Pai Gow Poker for Beginners

Two years ago, I started playing Pai Gow Poker.  The following Pai Gow Poker for Beginners will get you started. Compared to Pai Gow Tiles, Pai Gow Poker is a relatively easy game. Let’s get started.

Pai Gow Poker For Beginner’s

How Did It Start?

Pai Gow Tiles

Pai Gow Poker as we know it today first came about in the mid-1980s. There is some controversy surrounding who first developed the game. Generally, its origins are most widely credited to Sam Torosian and his partner Fred Wolf. The game was modeled and named after Pai Gow Tiles. This Chinese domino game dates back about a thousand years to the Song Dynasty, 960 to 1279.

Starting The Game

Pai Gow Poker
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. Seven cards are dealt with each seat, whether someone is sitting in it or not. 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 banker’s hands, which the dealer usually fills. Players can bank the hand as well.

Pai Gow Poker

Playing Pai Gow Poker – Beginner’s Tips

The standard poker rankings apply.  In addition, players must ensure 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. (usually the dealer)

The casino allows dealers to help players arrange their hands. “House way” is the same rules that the dealers use to set their two hands. Showing your hand to other players and even the pit boss is acceptable for the correct strategy. But, only ask for House Play help after all players set their hands.

Winning the Hand

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, it’s a push. The dealer returns your ante. If a player ties with the banker, the banker automatically wins.

Pai Gow is a slow game with many pushes. As a matter of fact, approximately more than 40% of the dealt hand pushes. On these bets, you neither win nor lose your original ante.  Side bets either win or lose.

Pai Gow Poker
Winning one of two hands is a push.

Pai Gow Poker For Beginners – Strategy

Here are some basic strategy tips for beginners from Play Pai Gai

  1. Don’t split pairs. You’re better off keeping the pair in the back and, in most cases, will push the hand (at worst).
  2. With 2 pairs, place your strongest pair in the back (weakest pair in front).
  3. With 3 of a kind, only split them up when you are holding aces. Keep a pair in the back and one ace upfront.
  4. With 3 pairs, split them up to have 2 pairs in the back and 1 pair in the front. Place your strongest pair upfront.
  5. With 4 of a kind, split them up and put a pair upfront. 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 counterintuitive, I know. But the 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.

The Joker in Pai Gow by Toby Bochan from About

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 the player can use the joker 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.

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