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From Pai Gow to Pai Gow Poker - How to Play the American Version

The traditional game of Pai Gow is played with tiles that look like dominoes. To make is easier to understand, an American version was introduced using a standard deck, with the ranking of hands fashioned after poker. Thus the new game of Pai Gow Poker was developed, and now we'll teach you how to play.

Pai Gow poker is played with a standard 52-card deck and one joker. The joker can be used as an ace or wild card to complete a straight, flush, or straight flush only. The game is played on a blackjack-sized table with up to six participants who are playing against a banker. The casino collects a 5% commission on all winning bets.

To start, the participants make their bets according to the table minimum. The dealer shuffles and deals out seven stacks containing seven cards. This is done no matter how many players there are. The banker shakes a cup containing three dice to determine who gets the first hand. That person will look at their seven and set them into two piles: a two- and a five-card hand, with the smaller stack placed behind the other. If both of your hands beat the bankers', you win. If only one wins, it is a push and there are no winners. If either of yours has the exact same value as the banker's, it is a tie, called a copy, and you lose. If neither of yours beats the banker's, you lose.

When you are creating your two stacks, the five-card one must be of higher value than the two-card one. If you make a mistake and the two are higher, it is a foul and you lose automatically. When the casino acts as the banker the dealers must set their hands according to certain rules called the House Way. If you are unsure of how to set yours, you can ask the dealer to set it to the House Way to keep you from making a mistake. Pai Gow poker is a slow game than traditional poker. There are many pushes, and the banker has a slight edge because it wins the copies (ties).

As far as strategies go, if you have a pair, it is best to place the pair in the back five. Usually it is best to place your pairs, threes-of-a-kind, straights, flushes, and straight flushes in the back, since that stack obviously has more potential.