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Pai Gow Poker is a mixture of the ancient Chinese game of Pai Gow with classic American poker. It's played with a standard 53 card deck, including a Joker. The Joker can only be used as an Ace, or to complete a Straight or a Flush.
The game is one-to-one, the player (or players) plays against the banker, each competing to make the best possible hand. Due to a rather slow pace and a lot of ties pai gow poker is less intense than most casino games and a modest bankroll can usually last a long time.
An interesting element of Pai Gow Poker is that any player can request to be the banker. In this instance, all players compare their hands to the bank player rather than the house dealer. The bank player wins all ties, pays any winners from their own pocket, and collects any losing wagers. The house will still collect a 5 percent commission on any winning hands, and the bank will be alternated between the house and the player (the house dealer will take the bank at least every other hand).
How to play Pai Gow Poker
After individual wagers are placed in the circle in front of the Players, the Dealer then rolls the dice to determine which Player is dealt cards first. Next, the Players are each given seven cards with which to make two separate poker hands.
The cards are arranged into two hands: a 2-card hand and a 5-card hand. The five cards must be placed in the Highest Cards section and the remaining two cards must be placed in the Low Cards section. The five-card hand must always be the highest-scoring hand. If you place the highest-scoring cards in the Low Cards section, you will lose automatically.
The highest 5-card hand is a royal flush and the highest 2-card hand is Aces. With a Joker, the highest 5-card ranking hand is four Aces and a Joker.
The 5-card hand must be higher than the 2-card hand. For example, if the 2-card hand is a pair of fours, the 5-card hand must contain a pair of fives or better.
The object of the game is for the player to have both hands to rank higher than those of the banker. If the player wins on one hand but loses on the other, it's a push and no money changes hands. If one hand ranks the same as the banker's hand, it's a tie but in this case the banker wins. Winning hands are paid even money, less a 5% commission. Losing hands lose the amount wagered.
Pai Gow Poker Hand Rankings
(Typically the same as classic poker rankings)
- Five Aces - A-A-A-A-Joker.
- Royal Flush - 10-J-Q-K-A of the same suit.
- Straight Flush - Five cards of the same suit ranked in order (for example, 6-7-8-9-10 of hearts).
- Four-of-a-kind - Four cards of the same rank (for example, 5-5-5-5) The highest-ranked cards would win should the dealer and player both have four-of-a-kind.
- Full House - Three-of-a-kind and one pair. Ties are broken by the highest-ranking three-of-a-kind (for example, K-K-K-7-7 beats a 10-10-10-A-A).
- Flush - Five cards of the same suit, regardless of ranking (for example, 5-8-9-Q-K of spades).
- Straight - Like the 'Straight Flush' above but not of the same suit. That is, five cards of different suits ranked in order.
- Three-of-a-kind - Three cards of the same ranking (for example, Q-Q-Q).
- Two Pair - Two sets of pairs.
- A Pair - Two cards of the same value.
- High Card - If no one has at least a pair, then the highest-ranking card (highest in value) of each player's five-card hand decides the winning hand.
Pai Gow Payoffs
You must win both hands outright to receive a payout. All winning wagers are paid out at even money (1 to 1) - less commission. The house wins if both of the dealer's hands are winners, or if one hand wins and the other hand is a draw. Any other combination results in a push.
There is a 5% commission on all player wins, which will be deducted from your payout. Thus, a $10 winning wager will return $19.50 (player’s $10 wager plus $10 in winnings minus the $0.50 commission). No commission is collected on losing hands or ties. So, apart from the commission, the payoffs on all winning wagers are basically at even money.
The house advantage is approximately 2.5%. However, when the player is the banker, the house advantage is close to even.
Pai Gow Poker links
Wizard Of Odds Pai Gow Poker Page - Information on the odds, probabilities and house edge in various playing situations, plus strategy and advice.
Poker glossary (Terminology)
Online Poker sites
How to join a poker site
Introduction to online poker rooms
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