What Is Pai Gow Poker?

Pai Gow poker is a card game that was created in the 1980s by former casino manager and games inventor Fred Wolf. The game is loosely based on a Chinese game of that same name which is played using a set of dominoes. Pai Gow poker utilizes a standard 52-card deck of playing cards with one joker added, for a total of 53 cards.

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How Does Pai Gow Poker Work?

The playing area for the game is set at a table for six players plus the dealer. Each hand is a one-on-one contest between the player and the banker. The option to act as banker rotates around the table to each player and the dealer. Players either accept or decline the opportunity to act as the bank when their turn comes.

How Pai Gow Poker Works

How Pai Gow Poker Works

After all wagers are placed the deck is shuffled and cards are dealt to each of the seven table positions, with seven cards in each pile. This occurs regardless of how many of the six player seats are occupied. The four unused cards are set aside into a discard pile.

If a player seat is vacant, the cards dealt to that position are collected after the deal and added to the discard pile. As an exception to this rule, some casinos allow an unassigned hand to be played as a second, separate hand by one of the players at the table. The option to play this extra hand, usually called the “dragon hand,” is offered to each player, in turn, until one accepts or all decline.

With the seven cards dealt to them, each player then arranges two hands, one with five cards and one with two cards. The five-card hand follows standard poker hand rankings. The two-card hand will consist of either a single pair or two cards of unequal value.

After all players have arranged their two hands and placed them face down, the banker then arranges his or her hand according to fixed rules referred to as “the house way.” Each players’ hands are then compared to the banker’s hands, one at a time, to determine who wins each of the wagers previously bet. When arranging the two hands, the two-card hand may not be higher in value than the five-card hand or the player automatically loses.

Winning and Losing

In order for a player to win against the banker in a round of Pai Gow poker, each of his hands must be of a higher poker ranking. If one hand wins but the other loses, that round is considered a tie or a ‘push’ and no winnings are collected.

If both of the player’s hands are losers when compared to the banker’s, he forfeits his wager. Hands that are equal in value, known as a “copy,” go in favor of the banker. When a player wins a round he is required to pay a 5% commission to the house.


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