Win at Pai Gow Poker

Pai Gow Poker combines the general rules of poker with the rules of Pai Gow.   It’s a game growing in popularity at online casinos, including here at Springbok Online Casino.  Before we get to how Pai Gow Poker combines the two games, we should learn how the game of Pai Gow is played.


Traditional Chinese Pai Gow is played with 32 tiles.  The tiles resemble dominoes but even a simple close look at them demonstrates that they are unique to Pai Gow.  There are many combinations of two dominoes that have varying values.  At one time, there were very few Westerners who were willing to play Pai Gow because it is very hard to learn the many combinations.  It is still a myth at casinos in Macau and elsewhere in the Far East that non-Asian players are simply too unlucky to win at Pai Gow.

If you don’t know the value of the tiles you have, you can’t possibly make the right decisions in a complex game such as Pai Gow.

Some people think that Pai Gow was the source of the use of the number nine in baccarat.  Of course, baccarat is a far easier game to learn than Pai Gow.

Based on Chinese Creation Story

In Chinese mythology, there is a Supreme Creator.  He is represented by one tile pair.  Since this article is about Pai Gow Poker, we’ll make the explanation of Pai Gow itself relatively short. 

In Pai Gow, there are about twenty two tile pairs.  They have varying rank as first we have the Creator rank, then the average person rank, and finally the military rank.

Some two tile pairs can be represented by a single specific tile.  In addition to the two tile ranks are about twenty one tile ranks.  So, you can see just how difficult it is for Westerners who grew up playing other casino games might find it next to impossible to learn Pai Gow.

Another legend has it that the first few Western Pai Gow players were accomplished mathematicians.

Pai Gow Poker

This game is a marriage of traditional Pai Gow with poker.  As it is far more accessible to poker players, it has become possibly the most popular “alternative” poker variation both at land based casinos and at an online casino.

Players use a standard deck of 52 playing cards in Pai Gow Poker with the addition of one joker.  The joker is not wild in the traditional poker sense; it can substitute for an ace.

In Pai Gow Poker, players try to achieve the standard poker hands.  However, an ace is always the highest ranking card even if it makes what is the lowest ranking straight in standard poker.  So in Pai Gow Poker, the highest ranking straights are an ace-high straight as in regular poker followed by Ace-2-3-4-5.  The lowest straight in Pai Gow Poker is 6-5-4-3-2.

Here are a few other differences between Pai Gow Poker and standard poker.

  • In Pai Gow Poker, each player receives seven cards.  He or she has to rearrange the cards to form a “high” hand with five cards and a “low” hand with two cards.
  • Unlike in standard high-low poker, where you want your high hand to be the highest on the board and your low hand to be the lowest, in Pai Gow Poker you set a high and a low hand but you want both to beat the dealer’s hands.
  • Players play against the dealer so there is no bluffing in Pai Gow Poker.
  • The five-card hand has to always rank higher than the two-card lower hand.
  • The higher ranked hand is called the “bottom hand” and the other hand is called the “front hand”.

The rules of hand rank mean that if you have say a pair of aces, you may not be able to use it as your lower ranking hand.  That’s because the other hand has to be better than the lower ranking hand.

A Naturally Slow Game

Pai Gow Poker is a great online game because it is naturally slow moving.  You have to take some time to find the best arrangement of cards to have a good chance to be better than the dealer on both your high hand and on your low hand.

A Few Strategy Tips

You need to see the standard high hand you have received.  However, since your low hand has to beat the dealer’s low hand, you might be better off breaking apart a truly great hand in order to have two strong hands.

The key is to beat the dealer both with your high hand and with your low hand.  One truly amazing example is that when you get two pair, it is best to split them.  You put the better pair in the high hand ad the lesser pair in the lower hand.  This is correct because, first, the high hand outranks the lower hand and the lower hand is quite strong, with a pair.

The best strategy for four of a kind is similar.  You split the cards into two pairs and use the next highest ranking card in your high hand and the next card in your low hand.  This strategy gives you the best possible high hand and the best possible low hand.

It is clear that the need to form two winning hands, one higher ranked than the other, means that you try to form the two strongest hands you can even though one is better than the other.

There are many possible combinations of cards in the seven you’ll receive to start the hand.  As such, it does take some time to get the best strategy down pat for every seven card deal you might get.

Practice for Free

At Springbok Online Casino, you can practice either for free or for the minimum bet on each hand.  Many players love honing their skills for free whilst many others enjoy having a bet riding on the outcome.  These latter gamers claim that even a small bet sharpens their concentration and makes them better players’.