Types of Pai Gow Poker
Although this card game has been styled after the ancient Chinese game of dominoes, it has become a classic casino game in its own right. As a result, casinos and developers have created many significant variations based on the classic pai gow. Players may begin with the classic version to learn the basics of this exciting game, but the other variations have exciting twists to add fresh enthusiasm. Let’s take a look at the different versions here.
Classic Pai Gow Poker
The classic version is played between the dealer and one player, who are dealt seven cards.The aim is to split the hand into a five-card hand and a two-card hand, but the five cards need to be higher than the two cards. If both the player’s hands are higher than the dealer’s, the player wins. If they are both lower, then the dealer wins. At many casinos, the dynamic is changed slightly so that up to six players can play at a time
In classic pai gow, one joker is included as a wild card that can be used as an ace, create a flush, or straight flush. Comparing rules are used to determine the winner of a round, also known as the house way. The house way will depend on the casino you play at, which will also affect the house edge. But the standard is that the Royal Flush beats everything, and a high card is the lowest winning pattern. The cards are ranked from Ace as the highest, and two as the lowest. The suits are Spades>Hearts>Diamonds>Clubs.
Fortune Pai Gow Poker Progressive
This is one of the most popular versions, as players can also make side bets, adding a little extra excitement. For example, the fortune bonus side bet allows players a special payout if their hand consists of the combinations on the payout table.
Another fun addition to the game; those who make a fortune bonus over a certain amount are instantly put into play for an envy bonus. This pays out if an opponent gets four of a kind or higher, so if a player loses, they can still take away something. The progressive aspect of the game also qualifies players for payouts from the progressive jackpots on the paytable.
Emperor’s Challenge Pai Gow Poker
This version by Galaxy Gaming allows players a little more freedom to set their hand after the betting positions are placed. For example, players can immediately analyse how best to split their high and low hand, as the dealer’s hand is dealt face up. There are also some exciting bonus wager tables, such as pai gow insurance, which allows players to bet on either their own hands or the dealer’s hands.
Another bonus wager is the Emperor’s treasure which players can bet that their hand consists of one of the high-ranking hands on the paytable. Similarly to fortune pai gow, an envy bonus wager is included to take advantage of an opponent’s win.
No Push Pai Gow Poker
It’s often common in pai gow that the dealer and the player tie their hands. This version changes the dynamic between the player and the dealer slightly, as two additional cards are dealt face down—one for the player and one for the dealer.
If both hands are tied at the end of the round, then this extra card is used to decide the winner. The highest card pays out, which means there is always a winner. This variation also removes the 5% commission paid on winning wagers as an added bonus.
Pai Gow Mania
This variant is very similar to the classic version; the primary difference is the side bet option. It can be a slower-paced version as players can place the first bet on the first three cards dealt, which means a slight wait before the remaining cards are dealt. The second bet is placed on all seven cards, similar to the fortune bonus in Fortune Pai Gai. This variant isn’t as popular as the others for casinos due to the delay in the game. However, it can give players a slight advantage, so those who find it generally enjoy the extra betting opportunity.
EZ Pai Gow Poker
This is a commission-free version of pai gow poker developed by Scientific games. Instead of the standard 5% commission charged when beating the dealer, this is reduced to 0%, except when the dealer’s hand consists of a Queen High pai gow – the highest card is the Queen. The game relies on a push when the ‘Queen’s dragon’ appears.
In this version, players can place the fortune bonus and then the envy bonus wager on the opponent’s hands. A dealer bonus is also possible based on the dealer’s seven cards.
Live Dealer Pai Gow Poker
Although pai gow poker has now become a popular casino fixture, it hasn’t wholly transferred to live dealer play just yet. There could be a few reasons why it hasn’t taken off on the live tables, but the most likely cause is the management of splitting the hand and guiding the game. It potentially makes the game more complicated to manage for the dealer. However, it’s not entirely out of the question for the player to handle.
A couple of producers have added pai gow poker to the live game selection, and the popularity of this game suggests that more and more will be added. Even though it might be more challenging to find, there are live dealer games to be found. One of the first additions was to BetConstruct’s vast catalogue, which you’ll find on the top pai gow casinos.
