Pai Gow Poker is a variation based on an ancient domino game of the same name which comes to us from China. But it uses cards and if you know your way around a regular Poker table, you’ll be able to learn this new version very quickly.
Thanks to the fact that you’re playing against the dealer alone, it’s a far less stressful experience than you may fear! It’s easier to keep a cool head when you’ve only got to beat one person and the sense of camaraderie it fosters between you and your fellow gamblers is one that’s not to be missed.
The house edge in Pai Gow Poker depends largely on your skills as a player but sits at roughly 2.8%. It can be reduced to as little as 2.7% if you keep your wits about you, however!
The Basic Rules of Play
Everyone will receive 7 cards and the goal is to make the best 5-card Poker hand you can, so it’s business as usual so far. The difference comes in because you are also asked to create a separate, 2-card hand as you play, where the highest possible combination is a Pair.
Because you’re only playing against the dealer, there are only three possible outcomes when it comes to Pai Gow Poker. You’ll either have the winning hands, a 5-card one and a 2-card one, or the dealer will, or a Push will occur, which is what happens when one of your hands wins and the other loses.
Because there are multiple hands in play during Pai Gow Poker, they’ve got dedicated places on the table. The 5-card hand is placed nearer you, in the back of the table, so it’s referred to as the Back Hand. the 2-card hand is placed in front of this one, so it’s called the Front Hand. They’re generally referred to as Front and Back, so it’s helpful to commit this fact to memory early on.
Your Back Hand will need to be of a higher value than your Front Hand is, so you must know how the different card combinations rank, similarly to New Zealand online blackjack games has to offer. It’s slightly different than the standard you already know, thanks to the addition of the Five-of-a-Kind hand, so take a little time before you play to make sure you understand what you need to look out for. The non-standard Poker hand included in this variation consists of the 4 Aces and a Joker, the latter being present because this game uses 52 cards and a single Joker.
If you don’t get any Pairs out of the first 7 cards you’re dealt, one strategy says to keep the highest-value card in your Back Hand and place the second- and third-highest value cards in your Front Hand.
If you have one Pair and nothing else to make your Back Hand better than your Front Hand then you’ll have no choice but to put the Pair there, but you can make up for this by taking the highest-value cards that aren’t part of the Pair and putting them in your Front Hand.