How To Play Pai Gow Poker

Poker is one of the most famous card games in the world. It is played by a lot of people at casinos or at home. Pai Gow poker is another game based on luck and skill and is probably not as popular. Pai Gow is a Chinese game played with tiles similar to the ones used in dominos and it originated a couple of thousand years back. In a perfect case of east meeting west, the amalgamation of these two games gave rise to a game called Pai Gow poker. In this game the goal of the player is to beat the dealer or the banker by getting a better set of hands. People often call it a more challenging and exciting version of poker and it has gained popularity through casinos both on-land and online.


Pai Gow poker is a mixture of the Chinese game of Pai Gow and poker. The game of Pai Gow traveled to the US in the 18th century. The game was originally played with tiles that look very similar to the tiles used in the game of dominos. To simplify the game, people started using cards instead of tiles. But for a long time the game wasn’t a main attraction at casinos.

The credit for inventing the modern version of the game goes to Fred Wolf. He used to be the casino manager of the Commerce casino in the early 1980s. He had to compete with a lot larger casinos at that time. To attract more people, he made a lot of new games. One of these games was Pai Gow poker. The game became a huge success and is played in most casinos today.

How to Play

Pai Gow is available at Casino Titan and is played with a normal 52 card French deck with a joker added to it. Casinos allow up to six players to play against the dealer at one time, and the setup is similar to a blackjack table. The game goes something like this:

  • After you have made your initial wager you are dealt with 7 cards.
  • You have to make two hands out of these 7 cards. One is a 5 card hand, other is a 2 card hand. The objective of the game is to have both the hands better than the dealer’s hands. The 5 card hand is called the backhand and the 2 card hand is called the front hand.
  • While distributing the cards, if a particular spot is empty then the cards are still dealt to that spot. These cards dealt to an empty spot are termed as the dragon hand. Before beginning the game each player is asked if they would like to make another bet for the dragon hand. If a player chooses to play this hand as well then he effectively has two hands. The dealer turns over the cards for the dragon hand and sets them the house way.
  • Both the hands are essentially poker hands. This means their ranking is pretty much the same as poker hand rankings barring a few exceptions. In poker, ace, 2, 3, 4, 5 would be the smallest straight possible. In most of the casinos, while playing Pai Gow poker this is the second highest straight possible only below the king straight.
  • While making these hands, you need to make sure that your two card hand is always lower than your 5 card hand. If this is not the case, then both your hands are deemed as illegal and you lose the game.
  • The joker acts as a wild card only if you are making a flush, straight, or a straight flush. Otherwise it’s an ace. In the 2 card hand, joker is always an ace.
  • If each of the player’s hands beats the dealer’s hands then he wins. In most casinos player win even money minus a 5% commission on the winning.
  • A tie on any hand goes to the dealer. This is slightly advantageous to the dealer, as a tie on one hand and a loss on another hand means you have lost your wager.
  • A win on one hand and a loss on the other results in a push, which means, you do not win anything.
  • Pai Gow poker is a relatively simple game but you need to remember that there are a lot of pushes in the game, and it is not as fast paced as some other casino games like craps or blackjack.

Strategy and Tips

Like a lot of other card games Pai Gow poker also has a strategy behind playing it. Following this strategy will mean that you end up winning a lot more games and a lot more money. Here are a few tips which will help you beat the dealer:

  • If you don’t have any pair, then use the highest card in the back hand and the second and third highest in front. And if it is a single pair, place the highest two cards in front and the pair in back
  • If you have two pairs, then place the bigger pair in front if it’s a pair of jack or above. If the bigger pair is of 7 to 10, then place both pairs in the back and place a high card in front. If you have both the pairs of smaller cards, then place a king in front. If no king available, then split the pairs.
  • If you have a three pair then always place the bigger pair in front.
  • If you have a three of a kind of aces, then place an ace and the next highest card in the front. If not an ace, then place the three of a kind in the back, and two highest cards in front.
  • If you have two three of a kind, then place the pair from the higher set in the front.
  • In case of straight or straight flush or a flush; if there is no pair than keep the complete hand in back. If you have a pair, then leave the complete hand for the back, and the two highest cards in the front. If there is a two pair, then use the two pair strategy. If you have three of a kind, then place the pair in front and complete hand for the back.

There are certain other things as well but these should cover most of the hands, and having a good understanding of these will gives you a good chance of winning.


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