

My first experience was at Red Rock Casino Resort in Summerlin. We have learned to love driving all around Las Vegas and surrounding locals such as Summerlin, Henderson, and North Vegas. Red Rock is always a visit on every visit to Sin City.

Face Up Pai Gow Poker
Red Rock Resort Casino Hotel, the Gem of Stations Casinos

The wonderful thing about playing at any Pai Gow table is that showing your hand for help is no big deal. Dealers, pit bosses, and players can help divide your hand into high and low hands. This particular time, a friendly gentleman and an outstanding dealer Dave, helped me with strategy differences.

There are four significant differences in Face Up Pai Gow Poker according to the Wizard of Odds:

  • First, dealer cards are dealt face-up.
  • No 5% commission.
  • Dealer ace-high pai gow is an automatic push.
  • No player banking

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NETG Analysis of Face Up Pai Gow Poker

I loved it. First, the lack of a commission is a breath of fresh air. Working with those quarters is a pain in, you know what. No player banking bothers me since I never sit with a high enough bankroll to bank the hand. Besides, I usually pull my bets back when a player banks – call me a “little-stitious.”

The dealer push on all ace-high pai gow can be annoying, but that’s how they get the house edge- that and the side bet.

As you can imagine, the best rule is the dealer’s card, “face-up.” However, this will occasionally alter the basic Strategy to the player’s benefit.

HOW Basic Strategy can be Modified

According to house rules, the dealer deals cards to players, then takes their dealt hand and immediately shows a hand; house rules – a set way of making the casino’s high and low hands. The basic strategy can now change due to the house rule set. If dealer shows AH, 8S, 8D, 3H, 3C, 8C and 10D.  The house rules dictate for the dealer’s two hands to be HIGH HAND – two pairs, LOW HAND – Ace /10

The player has been dealt two pairs also – 5’d and 2’s, with an A/4 for the low hand. The basic strategy would expect the player to keep two pairs in HIGH HAND and A/4 in LOW HAND. A basic strategy would cause the player to lose. The Strategy is changed to the player keeping 5’s in HIGH hands, 2’s in LOW HAND, causing a push instead of a loss by seeing the dealer’s cards.

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


I’m waiting to see Face Up Pai Gow Poker pop up in New England casinos. As of now, Mohegan Sun is the only one to offer it in New England. If you play Pai Gow Poker, try it if you have a chance.

That’s all for now. Remember, “embrace the math, not the myth, when gambling.”