Pai Gow Poker

Although originally a game of tiles, Pai Gow has inspired a new poker variation that has spread in American casinos like wildfire a few decades ago. Find a complete Pai Gow Poker review in this article.

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Pai Gow Poker, also known as double-hand poker, is a variation of the most popular card game ever. It is inspired by the traditional rules of Pai Gow.

It’s not as old as blackjack or poker itself. In fact, this poker variation arrived in casinos in 1985. In its short time on the scene, it has managed to climb the list of most popular poker variations quite high. With a house edge of around 2.5%, Pai Gow is profitable. And it’s fun to play once you learn all the rules.

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Online Pai Gow Poker Screenshot

What are the Rules of Pai Gow Poker?

Pai Gow Poker is played with a standard 52-card deck plus a joker. The joker can complete a Straight or Royal Flush or be used as an Ace. The game follows all the familiar rules of poker, with a few exceptions.

The second highest straight in the game is called “The Wheel”. It consists of an Ace, 2, 3, 4, and 5. This rule, however, was banished from some casinos. So make sure to check the rules of play at any table before you sit at it.

After getting his 7 cards, the player arranges a 5-card hand (high) and a 2-card hand (low). This is the biggest difference between poker and Pai Gow Poker. It’s also the rule that makes it unique. The value of the high hand must exceed the value of the low hand. And of course, both must beat the corresponding hands of the dealer.

After the player has arranged his cards and placed down a bet, the dealer will reveal his hand. The high hand and his low hand. He compares them to the player’s hands. The hand with a higher poker value obviously wins. Except in the case of a tie. In that case the bet goes to the banker.

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Win both Hands

The player can win both hands. He then gets paid out at even money with the house taking a 5% commission (except in NZ Pai Gow Poker). If the player is 50% successful (wins one, loses one hand), the bet is pushed (returned to the player). Of course, if the dealer wins both hands, the player loses the full bet.

Unlike other poker variations, the player can bet against all the other players and the dealer as well. This is known as banking. In land-based casinos, each player takes a turn being a banker. If one player declines to bank, the option goes to the next player.

Bonus Bets

Different variations of Pai Gow Poker feature various bonus bets which hand out huge prizes. The Fortune side bet is one that comes to mind first. It pays sizeable bonuses for the value of the player’s 7 cards, with a natural paying 5000:1 for versions with one deck and 1000:1 for versions with 8 decks.

The Progressive Fortune Pai Gow Poker variant was the first to introduce a progressive jackpot to the game. A player can win part or the whole progressive bonus jackpot if he places a side bet and lands one of the hands displayed on the payout table. The ultimate hand that wins the jackpot is a 7-card straight flush.

There are other bonus bets in Pai Gow Poker as well which make the game all the more interesting and quite profitable if you’re lucky.


As soon as Pai Gow Poker arrived at online casinos, game designers didn’t waste time to develop great new variations. Pai Gow Mania, for example, allows the player to place two side bets per hand, giving him the opportunity to win major cash prizes.

All the variations of Pai Gow Poker are based on slightly tweaked rules that make this poker variation one of the most exciting to ever appear in a casino. Pair that with a reasonably low house edge, and you’ll realize why poker players love it.

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Pai Gow Poker In The Casino

The House Way

The House Way is a term which describes the way the dealer sets up his hand. This means that learning more about it can bring you on an almost even playing field with the casino. The dealer sets up his hand with the idea that the house doesn’t want to lose. If you set up your hand in a similar manner, you can play competitively against the dealer.

As there are two hands in play, you shouldn’t gamble away your chances, so make sure to always have a good low hand. When the dealer has an ace-ace in the low hand, he knows that the house can’t be beaten as there are 4 aces out. With this low hand, the house will defeat other hands including your own, which is why you need to make your low hand as strong as possible.

Depending on the cards you’ve been dealt, you should work with what you got. Remember, the House Way gives an advantage to the dealer over any player at the table, so make smart decisions.

What’s the History of Pai Gow Poker?

Pai Gow Poker was invented in 1985 when Sam Torosian from the Bell Card Club in Los Angeles came to an idea about a new variation of poker. Not long before it, Torosian learned about the Chinese game Pusoy from a Filipino customer.

Originally, this Chinese version of poker was played with 13 cards per player and 3 hands, so it was pretty slow for Torosian’s taste. However, by simplifying the version to 7 cards and 2 hands, Torosian made it faster and invented the game we know as Pai Gow Poker.

Torosian’s game was a hit in casinos, although he failed to patent it and make money off it due to bad advice provided by an attorney as well as poker player Mike Caro, who didn’t believe that Pai Gow Poker can be patented.

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