Pai Gow Poker is a famous variant of poker based on the Asian game Pai Gow. Pai Gow, on the other hand, is a game of dominoes. Moreover, Pai Gow Poker uses a single deck of cards alongside 1 Joker card.
Keep reading if you want to learn to play this very entertaining version of Poker at your favorite online casinos.
What Is Pai Gow Poker?
Pai Gow Poker is a poker variant loosely based on the Chinese domino game Pai Gow. Pai Gow is a domino game played with 32 dominoes. The game dates back to the old Song dynasty that ruled China between 960 AD and 1279 AD. Besides influencing a variant of poker, Pai Gow is also a major influence for the modern domino games.
Despite the two games are played with two different gaming equipment – one is cards and the other dominoes – the two share some loose similarities.
Actually, the game of Pai Gow Poker is a young invention, having been around for less than 50 years. Namely, the game was invented by Sam Torosian and Fred Wolf, two casino managers who wanted to refresh poker and thus appeal to a wider audience. The goal of attracting new players certainly succeeded as Pai Gow Poker became a well-known and established variant of poker.
The Pai Gow variant is played with a single deck of 52 cards and one single Joker (Wild) card. As per the rules of the game, all bets are placed before the cards are dealt, so there’s no bluffing involved – which makes the game easier for the players. It’s also a sought-after low-variance game worldwide. It’s especially easier to master for beginners.
Pai Gow Poker Rules
Here’s a brief overview of Pai Gow Poker rules where you can see how this variant differs from standard poker games.
- The game is played with a single card deck
- This game also uses 1 Joker (Wild) card
- The Joker can replace any card in Straight, Flush, or Straight Flush
- All bets are placed before the cards are dealt
- A round typically involves 6 players plus a banker
- 7 cards are dealt per player
- The goal is to divide the cards into two groups to make 5-card and 2-card hands
- Both hands must beat the banker’s hands to win the round
- Some tables include a 5% commission
- Certain tables employ a special Fortune Bet side bet, but not all
So far, so good. Playing Pai Gow Poker online is easy, but it might take some time for players to get used to it. Thankfully, the rules make it easy as they are not challenging at all.
Below you can find a full guide about playing this game and an overview of poker hands in the domino variant.
How to Play Pai Gow Poker Online
Pai Gow Poker is a fantastic variant of the game, often played across Asia and Europe. It’s mostly associated with land-based gambling, as most poker games are, but major iGaming companies have started adding their RNG tables in the online world as well.
As a result, we’ve seen an explosion of Pai Gow Poker online games a couple of years ago, with Playtech and Betsoft adding their respective titles.
So, how can you play Pai Gow Poker online for real money?
For starters, it’s useful to remember that the game is played against the banker (in live mode that’s not necessarily the dealer, but it can be). So, the goal of the game is to defeat the banker, not other punters.
A round has four phases:
- Placing bets
- Card dealing
- Card arranging
Let’s go through each one by one.
Every round starts the same. At the start of the round, all players at the table place the bets and wait for the card deal. In some cases, you might have to pay an extra 5% commission fee, but not all tables employ this rule.
Once everyone has placed their bet, the dealer will deal the cards to the players and to themselves. Each seat at the table gets 7 cards face-down. Additionally, 4 remaining cards are put in the muck or discard pile.
But here is when it gets interesting.
These 7 received cards are to be split into 2 card groups. One group should contain 5 cards while the other has the remaining 2.
The 5-card group is meant to form the best possible card combination to hit the highest possible poker hand. The same thing applies to the other group as well. It is up to the players to arrange their cards on their own in the order they want. This process does not last long, so it’s important to stay calm and think through about the best options.
Once you are satisfied with the way you’ve arranged the cards, place them on the table face-down again and wait for the next step. In online terms, this is done automatically.
And finally, the last part of the round and the culmination – the hand reveal. All players reveal what they have made as poker hands. The one player whose both hands beat the banker’s hands will win the round and get the payout.
After the payout, everyone starts preparing for the next round. Cards are shuffled, the deck is changed, and everything starts again.
Pai Gow Poker Hands
Is this all too much for you? Don’t worry, we’ll explain in just a little bit the hands that you form in Pai Gow Poker.
So, so far we’ve established that you have two groups representing two hands.
- The 5-card hand, called the big hand (or high hand)
- The 2-card hand, called the small hand (or low hand)
Both of them must be higher than the banker’s hands for you to win. That means that the big hand must beat their big hand, and your small hand beats their small hand. but here’s another catch – your high hand must be better than your own low hand, too! If it’s lower, it’s a foul hand and you automatically lose.
The game might result in either a Win (both hands better than the banker), Loss (neither succeeded in beating them), or a Draw (onlyone of your hands is stronger).
In the case of a tie between you two, the player loses. If the high hands are the same, the banker wins.
Finally, if you happen to touch a card once the banker’s hands are revealed, you lose as well.
Pai Gow Poker Hand Rank
An important thing you should remember is that this variant has a unique way of ranking hands. Here’s the full ranking, from lowest to highest:
- High Card
- One Pair
- Two Pairs
- Three of a Kind
- Full House
- Four of a Kind
- Straight Flush
- Royal Flush
- Five Aces (4 Aces + Joker)
The best hand in the variant is the seven-hand Straight Flush, hands down. This will surely turn heads – and if there’s a Fortune Bet Side Bet, you are sure to win that one too.
Pai Gow Poker Tips
Before you rush off to your favorite online casino to play Pai Gow Poker online, make sure you are well prepared for that adventure. We recommend going through our tips below and ticking off one by one:
- Learn poker lingo – here’s a helpful glossary of important terms in poker.
- Memorize all the rules listed above.
- Prepare a budget that you can handle losing, as the game can be quite unpredictable.
- Thinka about the ways you’d use the Joker if you got it – and don’t waste it on small hands!
- Do not touch the cards if you are playing in live mode.
- Remember that the house edge is 2.50% (approximately) so try to think of strategies to lower it to your benefit.
- Play at only licensed casinos and games from verified software companies.
- Never chase losses – if you see you are losing, take a breather.
Best Pai Gow Poker Casinos
Before we finish this guide, we’d also like to point you in the direction of the best online casinos where you can play Pai Gow Poker online for real money.
As you already know, Playtech and Betsoft are among the most famous game producers with Pai Gow games. Hence, any casino working with Betsoft or Playtech, especially the older ones, are your safest bet. Our favorite is definitely Ignition casino.
Check out other casinos where you can play Asian games similar to Pai Gow online for real money and for free!
We hope you enjoyed our guide for playing Pai Gow Poker online and that you learned a bunch of helpful things! Remember: it’s not just about knowing the rules, it’s also about knowing your limits. Have fun, enjoy the game, and please play responsibly.