The History of Pai Gow Poker

The History of Pai Gow Poker is a fascinating journey that stretches from ancient Chinese origins to its current popularity in modern casinos worldwide. This intriguing game combines elements of traditional Chinese Pai Gow and American poker, creating a unique blend of strategies and excitement. Understanding its history offers valuable insights into its gameplay evolution and enduring appeal.

Ancient Origins of Pai Gow

Dating back to the Song Dynasty in China (960-1279 AD), the original Pai Gow was a domino-based game played amongst friends and family. The name “Pai Gow” translates to “make nine,” reflecting the game’s objective to create pairs adding up to nine. It was a game deeply rooted in Chinese culture, often associated with social gatherings and festive occasions.

Traditional Pai Gow Gameplay

  • Played with 32 Chinese dominoes.
  • Objective: Create two hands with values closest to nine.
  • Commonly played during celebrations.

The Evolution to Pai Gow Poker

The transition of Pai Gow to the casino favorite, Pai Gow Poker, occurred in the mid-1980s. Sam Torosian, a casino owner in California, is credited with inventing Pai Gow Poker by combining the classic Chinese Pai Gow with elements of poker. This innovation aimed to attract Western players familiar with poker, thereby bridging cultural gaps and adding variety to casino gaming options.

Pai Gow Poker Rules

  • Played with a standard 52-card deck plus one joker.
  • Objective: Create two poker hands (a five-card hand and a two-card hand) better than the dealer’s hands.
  • Joker: serves as an ace or completes a straight or flush.

Modern Casino Popularity

Today, Pai Gow Poker has secured its place in both physical and online casinos globally. Its unique combination of luck and strategy makes it appealing for a wide range of players. Additionally, the slow pace and low-risk nature of the game provide a relaxing alternative to more fast-paced casino games.

Benefits of Playing Pai Gow Poker

  • Lower house edge compared to many other casino games.
  • Opportunities for strategic play.
  • Social aspect: Often played at a slower pace, allowing for interaction.


The history of Pai Gow Poker showcases a rich blend of ancient traditions and modern innovations. From its roots in ancient Chinese culture to its modern incarnation in global casinos, Pai Gow Poker continues to captivate players across generations. Whether played for its strategic depth or its cultural significance, Pai Gow Poker remains a beloved game in the world of betting.

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