How to Play Pai Gow Poker: Rules, Strategy & Odds
If you’ve never played Pai Gow Poker, it is one of those table games that everyone should try at least once. There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground for this game. Most players either love it or hate it. The reason for this is that Pai Gow Poker is a lot of fun to play, but it carries a 2.5% house edge; certainly not the best in the casino.
Pai Gow Poker is not an easy game to win, because the majority of hands will push. There are two hands played in this poker game. The player’s hands must beat both of the dealer’s hands in order to win. If one hand wins and the other loses, it is a push. If both hands lose, the bet is lost. What gives the dealer an advantage is that all tied hands are a push, and if a player ties one hand but loses the other, the dealer wins.
The rules of Pai Gow Poker are fairly simple. Each player places a single bet of any amount within the table’s limits. The dealer then gives each player, and himself, 7 cards. All players will look at their own cards and develop the best 5-card poker hand, as well as the best 2-card poker hand.
The 5-card poker hand, known as the Bottom Hand, must rank higher than the 2-card poker hand, known as the Top Hand. All standard hand ranks apply on the 5-card poker hand. The 2-card poker hand can only result in a high card or pair. Straights and Flushes are not viable in the top hand.
If a player sets their cards incorrectly and the top hand ends up being stronger than the bottom hand, it is a Foul. When a player fouls, the dealer with either reset the hand by “house way”? rules, or it will automatically lose, so be careful! Fortunately, online casinos will not permit a player to foul their hand.
The dealer must set his hand according to a specific set of rules, known as the “house way”?. It is a long, complicated set of directions that dictates how to set their cards in all possible scenarios. Suffice it to say, becoming a Pai Gow Poker dealer requires a good memory.
Once the player has arranged their cards in the best possible manner, they are turned face up on the table, with the 2-card hand on top (closest to the center of the table) and the 5-card hand on bottom. The dealer will reveal his Pai Gow Poker hands as well.
Players are only required to compare hands against the dealer, not each other. The payout for winning both bottom and top hands is 1 to 1. If the dealer beats the player in both hands, or if one hand ties and the other is beaten by the dealer, the dealer wins the bet. If one hand is stronger, but the other hand weaker, it is a push.
Pai Gow Poker Dragon Hand
Some live casinos will invoke a Dragon Hand if there is an empty seat at the table. This means the dealer deals an extra hand to the empty seat. Each player at the table is asked in turn if they would like to play the dragon hand, essentially playing two hands at a time. Only the first player to accept may play the dragon hand. This player may bet any amount within the table limits, not to exceed his original hand wager.
Pai Gow Poker ““ Be the Banker
Some Pai Gow Poker games will allow the players to become the banker, or dealer. In this case, each player who has already played at least one hand against the dealer is asked, in turn, if they wish to play as the banker. A player must have enough chips to cover all other player bets in order to accept. The dealer will automatically set the banker hand for the player by “house way”? rules. Because any player who assumes the banker position has a 2.5% edge, there is a 5% commission that must be paid based on any winnings the player receives.