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Asian Games : Table Game Strategies for Pai Gow Poker

By Andrea Klein

Level: Apr 12th 2007
Pai Gow is a poker game played with a 52-card deck and one joker. The joker can only be used as an ace or to make a straight, a flush or a straight flush. Every player must have two poker hands that grade higher than the dealer's two poker hands. Each player receives seven cards that must be separate into a High hand composed of five cards, and a Low hand composed of two cards. The ranking of hands follows the traditional poker rankings for the High hand. So, a royal flush is the highest hand. For the Low hand, the highest-ranking hand is two aces.

A player may choose to be the bank, in which case that player must pay the other players on winning hands and accumulate the losing hands for himself. The casino will charge all winnings a five percent tax. If no player is the bank, the casino will store all the bets. A player can be the bank just for one hand.

At the beginning of the game, three dice are shaken and the results determine the order of the deal. Every player is then offered seven cards from which to make two hands as specified before. The grade of the High hand must be higher than the grade of the Low hand. The casino dealer must situate his hand according to a fixed set of rules. Even if a player is banking the table, the casino dealer still plays. If no player is banking the table, the casino will bank it. Moreover, the bank (the dealer or a player) wins all copies (ties) where both the High hand and Low hand are identical.

Because you have to win both hands to be a winner it is important to understand that a powerhouse draw must be dividing into two strong hands. For example, if you are given four aces and the joker that means that you now have five aces, an invincible five-card hand. The smart choice is to separate the five aces, setting three in the High hand (a strong hand) and two in the Low hand (an invincible hand). The house usually has a 2.5 percent edge over the average Pai Gow Poker player. A good point is that the game is very slow, with many no-decision hands.

There are also "jackpot" games, often called "Fortune Pai Gow," where you face a simple 1 to 2 percent house edge on the side bet. These kinds of bets will sometimes let you to win money on the best hands of other players. Taking into account most casino place bets at table games come in with double-digit edges.

Pai Gow Poker Tactics
  • Always split "powerhouse" hands into two strong hands. Don’t forget that in order to be a winner you have to win both hands.
  • Remember that the 5-card hand High must be stronger than the two-card Low hand. Therefore, you can't have two kings in the Low hand and an ace high in the High hand.
  • When in hesitation, ask the dealer to place your hands according to "house rules." This is the easiest way to gain knowledge of how to play your hands.
  • Each time you can, if you can afford it, play as the Bank. In fact you will be playing with an edge over the casino when you do so.
These simple strategies will keep the house edge low and your chances for winning on a given round high.
Lesson 1: Sic Bo History
Learn about this Chinese dice game
Lesson 1: Pai Gow History
Learn about this ancient Chinese tile game.
Lesson 1: Pai Gow Poker History
Find out how Pai Gow tiles evolved into Pai Gow Poker and got to north America.
Lesson 2: Sic Bo Rules and Betting
The general game and how to bet
Lesson 2: Pai Gow Rules
How to play this intriguing game.
Lesson 2: Pai Gow Poker Rules
Learn the rules of play for this Poker hybrid.
Lesson 3: Pai Gow Poker Tips
Once you have the basic, see how to play like a pro.
Lesson 3: Pai Gow Pairs
The pairs detailed and explained.
Lesson 3: Sic Bo Tips and Probabilities
Rules of thumb to play smart Sic Bo
Lesson 4: Pai Gow Tips and Strategy
Important pointers and advice.
Lesson 4: Pai Gow Poker Probabilities
What are the payouts like and how likely is it to get a winning hand? Find out here.

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