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Pai Gow Poker

Pai Gow is a game that is played directly against a Dealer in a similar way to Blackjack. You need to make 2 Poker hands, one that contains 5 cards and one with 2 cards. These hands are then compared to the Dealers hands and a winner determined depending on the value of the hands. You need to have an understanding of the hands of poker and these can be found here.

In this article, we will explain the following. You may click on any of the links below to bring you to that point in the article.

 
You can also test your skills and play our free version of Pai Gow Poker here.

Pai Gow is played with the standard deck of 52 cards and also includes a Joker. This can only be used as an Ace, or a card required to complete a Royal Flush, Straight Flush, a Flush or a Straight. It cannot be replaced by any other card.
 
One other difference between Pai Gow and normal Poker is that the 2nd highest Straight is the A2345 – the AKQJ10 is still the highest – Therefore, a Straight of A2345 will win against a Straight of 8910JQ.
 
Also, the 5 card hand needs to be of a higher value than the 2 card hand. As an example, if your 2 card hand is a pair of Kings, the 5 card hand needs to be a pair of Aces or better.
 

Pai Gow Rules

We advise you to start with enough for 50 bets when playing Pai Gow.If you have £50 to play with, we suggest you play £1 per hand.
 
Pai Gow can be played by up to 6 Players against the Dealer at any one time. Once you have placed your bet, you will receive 7 cards from the Dealer, who will then deal 7 cards to Him/Herself once all other players have been dealt in
You now need to arrange your cards into 2 hands, the main 5 card poker hand and a 2 card poker hand.
 
If you are playing online, you will be presented with an option of arranging you’re the cards the ‘House Way’. The Dealer is required to use this method and we would recommend you use this option as well, at least until you are experienced.
 
When all players have chosen their hands, the Dealer arranges for theirs.
 
One by one, each player displays their hands and compares them to the Dealers. If you win on both your hands, you win double your bet, minus 5% commission. If one of your hands beats the Dealer and the Dealer wins the other, the hand is considered a push and all stakes are returned.
 
If the Dealers’ hands beat both of yours, the Dealer wins and takes your chips.
If either of the hands is identical the Dealer wins that hand as opposed to it being a push.
 
Pai Gow Poker
 
On the screenshot above, the Player wins both hands, the Joker is replaced by an Ace to give a Full House for the 5 card hand against the Dealers pair of sixes, and the 2 card hand of a pair of sixes beats the Dealers Ace-King
As the initial bet was €100, you would win a further €100 less 5%, so a total return of €195.
 
It is worth noting that in the 2 card hand, the only hands you can only get are one pair or a high card. The best 2 card hand is a pair of Aces, the lowest is 3 2. There is no difference if your hand is Suited or not.
 

Pai Gow Tips

 
Ensure you understand all the rules
 
This is the same for all casino games, but especially true for Pai Gow, especially if you are used to standard poker rules. Play for free at one of our recommended casinos if you are unsure of all the details, such as the 2nd highest straight being A,2,3,4,5. There are a few small differences between Pai Gow and standard poker, to optimize your chances of winning at Pai Gow, ensure you know these before you play for real money.
 
Be careful when splitting 2 pairs
 
If you have 2 pairs in your hand, it is important to ensure you split them in order to optimize your chances of getting a good return. There are a few ways to do this depending on what else you hold in your hand, check our strategy below and again, play for free to ensure you get the hang of it first if you don’t feel comfortable.
 
Aim for a good compromise between hands
 
Many players will concentrate each turn on either the 5 card hand or the 2 card hand. It is important when it comes to maximizing your chances of winning that you get a good balance between the 2 as even if you have one great hand if the other isn’t very good you are only likely to push the bet.
 

Pai Gow Beginners Strategy

 
Many players when they start out understandably only look at the hands from a poker point of view. However, if you always go for the best 5 card hand you can get, there is more chance of winning that hand, but less chance of winning the 2 card hand and therefore only pushing rather than winning the bet.
 
