Pai Gow Poker Rules

Pai Gow Poker is played with a 53 card deck, which includes one joker. The joker can only be used to complete a straight or a flush and is considered an Ace in any other circumstance. In a flush, it is considered the highest ranking card that has not been used.

Before your hand is dealt, you will need to make a wager. The people who are playing with you will also bet. If you are playing Pai Gow online, you probably won't be playing with other people. Everyone is dealt seven straight cards from the deck. When there is multiple people playing, rolling the dice will determine who will be dealt the first set of cards.

After everyone receives their cards, you have to arrange your cards and try to make your best 5 and 2 card poker hands. The strength of hand rankings of the same as normal five card poker. The one exception with Pai Gow poker is that in most casinos the "Wheel" (A,2,3,4,5) will be considered the second highest straight to the royal straight (10,J,Q,K,A).

The rankings are (in order): one pair, two pair, three of a kind, straight, flush, full house, four of a kind, straight flush, royal flush. You can also get a five of a kind if you get all four aces and the joker, though you might want to split them up between the two hands to try to win both hands.


Important rule:

 your low hand is never allowed to be able to beat your high hand. Example: Look at the screen above. You are not allowed to play the pair of 6's in your low hand because it would win against the pair of 4's and AQ3 high cards in you high hand. Your best move is to play Ace/Queen in your low hand, although you could also play both 4's.

If the player and dealer both have the same hand rank in a 5 card hand (called the high hand), such as both having a pair of Aces, then the person with the highest ranked card (in this case a King) will be the winner. In the unlikely event that the dealer and player have the exact same 5 card hand, it is called a copy hand the tie will go to the dealer.

For your 2 card hand (called the low hand), any pair that you can create will beat two singletons (non-pairing two cards). A higher pair beats a lower pair and the highest ranked card wins when it comes to singletons. An Ace-2 will beat a King-Queen. If you and the dealer have the same two cards, the dealer wins on the copy hand.

Playing against the dealer's hands

The dealer will arrange his hands by a set of fixed rules called the "house way". This means that the dealer is not deciding how to try to beat people.
The main objective in Pai Gow poker is to win both your high and low hand against the dealer. If you win both hands against the dealer, you win even money on your bet minus a 5% commission to the casino. If you and the dealer split one hand a piece, the bet is pushed and no money is won or lose. If you lose both hands to the dealer, you will lose your entire bet.
Because of the 5% commission on your winnings, the house advantage is 5% because the dealer does not have much of a natural advantage on you. The normal house advantage for the banker is 2.5%, because of the cases where a copy hand goes to the banker.

Dragon Hand


You might be wondering why there is a dragon that is associated with Pai Gow Poker. Well one fact is that the game originated in China. The other reason that the dragon is prominent with the game is called the "dragon" hand. This is usually only seen in live casinos when multiple people are playing.
If there is an empty seat that is available, the dealer will deal a hand for the empty seat. This is called the dragon hand.
Any player may place a bet and assume the dragon hand if they would like. This would essentially mean that you are now playing two separate hands against the banker.

Be the Banker

Any player at the table is allowed the be the Banker. The banker is who everybody else is playing their hands against. The dealer will still play and will bet an amount equal to the last bet that player made when the dealer was banking. The banker will be decided by taking turns. Everyone has the option to be the banker or decline. If a player decline, the next player in line has the option.

In order to be the banker, you must have enough money to pay off all winning bets from the other hands. You must also have played a hand against the banker.

What are the advantages to being the banker?

The main advantages are that there is a 2.5% advantage for the banker because they win on a copy hand.
The 5% commission that is charged isn't taken until all of your winnings and losings on all hands played are combined.