Pai Gow Poker is a version of Pai Gow played with playing cards instead of the traditional dominoes. It is one of the newest casino table games having been invented in 1985, yet it is incredibly popular.
Sam Torosian invented Pai Gow Poker in 1985 and offered it in his casino in California. The Bell card club was the first venue to offer Pai Gow Poker, but the game quickly caught on elsewhere.
Torosian should be rolling in money thanks to this invention, should being the operative world. Some bad advice from his lawyer and a notable gambling author meant Torosian never patented the game. Casinos around the world now spread Pai Gow Poker and don’t pay Torosian a cent.
Pai Gow Poker Basics
The game plays quite slowly compared to other casino games and there are lots of pushes. This means Pai Gow Poker is low risk with a small house edge. It is very popular in live casinos where patrons are offered free drinks while they gamble. You can play $5 or $10 a hand Pai Gow Poker for hours, drink for free and hardly put your bankroll at risk.
Up to six players, plus the deal, compete in a Pai Gow Poker hand. The game uses a 53-card deck made up of the standard 52 cards plus a joker. Jokers are semi-wild and are used as an ace or to complete a straight or flush.
The aim of the game is to create two poker hands from the seven dealt to you. You make a two-card hand and a five-card hand. Your five-card hand must be stronger than the two-card hand.
You win even money on your bet, minus a 5% commission if both hands beat the dealers. A push is declared if you win one hand but lose the other. Your wager is lost if you lose both hands or tie both hands.
Basic Pai Gow Poker Strategy
There is a skill element to playing Pai Gow Poker. That skill comes from setting your hands. The casino’s software helps you set your hand in some online casinos, but don’t expect any help from the dealer if you play in a brick and mortar venue.
Your two-card hand is known as the low hand while the five-card hand is called the high hand. Commit that to memory whenever you’re looking at optimal strategies.
Players dealt five of a kind or four of a kind think they’re a lock in the hand. This is because four of a kind is a super-strong hand in most poker games. It’s strong in Pai Gow Poker, but its strength comes from the ability to split it up.
Never split twos, threes, or fours because this leaves you with a weak low hand. Keep fives and sixes together unless you have ten-high or queen-high respectively. Also keep sevens and eights together if you have king-high for your low hand, otherwise split. Likewise, with nine, tens, or jacks, keep them together with ace-high otherwise split.
You always split queens, kings, and aces to give you two sets of strong pairs in the high and low.
Three of a kind is another strong hand that is misplayed. Not once you’ve read this next sentence! Play the highest two kickers in the low hand unless you have three aces. Play an ace and the highest kicker in the low hand in this scenario.
Try The Game For Yourself
Practise makes perfect when it comes to setting your hands. You’ll soon become adept at setting your hands. You just need to use common sense and ensure you’re not putting all your eggs in one basket.
Remember that you need to win both the low and high hand to win even more on your wager. Most hands essentially play themselves, others take a little thinking about. Thankfully, the game progresses quite slowly so you have plenty of time to consider your options.