Take it from us: Playing Pai Gow is one of the most fun pastimes at the online casino or real-life casino: Losses are rarely huge, losing streaks are next to non-existent, and sharp knowledge of poker is rewarded.
Pai Gow Poker – we make the distinction here because a traditional Asian variant has the same name; see below for more on this – has been known as “double-hand poker,” a moniker which implies the modus operandi of the game. Seven cards are dealt to the dealer (i.e. the house) and the player(s). The object is to form the best five-card hand and the best two-card hand; the player may choose the composition of the hands, but the five-card hand must be of higher rank than the smaller.
Once the hands are chosen, dealer and players show their cards. If the player wins both, his bet is matched by the dealer; if the dealer wins both hands, the house takes the wager. If the dealer and player split, the bet effectively becomes a push. Important to note here is that ties go to the dealer and the tying hand(s) count as a loser for the player.
Per the rules of standard seven-card stud, up to six may play with the dealer at a single table.
Jokers are used in Pai Gow Poker but may only be used in one of three fashions: to fill out a straight; to fill out a flush; or as an ace. A few casinos allow the joker to be used as a true wild, though this is becoming rarer and rarer. Additionally, the A-2-3-4-5 beats any straight except for A-K-Q-J-10 in some casinos.
Any strategy involved in playing Pai Gow Poker is fairly simple, as the choice is usually pointedly obvious. However, occasionally the player is hit with a real poser. Say for example you’re dealt A-K-Q-8-8-4-4. While a small hand of 4-4 is probably a winner, a pair of 8s in the big hand is probably a loser (the chance of getting a pair in seven cards is about 70 percent). Do you therefore just take the push and even money or do you gamble by keeping the two pair in a five-card hand while hoping A-K is best in the two-card set?
(In direct contrast to this, of course, is the five-card flush or straight together with a pair: The easiest choice you’ll make in Pai Gow Poker and typically a double winner, especially if you’re holding the joker.)
Though informally referred to as “Pai Gow,” this fun casino game should actually be properly called “Pai Gow *Poker*,” as Pai Gow is a Chinese domino-like pastime upon which poker rules and playing technique have been grafted to form this unique game.
Despite the love affair (or temporary heavy flirtation) many high rollers have with Pai Gow Poker – perhaps the highest-profile such infatuation was mentioned in book “Big Deal”, which included a tale of one-time WSOP dominator Johnny Chan throwing hundreds at such a table in Las Vegas – the truth is one probably can’t get rich at this game. On the plus side, following a simple and conservative game plan should find you breaking even or possibly a bit ahead, provided that Lady Luck isn’t a total stranger.
To find a table game that’s more fun and addictive in an online casino would be a challenge; even better news is the fact that Pai Gow Poker is simple to learn, easy to play, and can extend your playing time (and bankroll) significantly.
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