The recommended strategy would, therefore, be to set your 2 card hand as strong as possible as long as you ensure that 5 card hand is higher. Alternatively, when playing online use the ‘House Way’.
 
Follow the table below for the best chance of winning your hand:

• If you are dealt 7 different cards without a Flush or Straight, choose the 2nd and 3rd highest cards for your 2 card hand.
• If you are dealt one pair, you will need to use the pair in your 5 card hand, we recommend using the highest 2 cards remaining cards for the 2 card hand.
• If you are dealt 2 pairs, choose the lowest pair for your 2 card hand unless both pairs are 6 or below, or you have an Ace in your hand. In this case, use the 2 pairs for your 5 card hand and the highest 2 remaining cards for your 2 card hand.
• If you are dealt 3 pairs of your 7 cards, choose the highest pair for your 2 card hand.
• If you are dealt 3 of a kind, you would be best to play this in your 5 card hand unless they are 3 aces. in this case, you should play just a pair of aces in your 5 card hand with the other ace and the next highest card in your 2 card hand. This will maximize your chances of winning both hands.
• If you are dealt a Straight, a Flush or a Straight Flush, you should play this as your 5 card hand, using the 2 highest available cards in your 2 card hand if you have a choice (you can only do this if you are dealt 6 or 7 cards you can use for the 5 card hand i.e. 6 of the same suit).
• If you are dealt a Full House, use should use the pair in your 2 card hand and the 3 of a kind in your 5 card hand.
 

Pai Gow Advanced Strategy

 
If you have mastered the above, well done.
 
Have a look at our advanced strategy shown below for an even better chance of getting a nice payout when playing Pai Gow. You should ensure you look at the correct section depending on whether or not you can get a Flush or a Straight, then go for the highest option possible within that section
 
If no Straight or Flush is possible:

• 5 of a kind + 1 pair – A pair of Aces should be played in the 2 card hand

• 5 of a kind – A pair of Aces should be played in the 2 card hand

• 4 of a kind + 3 of a kind – Split the 4 of a kind if at least 2 ranks higher than the 3 of a kind, if not split the 3 of a kind

• 4 of a kind + 1 pair – The 1 pair should be in the 2 card hand, unless:
– Split T’s, J’s or Q’s with a pair of 2’s or 3’s
– Split K’s with a pair of 2’s, 3’s or 4’s
– Split A’s with a pair of 2’s, 3’s, 4’s or 5’s

• 4 of a kind
– Never split 2’s, 3’s or 4’s
– Keep 5’s if you have T high or better, otherwise split
– Keep 6’s if you have Q high or better, otherwise split
– Keep 7’s if you have QJ high or better, otherwise split
– Keep 8’s if you have K high or better, otherwise split
– Keep 9’s if you have KQ or better, otherwise split
– Keep T’s if you have A high or better, otherwise split
– Keep J’s with A6 or better, otherwise split
– Keep Q’s with AJ or better, otherwise split
– Keep K’s with AQ or better, otherwise split
– Always split A’s

• 3 of a kind + 3 of a kind – Play a pair from the higher set in the 2 card hand

• 3 of a kind + 2 pair – Play the highest pair in the 2 card hand except:
– If you have AAA and 22/33, 22/44 or 33/44, play AA in the 2 card hand

• 3 of a kind and 2 pair – See table below for the minimum low hand needed to play a full house in the 5 card hand. The 3 of a kind is on the left, par along the top. If you cannot make a hand displayed or you see SPL, play the pair in the 2 card hand.
 

