Pai Gow Poker Rules – Learn How to Play Pai Gow Poker

Pai Gow Poker is one of those Americanized Chinese gambling games that today are part of almost every casino. This game is a social game just as poker and can be played by six players simultaneously using a 52-card deck. In addition to the players, land-based casinos appoint a dealer at the table to assist players. Similar to other casino games, the players in Pai Gow Poker play against the house, not against each other.

This game came to be when a Chinese game called Pai Gow in which dominoes were used, was mixed with poker cards. What came out as a result was a gambling game with a very reasonably low risk compared to other games. Pai Gow Poker is a more of a game of skill, although learning the cards and using the skills is not that farfetched for beginners. The hands are easy and obvious, and strategies can be applied without much difficulty. The fact that all the players play together against the house makes this game very fun and leisure game.

The game as we know it today was established in California in the mid-80s in 1985. The person that invented the game first began offering it at his own casino, and later the game began appearing across many other casinos without prior permission of its author due to a lack of patent for the game. Since then Pai Gow Poker has brought millions of players to casinos and the game today has a well-deserved status.

Pai Gow Poker Rules

Pai Gow Poker uses many rules that are commonly known in standard poker, such as:

  • The game is played with standard fifty-two cards and a joker from a single deck only.
  • As in other games, the joker is used to complete a hand like straight flush, flush, straight or royal flush, and it can be used instead of an Ace.
  • Each player receives 7 cards along with the dealer too after all the players have made their bets previously.
  • With these seven cards, the players have to form two hands, one five card hand and one two card hand. The only condition is for the five card hand to be of higher value than the two card hand.
  • The two card hand will always be a pair of the highest possible value, while the five card hand will be a standard poker hand.
  • The dealer will reveal his cards after the players have divided their cards. The dealer follows a special rule referred to as the House Way. This rule is actually a predetermined manner in which the dealer will play the cards. This rule varies from casino to casino.
  • The two hands of each player are then compared against the dealer’s hand and the player with the two hands of higher values will take his winnings.
  • There is a special rule for a tie. If the two card hand of both the player and the dealer are composed of pair of Kings or Aces, then the house wins.
  • In order for the player to win his both hands need to be stronger than the dealer’s hands. In this case the bet pays 1 to 1. If the player loses one hand to the dealer, then it’s a push. In all other scenarios, the player loses. Five percent commission is taken of each winning.
  • The banker role rotates between players, and each player can refuse the role.

The Basics of Pai Gow Poker

Objective of the Game

The objective in Pai Gow Poker is for players to assemble hands that are stronger than the dealer in order to beat the house and win the bet with the help of seven cards. The only chance to win is to have both hands of higher value. The lower hand, which is the two card hand is always a pair (if there two cards of same value) while the higher five card hand can be any of the standard hands used in poker. The two card hand mustn’t be of a higher value than the five card hand.

Pai Gow Poker Hands

In order to form a hand, players can use a joker. It can be used to replace a card any kind of straight or flush. In other cases the joker is valued as an Ace. The following are the hands in Pai Gow Poker arranged from the weakest to the strongest:

  • No Pair hand is a hand that has no cards that can be combined together to form a pair.
  • One Pair is a hand consisted of any two cards of the same value.
  • Two Pair is a hand consisted of two pairs with cards of the same value.
  • Three of a Kind is a hand consisted of three cards of the same value.
  • Straight is a hand in which all cards are arranged in a sequence, for example from 6 to 10.
  • Flush is a hand in which all cards are of the same suite, either clubs, diamonds, spades or hearts.
  • Full House is a hand consisted of two cards of the same value, and three cards that are all of some different value.
  • Four of a Kind is a hand consisted of four cards of the same value.
  • Straight Flush is a hand in which all cards of the same suite, but also they need to be arranged in a sequence, for example from 7 to Jack.
  • Royal Flush is a hand consisted of Jack, King, Queen, Ten and an Ace, but all five cards need to be of the same suite.

In any of the hands, the remaining cards help determine the winner in cases when the competing five card hands are identical.

The Ranking of Two Card Hands

There are special rules set for the ranking of the two card hands. It is obvious that with two cards the only hand you can play is a pair i.e. a hand consisted of two cards of the same value, with a pair of 2s as the weakest, and a pair of Aces as the strongest two card hand.

But, there is also a No Pair hand. This hand is also valued, but here the weakest hand is a combination of 2 and a 3, while the strongest No Pair two card hand is consisted of a King and an Ace. A Pair hand always beats a No Pair hand. The Joker here is used instead of an Ace too.

The House Way

As mentioned previously, the House Way is a predetermined manner of how the dealer will play with his hand. This rule can vary from casino to casino. Somewhere you may find it more in your favor, somewhere you may not, in general it doesn’t vary substantially.

The Odds

Although Pai Gow Poker a house edge that is worse than craps, blackjack and baccarat, it is still a very decent edge that varies between 2 and 3 percent. Since it is a game of skill this edge can be easily eliminated with a little spell of luck. Also, since it is a much slower paced game compared to other games with a lot of ties and pushing your playing time is much longer and your bankroll is more prone to survive.

An Easy Pai Gow Strategy to Use

First, when playing Pai Gow Poker, whether using a strategy or not, you need to remember that both of your hands need to win. So basically you have to think how to equally distribute your hands. If you can’t form a strong five card hand, make sure at least for your two card hand to be as high as it can get in order to cause for a push and stop the house from winning. Or do the other way around, by setting a strong five card hand while making a weak two card hand.

If your hand is a no pair hand, just use the third and second highest cards for the two card hand. If you have at least one pair the highest two cards should be used as a two card hand. This strategic playing extends to different scenarios for having dealt 2 pairs, 3 pairs, three of a kind and all the other possible hands and involves how to split your hands and use the most of all cards dealt.


Pai Gow Poker has spurred so much interest in the public due to its ingenious way of playing with two hands at the same time so that many experts have even written books on the optimal strategies that can be used for playing the game. Try the game a little at any online casino offering it for practice, and we guarantee you will immediately like it.

Useful Pai Gow Poker Glossary

Back Hand: used to refer to the five card hand.

Banking: this is when players bet either against the players or the dealer.

Foul Hand: this is when a player has not split his hands appropriately which means his two card hand is stronger than his five card hand. It is used in land-based casinos.

Front Hand: used to refer to the two card hand.

For a more comprehensive list of terms and phrases, check out our Pai Gow Glossary section.



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