Pai Gow Guide
Pai Gow is a game that originated in ancient China, and is still being actively played around the world. Traditionally, Pai Gow is played with a Chinese domino set of tiles. There is also a variation known as Pai Gow Poker that is played with a standard deck of cards.
The goal of the traditional Pai Gow game is to achieve two hands with a nine in each. Nine is usually the most coveted value, unless you score some of the rare highest scores. The tens place is dropped when counting the total of pips in one hand. So if you get a hand with a 5-6 and a 2-3, this is not counted as 16 but as 6 since the tens place is dropped in this game.
Traditional Pai Gow
Traditional Pai Gow is played by first stacking the playing tiles into eight piles of four. They are shuffled in a pattern and then the bets are made. All the players, including the dealer, are each given four tiles to make into two hands. There are usually seven players in a game, and all the players will compare their hands only to those of the dealer. The hands are ranked according to their value, where the hand with the lower value is the front hand and the higher value hand is the rear hand. Both hands must beat both of the dealer’s hands in order for the player to win. If only one of the player’s hands win, the game is declared a push and the player gets back his bet. If both the dealer’s hands beat the player’s hands, the player loses their bet.
Pai Gow Poker
The goal of the Pai Gow Poker game is to make two hands from seven cards dealt by the dealer from a 53-card deck. The extra card in the deck is a Joker and it may be used to complete straights or flushes, or otherwise counted as an ace. The cards are divided into a five-card hand and a two-card hand. The five-card hand strength is the same as that of regular poker, with the exception of the A-2-3-4-5 straight, which is often counted as the second highest straight in the game. The five-card hand must have a higher value than the two-card hand. The best two-card hand you can have is a pair of aces.
The player’s two hands must both beat the dealer’s hands to win. The player receives even money on a win, usually net of a casino commission (often 5%). If the player wins with one hand and loses with the other, the game is declared a push and the bet is returned. Tied hands are counted as a win for the dealer, and while uncommon in the five-card hand, you will often see a two-card hand tie.
The house edge of 2.73% in Pai Gow Poker is derived from the commission the casino charges on player winnings, and also the fact that the dealer wins tied hands.