Pai Gow Poker, sometimes called Double Hand Poker, is a gambling variation of the original Chinese game which has been adapted to use playing cards instead of the Pai Gow’s Chinese dominoes. The games of Pai Gow Poker and Super Pan-9 were invented by Sam Torosian and Fred Wolf.
Pai Gow is played with the normal 52 card deck, plus one joker, and each player plays one-on-one against the Banker, as in Blackjack. The Banker may be the casino dealer, or the Bank may be passed round the other players at the table. There is no obligation for any player to take over the Bank, but if they do they are liable for the Bank’s losses. When gambling on Pai Gow online poker the bank is always the dealer.
The object of Pai Gow is to make two poker hands from the 7 cards the player is dealt. One is a five card hand as in standard poker, and the other is a 2-card hand. The ranking of the fivecard hand must exceed that of the 2-card hand. The table is normally set for six players when gambling in a casino plus the banker, meaning that 4 cards remain unused in every game however in the online gambling game only two hands are dealt. The player wins the game if both of his hands beat the Banker’s hands, and he would be paid even money for the win. If the Banker wins both hands, the player loses his stake, but if neither the player nor the banker wins both hands, no money changes hands. In the event of a tie, the banker wins. A tie is defined as follows: – if a player’s 5-card hand loses to the Banker and his 2-card hand ties the Banker, the player loses.
The Joker when gambling on PaiGow is not a true wild card but it can be used as an ace, or to complete a Straight, a Flush or a Straight Flush in the 5-card hand. The Joker is used as an ace in the 2-card hand. A player gambling in a new location, either online or at a casino is advised to check the local rules, particularly regarding the rankings of the 5-card hand. Normally the rankings are as for standard poker, with one exception. Ace,2,3,4,5 is the second highest ranked Straight or Straight Flush, coming below A,K,Q,J,10 and above K,Q,J,10,9.. There are however some online casinos that do not apply this rule, ranking A,2,3,4,5 as the lowest Straight or Straight Flush. The highest 2-card hand is clearly a Pair.
To start the game in a land based casino, the cards are shuffled and dealt on the table one at a time in seven face-down piles of 7 cards; in online casinos where you are gambling heads up against the dealer only two hands will be dealt and your hand will be face up and the dealers will be face down. The order of betting in a land based casino is normally decided by allocating each player a number from 1 to 7, starting with the Banker and counting anticlockwise. A number is then selected randomly, often using two or three dice, and the deal starts at that number and proceeds again anticlockwise. If there is no player in that seat, the hand is still allocated, but placed on the discard pile. Some casinos will allocate what they call a ‘dragon hand ‘if a seat is not occupied. After all the players have set the hands, the dealer will ask each player in turn whether they wish to gamble on the dragon hand. The stake would normally be between the table minimum and the stake the player has placed on their own hand. The first player to agree to play the dragon hand then plays both his own hand, which he has already set, and the dragon hand. The dealer will then turn over the dragon hand and set it the House Way, to avoid any potential conflict between the player’s own hand, which he has obviously seen, and the dragon hand.
It is vital for a player to remember that he alone is responsible for setting his hand, and he must ensure that his 5-card hand is higher ranked than his 2-card hand. If it is not, it will be considered a foul and the player will forfeit the game however when gambling online life is a little easier as the player can select the “house way” button which will automatically rank hands.
Clearly there are various strategies which can be used by a player to set his hands, but if the casino is acting as banker, the dealer will normally be expected to set the banker’s hand according to ‘ House Way ‘, which is pre-defined by the casino. However, if a player has the bank, he can clearly set the hand as he wishes. Players should note that the House will normally take a 5 % commission out of the winnings. This 5% will be applicable to online gambling as well as it is the only way that the dealer has an edge in the game.
As with Blackjack, there are basic strategies which will normally reduce the Bank’s edge. These are given as a rough guide below, based on the content of a player’s 7 card hand:-
7 card hand 2 card hand 5 card hand
Nothing 2nd & 3rd highest cards Highest card
One pair two highest cards Use pair
2 pairs + Ace Use Ace Two pairs
2 pairs Low pair High pair
3 pairs Highest pair Other two pairs
5 card Straight Two odd cards Straight
6 card Straight Two highest cards Remaining Straight
Flush Highest cards Flush
Full House Pair Three of a kind
These are only general ‘ rules of thumb ‘, and far more thorough computer analysis has been carried out into the optimum strategies, but a player would need to memorise a great deal of information to use such a game plan. When gambling in a casino, players can request that their hands are set in the ‘ House Way ‘, and it is generally acknowledged that most will be close to the optimum strategy. PaiGow is a poker gambling game in which the dealer has no advantage over the player and can be great fun to play; try playing free PaiGow at Ladbrokes or Paddy Power to see how it works.