Pai Gow Poker

Pai Gow Poker, a fusion of traditional Chinese Pai Gow and classic American poker, offers a unique and strategic gaming experience. This article delves into the world of Pai Gow Poker, covering everything from basic rules and how to play, to advanced strategies and the latest updates in the Pai Gow Poker world.

What is Pai Gow Poker?

Pai Gow Poker is played with a standard deck of 52 cards plus a joker. The game’s objective is to create two poker hands out of the seven cards dealt to each player: a five-card hand (“high hand”) and a two-card hand (“low hand”). The high hand must rank higher than the low hand. Players compete against the banker, which could be the casino dealer or one of the players.

How to Play Pai Gow Poker (Rules)

The game begins with players placing bets. Each player, including the dealer, receives seven cards. Players then split their cards into the high and low hands. Winning occurs if both of your hands beat the banker’s hands. If one wins and one loses, it’s a push, and the bet is returned.

To make it easier to understand, let’s break down the Pai Gow Poker rules into a simple list:

1. Placing BetsBefore any cards are dealt, each player places their bet on the table.
2. Dealing CardsEach player, including the dealer, receives seven cards face down from a standard 52-card deck plus one joker.
3. Splitting CardsPlayers split their seven cards into two hands: a five-card high hand and a two-card low hand. The high hand must be higher in value than the low hand.
4. Setting HandsPlayers arrange their two hands on the table: the high hand is placed behind the low hand, closer to the player.
5. Revealing HandsOnce all players have set their hands, they are revealed. The dealer then exposes their hands and sets them according to the casino’s “house way.”
6. Comparing HandsThe player’s high hand is compared to the dealer’s high hand, and the player’s low hand is compared to the dealer’s low hand.
7. Determining OutcomesWins occur if both player’s hands beat the dealer’s. A push occurs if one hand wins and the other loses. The player loses the bet if both hands are lower than the dealer’s.
8. Joker RulesThe joker can act as an ace or complete a straight or flush in the high hand. In the low hand, it always functions as an ace.

These simplified rules provide a clear overview of how Pai Gow Poker is played, making it easier for beginners to grasp the game’s basic structure and objectives.

Hand Rankings

The hand rankings in Pai Gow Poker are similar to traditional poker rankings with one exception: the second highest straight is A-2-3-4-5, known as the “wheel.” The joker can act as an ace or complete a straight or flush.

Play Online

Online Pai Gow Poker brings the casino experience to your home or mobile device, allowing for play anytime, anywhere. Many online casinos offer Pai Gow Poker, with options for both free play and real money wagering.


For players on the move, Pai Gow Poker apps provide a convenient way to enjoy the game. These apps are available for various devices, offering a seamless mobile gaming experience.

Pai Gow Poker Variants

Face Up Pai Gow Poker

In this variant, the dealer’s cards are dealt face up. This gives players insight into the dealer’s hand, affecting strategy decisions.


This variant allows players to place side bets on hitting premium hands. The bigger the hand, the bigger the payout, adding an extra layer of excitement to the game.

No Push

In this variant, the game is modified to reduce the number of tie outcomes (pushes). If the player and the dealer have an identical hand, specific rules, such as the highest individual card, determine the winner. This change increases the risk and excitement, as the chances of a push are significantly lower.


This variant offers a progressive jackpot, which can be won if a player hits a specified high hand, usually a seven-card straight flush. Players must place an additional side bet to be eligible for the jackpot, making it a popular choice for those looking for big wins.

Emperor’s Challenge

In Emperor’s Challenge, there’s an optional side bet that pays out if a player’s seven cards include a pai gow hand (no pair, straight, or flush). This variant also sometimes features a progressive jackpot, adding to the game’s excitement.


Bonus Pai Gow Poker allows players to place a bonus bet that pays out based on the strength of their seven cards, regardless of how they split their cards into the high and low hands. This bonus bet can offer high payouts for strong hands, even if the player doesn’t win the main game.

Pai Gow Mania

Pai Gow Mania grants players the chance to make two side bets instead of just one. The first side bet is evaluated on the first three cards dealt, and the second side bet is based on all seven cards. This variant provides more betting options and opportunities to win.

Strategies for Pai Gow Poker

Effective Pai Gow Poker strategy involves balancing your high and low hands to increase your chances of winning both hands. The ideal approach often involves playing the strongest possible high hand, while still maintaining a competitive low hand.

  1. Balance Your Hands: Aim to create a strong high hand without weakening your low hand too much. The goal is to win both hands, but if not, at least push to avoid losing the bet.
  2. Understand the House Way: Casinos have a set way of arranging their hands known as the “house way.” Learning this can help you make better decisions in splitting your own hands.
  3. Optimize the High Hand: While the temptation might be to strengthen the low hand to ensure a push, it’s generally better to focus on creating a robust high hand, as this is where the real winning potential lies.
  4. Consider the Joker: The joker is not just a wild card but can be a game-changer, especially if used to complete a straight, flush, or straight flush in the high hand.
  5. Banking: When given the chance to bank (act as the dealer), consider taking it. Banking can shift the odds slightly in your favor, as you win the ties.
  6. Be Cautious with Full Houses: Splitting a full house into a pair for the two-card hand and three of a kind for the five-card hand can be more advantageous than playing a full house as the high hand.
  7. Playing Pairs: If you have two pairs, it’s often best to split them between the high and low hands, especially if they are strong pairs. However, with two low pairs, keeping them together in the high hand might be a better strategy.
  8. Advanced Strategies: For more experienced players, considering the specific odds of certain hands based on the dealt cards can lead to more nuanced strategies. This includes considering the dealer’s exposed card in variants like Face Up Pai Gow Poker to guide hand splitting.

Odds and Payouts

Understanding the odds of forming certain hands and the corresponding payouts is crucial. Pai Gow Poker is known for its frequent pushes, where the player and banker’s hands are of equal strength, leading to a tie.

Here’s a breakdown of the typical odds and payouts in Pai Gow Poker:

Hand RankingOdds of Getting the HandTypical Payout
Seven-card straight flush (without joker)0.000005%8,000:1
Royal flush0.000154%2,000:1
Straight flush0.00139%50:1
Four of a kind0.0240%25:1
Full house0.1441%5:1
Three of a kind0.3523%3:1
Two pair2.5926%Even money
One pair or less95.7627%Even money

While Pai Gow Poker payouts can vary from one casino to another, the table provides a general guide to how different hands are rewarded. The rarity of the hand directly influences the payout, with rarer hands offering higher rewards.

The strategy in Pai Gow Poker often involves aiming for a balance that maximizes the chances of winning both the high hand and the low hand, or at least securing a push to avoid a total loss. By understanding these odds and payouts, players can make more informed decisions on how to set their hands.