Pai Gow Poker Rules: All about the game of Pai Gow Poker

The basic rules of pai gow poker

Pai-gow poker is a poker game played in Las Vegas and some card clubs in California as well as online casino. The object of Pai-gow poker is to make two poker hands that beat the banker’s hands. The player is dealt 7 cards which he turns into a five-card hand (high hand) and a two-card hand (low hand). The hands are played and ranked like traditional poker hands (with one exception: AS-2-3-4-5 is the second highest straight), and the five-card hand must be higher than the two-card hand. If both hands are better than the banker’s hand, you win, if both lose, you lose, otherwise it’s a push. The banker wins absolute ties (i.e. KQ against KQ).

The game is played with 52 cards plus a joker. The joker can be used as an ace or to complete a suit or straight. The table layout has 7 seats, one in front of the dealer and 6 for the players.

Each player seat has space for a bet, a low hand, a high hand and sometimes the house commission. The dealer deals 7 hands of 7 cards in front of the chips trays. The banker can be a player, but it is usually the house. The banker indicates which hands go to which player by shaking a dice cup with three dice; the banker’s position is 1, 8 or 15 and the hands are passed counterclockwise. So, if the dealer is the banker and the dice total is 6, player 5 gets the first hand, player 6 gets the second, the dealer gets the third, and so on. The dice mumbo-jumbo seems to be a ritual thing – you don’t have to worry about anything until you have the hand.

The player places the two-card hand face down in the box closest to the dealer and the five-card hand face down in the back. Once everyone has put their hand in, the dealer turns around and places the Banker’s hand. The dealer goes counter-clockwise around the table comparing the dealer’s hand to the players’ hands and taking, paying or betting. There is a 5% commission on winning bets which you can either put next to your winning bet or the dealer subtracts from your winnings.

In pay-gow poker, the only strategic decisions are how much to bet and how to place your hand. The simple basic strategy for making your hand is to make the highest two-card hand that is lower than your five-card hand. If you don’t know what to do, you can show your hand to the dealer and he will tell you how the house would do it. Since pairs usually win 2-card hands and two pairs usually win 5-card hands, the only difficult decisions are when to split two pairs. The rules of the Four Queens house were not to split low pairs (<= 6) and not to split pairs <= 10 if there was a high hand of two Aces. Then the house would fold.

A « Pai-gow » is a hand without a pair, such as QJ / K 7 8 6 2.

Things get a bit weird if a player wants to be the banker. To quote the house rules IP: The House Dealer or the player can be the « BANKER ». The Banker bets against all players. The Banker alternates between the House and the Player (the House Dealer will at least take the Banker every other hand). The BANKER will be marked with a white plastic marker. A Banker player must cover half or all bets against him/her. The casino co-banks 50/50 only at the request of the banker player. The hand will be settled according to the way of the house and the table limit will apply if the house acts as co-banker. In order to wager, a player must have played the previous hand against the House. The house will bet an amount equal to that player’s bet against the house in the previous hand. The player may request that a lower amount be bet.

In CA card clubs, all betting is between players, so the option to be the banker rotates between active players. The rule differences from the IP rules are that the Joker is wild and the house commission is a flat of $1 per hand (minimum bet $10).

Pai-gow poker is an easy game to play, and since each hand takes a while to play (the dealer has to shuffle before each game) and most hands are quite long, you can play with $20 at a $5 table for a while.

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