22 33 44 55 66 77 88 99 TT JJ QQ KK AA
222 N/A AJ AQ AK AK SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL
333 AJ N/A AQ AK SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL
444 AQ AK N/A AK SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL
555 AQ AK AK N/A SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL
666 AQ AK SPL SPL N/A SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL
777 AQ AK SPL SPL SPL N/A SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL
888 AK AK SPL SPL SPL SPL N/A SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL
999 AK AK SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL N/A SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL
TTT AK AK SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL N/A SPL SPL SPL SPL
JJJ AK AK SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL N/A SPL SPL SPL
QQQ AK AK SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL N/A SPL SPL
KKK AQ SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL N/A SPL
AAA SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL N/A

 

• 3 of a kind – Play the highest 2 kickers in the 2 card hand, except:
– Always split A’s
– Split K’s if the 2 card hand would be lower than JT

• 3 pair – Play the highest pair in the 2 card hand

• 2 pair – Decide the best low hand you can make with the 3 remaining cards, then total up the 2 pairs were 2’s = 2 points, J’s = 11 points up to A’s total 13 points. Check below for the optimal move:
– 6 points or less: 2 pairs with Q high or split pairs
– 7 points: 2 pairs with JQ or better or split pairs
– 8 to 10 points: 2 pairs with K high or better or split pairs
– 11 points: 2 pairs with JK or better or split pairs
– 12 points: 2 pairs with QK or better or split pairs
– 13 to 15 points: 2 pairs with A high or split pairs
– 16 points: 2 pairs with AJ or better or split pairs
– 17 points: play 2 pairs with AQ or better or split pairs
– 18 or 19 points: 2 pairs with AK or better or split pairs
– 20 points: split the pairs

• 1 Pair – Play the highest 2 kickers in the 2 card hand, except with a pair of aces, in which case if you have 3 of the kickers shown below, play highest and 3rd highest kicker in 2 card hand:
– K87, K86, K85, K76, K75
– Q87, Q86, Q85, Q84, Q76, Q75, Q74
– J87, J86, J85, J84, J76, J75, J74, J65
– T87, T86, T85, T84, T76, T75, T74, T65
– 986, 985, 984, 976, 975, 974, 965
– 876, 875, 874, 865

• No pair – Play 2nd and 3rd highest kicker in 2 card hand unless 4 cards fall within the ranges below, in which case play 2nd and 4th highest cards in the 2 card hand
– Highest card: Joker or A
– 2nd highest card: K, Q, J, T, 9
– 3rd highest card: T, 9, 8, 7
– 4th highest card: 8, 7, 6

If you have Straight, Flush or Straight Flush:
• 4 of a kind – Play the best Straight/Flush that leaves a pair of Aces in 2 card hand

• 3 of a kind + 1 pair – Play Straight/Flush if 2 card hand is a pair of 7’s or better otherwise play pair in the 2 card hand.

• 3 of a kind – Play best 2 card hand that leaves a Straight or Flush unless it is AQ or lower and the best 5 card hand has an A, in which case play the best 5 card hand instead

• 3 pair – Play a pair of A’s in the 2 card hand

• 2 pair – Decide the best low hand you can make with the 3 remaining cards, then total up the 2 pairs were 2’s = 2 points, J’s = 11 points up to A’s total 13 points. Check below for the optimal move:
– 6 points or less: 2 pairs with Q high or better or play the best high hand
– 7 points: 2 pairs with JQ or better or split pairs
– 8 to 10 points: 2 pairs with K high or better or split pairs
– 11 points: 2 pairs with JK or better or split pairs
– 12 points: 2 pairs with QK or better or split pairs
– 13 to 15 points: 2 pairs with A high or split pairs
– 16 points: 2 pairs with AT or better or split pairs
– 17 points: play 2 pairs with AJ or better or split pairs
– 18 points: play 2 pairs with AQ or better or split pairs
– 19 points: 2 pairs with AK or better or split pairs
– 20 points: split the pairs

• 1 Pair – Play the best 2 card hand that leaves a Straight or Flush in the 5 card hand except
– With a pair of 9’s, T’s, J,s or Q’s, play AK in the 2 card hand wherever possible
– Play a pair of A’s in the 5 card hand if it improves the 2 card hand from J high or lower to QT or better

• No pair – Play the best 2 card hand that leaves Straight or Flush in the 5 card hand, unless the 2 card hand is T high or lower and a better 5 card hand can be made, in this case, play the best 2 card hand that allows for a higher value 5 card hand
 
Play Pai Gow and other table games for free at most online casinos, we recommend you do this at first until you become more familiar with the strategy.
 

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