Online Pai Gow Betting Odds
As pai gow poker is primarily a game of chance, the odds are based on the probability of the card distribution. Before beginning your pai gow poker game, you should always check the casino’s paytable for the betting odds, and they may also have bonus wager odds. The odds of a tie are around 40%, and winning is evenly split between the dealer and player, although the dealer has a slight edge over the player.
Pai Gow Poker Hand Rankings
The hand rank for pai gow will be similar, if not the same, across all the casino variants, although players will be able to see it on the paytable. Here we will set out the ranking from the highest-ranked hands to the lowest-ranked.
- Five Aces (or 4 aces and a Joker)
- Royal Flush (A, K, Q, J, 10 of the same suit)
- Straight Flush ( 5 consecutive cards of one suit)
- Four of a Kind (4 cards of the same value)
- Full House (Any 3 cards with the same rank and a pair)
- Flush (5 cards of the same suit, not in sequence)
- Straight (5 consecutive cards, not the same suit)
- Three of a Kind (3 cards of the same value)
- Two Pair (2 different pairs)
- One Pair (2 cards of the same value)
- High Card (Any combination with a high card, not described above)
The highest-ranked straight flush would be from nine to king in the same suit, whereas the lowest-ranked straight flush is with a low ace up to five with one suit. Although a Royal Flush has only 4 ways to form, there is a low probability. There are 36 ways to form a straight flush, which is slightly higher. However, players can wager better on more probable hands, such as ‘of a kind’ and pairs.
Pai Gow Poker Payouts and Odds
Similarly to how the odds reflect the statistical probability of being dealt a specific hand, the casino payouts are based on the odds. This will all be clear in the pai gow paytable. The payouts will be based on the winning hand’s combination and whether both hands beat the other or whether it results in a push where only one hand beats.
The house edge for pai gow poker at most casinos is between 2% and 2.8%; however, in some games, players can play as the banker, which lowers the house edge to around 1.4%. This is because players lose ties to the banker, so it’s recommended that players accept the chance to play as the banker whenever possible.
Online Pai Gow Strategy
The primary strategy for any casino game is to play responsibly, set limits and enjoy the game. Once players are comfortable with their own limitations, there are several ways they can bring their pai gow poker game to the next level. When playing pai gow poker at any casino, players must first check the paytable and any bonus bets, as these will add an extra level to your game. This includes knowing the rules and the different winning hand combinations.
For many pai gow tables, the house keeps a commission from the winner, the standard is 5%, but it could be lower. Commission-free pai gow will also eliminate this; it’s up to you which you prefer. The best way to master the basics of the game is to try the free version. Practice makes perfect, and since there is no risk of losses, it’s an excellent way to learn and try more strategies.
The house way is generally considered the best way to set your hand, but this can vary between different casinos. You can use the computer’s or the dealer’s suggestion for the setting. But it’s also crucial for players to have their own strategy; this should be based on the hand rankings, which you will find above. Remember, your five-card hand must be ranked higher than your two-card hand. Also, your highest card cannot be in the two-card hand.
Pai Gow Poker Rules
The general rules of pai gow poker are very simple; any player can pick them up within a few minutes. Players should focus more on hand combinations and payouts once the rules are figured out. But first, here are the fundamentals of the game.
- It’s played with a traditional 52-card deck, including one joker.
- Up to six players can join the table, plus the dealer. But, some games can have up to seven players, and they will each have the opportunity to play as the dealer/banker.
- Players place bets before the cards are dealt; these are the primary bets. In addition, some versions have subsequent side or bonus bets.
- Players play against the dealer. But, it could be against other players if you bank or co-bank.
- Every player is dealt seven cards. Some versions have an additional card laid face-down as a tie-breaker.
- The goal is to create two poker hands that outrank the dealer’s hands. One hand has two cards, which is the front hand. The back hand has five cards.
- The five-card hand must be better than the two-card hand.
- Jokers are used as Aces or wild cards for straight, flush, straight flush or royal flush.
- When hands are set, the dealer reveals their cards compared to the player’s hands to decide the winning hand.
