Pai Gow Poker

You may consider yourself to be a good poker player, only to feel completely lost once you switch from one game variant to another. While basic rules apply to all and hand rankings are more or less the same, each online poker variety comes with its own unique elements. This is also true of Pai Gow Poker, a game loosely based on the Chinese domino game in which a player has to form two hands made of two tiles each, and achieve better score than the opponent with both.

This basic mechanism has been applied to a card game hugely popular not only among Asian players, but also gamers from different parts of the world. Learn how to play Pai Gow Poker and give it a go at Springbok

Pai Gow Poker Rules

In Pai Gow Poker, both you and the dealer are dealt 7 cards, yours all face-up and the dealer’s all face down. You’re next being prompted to divide your cards into a 5-card hand and a 2-card hand, which are then compared to the dealer's two hands. The goal of Pai Gow Poker is to score better on both. One important rule to keep in mind is that the 5-card hand has to be better ranking than the 2-card hand, though the game itself won’t let you split your cards any other way.

Standard hand ranking applies, with one exception: the Ace, 2, 3, 4, 5 straight is the second highest straight. Another differentiating factor is the inclusion of the Joker which can be used to complete a five-card flush, straight, or straight flush, and otherwise counts as an Ace.

If both of your hands have a higher rank than those of the dealer, you’ll win even money minus 5% commission. If both of the dealer's hands rank better, they win and you lose your stake. If you win one hand and lose the other, you push. In case of a tie on either hand, the dealer wins the tie. 

Pai Gow Basic Strategy

There is one important fact to keep in mind: you have to win both hands in order to win the round. While you may be tempted to keep, let’s say 2 pairs within one hand, the resulting non-matching and low value cards ending up in the 2-card hand might easily lose and end the round in a push. If, for example, you’re holding a pair of 10’s and a pair of 6’s, along with a Queen, 9 and a 2, leave the 10’s in the 5-card hand and move the other pair. This will increase your chances of winning both hands and getting paid rather than only reclaiming your stake. If the cards you’ve been dealt make it unlikely any kind of split will win both hands, by all means, go as strong as you can for the 5-card hand. At the very least, you’ll probably push and keep your bet.

It’s also important to remember which cards Joker can stand for; novices might assume Joker is able to substitute for any of the other cards and unintentionally create a weak hand which will then lose. The beauty of playing Pai Gow Poker online is that you’re given as much time as you need to think things through before making a move. Use it to your advantage, it would be a shame to miss a chance of a flush or a straight simply because Joker gets overlooked.