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Pai Gow Poker strategy, rules and specifics

Pai Gow Poker is a very interesting game that has evolved from the Chinese gambling game "Pai Gow" (played with dominoes), Americanized by the conversion of the dominoes into playing cards. The game can win you great money if you learn basic skills and strategies that apply to it. In this game the player needs to manage 2 hands of cards instead of just one and bets if cards on his hands are better than those with the dealer.

Chinese Pai gow - full set of tiles with name and rank
Chinese Pai gow - full set of tiles with proper name and rank

Similar to other types of poker games, this game commences when a player places a bet. The dealer then distributes 7 cards to each player with 5 cards arranged in one hand and 2 in the other.

The 5 card hand is known as “high hand” and the two card hand is known as “low Hand”. In order to qualify the value of your high hand must be higher than your low hand.

This game has somewhat different winning hand combinations than other types of Poker. For beginners, Pai Gow utilizes a deck of 53 cards. The 53rd card is a wild Card or a Joker. The joker can be utilized as an ace or to complete the three hand combinations; a Flush, a straight or a straight flush.

Another main difference that applies to this game is that if the dealer’s hand and the players hand produce similar value then the result is not a push. The dealer will be the winner. It is a strange game but extremely enjoyable.

Pai gow poker winning hand combinations in the descending order are:

  • 5 Aces (including a joker as Wild Card)
  • Royal Flush
  • Straight Flush
  • Four of a Kind
  • Flush
  • Straight
  • Three of a Kind
  • Two Pair
  • Ace
  • King
  • Queen
  • Jack

In Pai Gow Poker, the player is required to skillfully set both high and low hands strong to defeat the dealer. The house edge has 2.3% advantage. The following strategies will help you reach higher:

  • Try and make both hands reasonably strong so as to win the two – or else you will end up in a tie.
  • The back hand should be set higher than front hand or else you will "foul" your hand and will lose the bet.

In order to set your hand you should follow this guide to reduce your odds of losing the game. The first column tells you about what to do with common hands, the second and third one tells you about what you have been given and how to redistribute these cards respectively.

Your Hand Back Hand (5 cards) Front Hand (2 cards)
No Pair Highest card Second and third highest
One Pair Pair Next two highest cards
Two Pair (one of them Aces) Pair of Aces Other Pair
Two Pair One Pair Other Pair
Three Pair Second and third highest pair Highest Pair
Three of a Kind Three of a Kind (Unless 3 Aces a place 2 in this hand) (3 Aces a place 1 Ace here)
5,6,or 7 card Straight Lowest cards to complete the Straight Two highest cards that keep the five card hand's straight

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