Pai Gow Glossary
Although pai gow is a relatively simple game to learn and is relatively low risk due to the low house edge, players might have more risk if they don’t understand the relevant vocabulary used in the game. Therefore, when getting started with pai gow, players will need to know quite a few new terms. Thankfully, you can check out the primary words and their definitions here to keep your chances of winning wagers high.
This is the bet you make at the beginning of the game before the cards are dealt. You are essentially confirming you are in the game.
This refers to the 5-card hand after the cards are split. It is also sometimes called a ‘high’, ‘small’ or ‘rear’ hand.
Unlike other games with a dealer, pai gow has a banker position. This role can be taken by any player in the game, although they remain in play with their own hand.
This is the joker card; generally, only one remains in play. It can be used as a wild to make a flush hand or like an ace.
This is also known as a tie when your hand is equal to your opponent’s. The banker’s hand will win these ties.
Depending on the casino, this is a vacant seat at the table on which players can also place bets. This would mean they bet on the hand as their own.
Double Hand Poke
This is another name for pai gow Poker. It was named so in America, where it was created, as the original game is a Chinese domino game.
This is one of the two hands played. Also known as the minor hand, it’s the two-card hand placed in front.
This is the playing pattern followed by the dealer and casino. It’s possible to opt for the house way to set your cards, increasing the chance of winning, especially for beginners.
Another name for the front two-card hand.
This is just a standard pair in a poker hand, which requires two cards of the same rank. The highest-ranked pair would be two aces.
You are paid out when you have a winning hand, but the casino takes a commission. This is referred to as a Rakeback. In pai gow, the standard is 5%, but commission-free versions are available.
This is the dividing of your seven-card hand into two separate hands. One with two cards and the other with five cards. Also called setting the hands.
The joker is the wild card in pai gow poker. It’s used to substitute any other card to make a straight or flush.
Players only win if both their hands beat the dealer’s hands, these are the winning hands.
Real Money Pai Gow on Mobile
The majority of quality casinos now have fantastic mobile options for a variety of casino games, and pai gow Poker is no different. So whether players prefer to access their casino adventure on an Android or Apple device, plenty of tables are available.
The casino app platforms are specifically created to be played on a smaller screen, so players won’t have any trouble placing their bets or setting their hands.
How is Pai Gow Poker Different from Traditional Pai Gow?
Pai gow poker is often referred to simply as ‘pai gow’; however, this is a common misconception. The original pai gow is actually a different game that originates from China. It’s played with Chinese dominos or tiles. Each player receives four tiles and combines them into the best possible pairs. Compared to the poker version, the traditional game is quite tricky to learn. The reason is because of the complicated scoring and tile combinations. Although it’s not impossible to pick up, players do have a chance to play this ancient Chinese game in casinos.
Face Up Pai Gow
As the name suggests, this version of traditional pai gow is played with the tiles set face up. The upside is that you can see your opponent’s tiles and make a permissible pair based on this. However, the same benefit also brings a disadvantage; if you can see their tiles, your opponent can also see yours.
Pai Gow Tiles
The pai gow tiles are what most casino players will recognise as dominoes, with two sides that display dots from one to six. Thirty-two tiles are used to play the game, which allows for 16 different pair combinations. This game also has a ranking system used to decide the winning player. Pai gow is generally more prevalent in Chinese and East-Asian casinos; however, some quality casinos also offer it. It’s an exciting game for skilful gamblers.
Here are the most common questions players have regarding this unique poker game – pai gow.
What is pai gow?
Traditional pai gow is a game played with 32 tiles, known as dominoes. Pai gow poker is based on this ancient game, but played with cards and using the poker system of hand rankings.
Is pai gow a game of luck?
There is a significant element of luck involved with pai gow Poker due to the probabilities of being dealt specific hands. However, players can also use skills and strategies to improve their game.
How do you play pai gow online?
Find a reputable casino, check to see if they offer pai gow poker and register at your chosen casino.
Where can I play pai gow Poker for free?
Many casinos which offer real money pai gow poker also give players the chance to play for free. This allows players to practice and use new strategies without losses.
How do you win in pai gow poker?
The ultimate goal in pai gow poker is for both your hands to be better than both the dealer’s hands. If only one is better, then it’s a tie.