Pai Gow Poker was created in the early 19th century when Chinese workers in California introduced the game of Chinese dominoes. American gamers picked up on the game and traded the domino tiles for cards. In 1986, Pai Gow made its way into California game rooms as a new variety of poker. Asian poker players loved the game, and it wasn't long before Nevada casinos featured the game to a larger market of poker players. Today, the game continues as one of the most popular forms of poker.
A casino set-up for Pai Gow poker will position up to six players against the dealer. Players do not play directly against one another. All players roll three dice from a cup to determine who receives the first hand, and the dealer proceeds around the table counter clockwise until all cards are dealt. Each player and the dealer receives seven cards placed face down on the table.
The dealer and all players will create a high hand consisting of five cards and a low hand consisting of two cards. The high hand must outrank the low hand. Standard poker rankings are used to determine who has the winning hand. For instance, AA on the two-card hand is the highest possible ranking for the low hand, and five aces is the highest possible hand on the five-card hand.
Pai Gow poker is played with a 53-card deck rather than the traditional 52-card deck. How do you get 53 cards in the deck? You add one joker and allow it to serve as a wild card capable of completing a flush or straight or serving as a fifth ace.
You may have one great hand in Pai Gow poker, but someone else with the highest two hands will beat you. The winner must have the two highest hands simultaneously. The dealer waits for all players to set their high and low hands, and then he will compare the hands against his own hand to determine payouts.
If both of your hands outrank the dealer, you win. If only one of your hands outranks the dealer's hands, it is considered a tie. If neither of your hands outranks the dealer's hands, then you lose. If your hands are both identical to the dealer's hands, then it falls in favor of the dealer.
Pai Gow Poker Strategy
You do not get the opportunity to improve your hand in Pai Gow poker. You are dealt static cards and must make the best two hands possible. That does not mean there is no room for strategy. For instance, one strategy is to load the five-card high hand with straights or flushes, which makes the two-card hand the second highest hand.
You may want to keep all of your aces in your five-card hand if you draw four aces and a joker, but remember, you need both of your hands to beat the dealer in order to win. For this reason, the best strategy is to place three aces in your five-card hand with one ace and the joker in the two-card hand. Both hands are now stronger.
If you have two pair, it is best to place the higher pair in your five-card hand. The lower pair will go in the two-card hand.
How To Play Pai Gow Poker in the Casino
Some casinos will give players the opportunity to be the dealer, but they will need to have enough funds to pay out to the other players if they lose. This is risky, but it is also a lot of fun and can payoff big if you beat most of the players.
There are different rules for different casinos. For instance, some casinos will not allow an individual player to bank or deal two hands in a row. Other casinos will offer a co-bank of 50/50 for players that choose to take on the role of banker. Each player will be asked if they want to take the bank.
Now you now how to play Pai Gow poker, but you need experience to truly understand the game.