Pai Gow Poker | Tips On How To Bet/Play Winning Hands

How to Play Pai Gow Poker

Pai Gow Poker is an interesting poker game that involves all 52 cards plus the joker. The presence of the joker makes an appealing play since it can only be used in the place of an Ace or a card to complete a straight or flush.

Your five-card hand has to be of a higher total rank than your two-card hand. Also, the Ace-2-3-4-5 straight is the second highest, only after Ace-K-Q-J-10. With these specific guidelines, there are some tips to help you along.

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The ins and outs of Pai Gow Poker

Top Five Popular Tips For Betting On Pai Gow Poker

Pai Gow is all about your hand setting. The hands are compiled into a high hand made up of five cards and a lower value low hand of only two cards. 

Due to the many possibilities with using seven cards, a high hand might be a straight, and the low hand could be a pair, or you might be dealt an actual pai gow, which is just a hand with no straight, flush or pair.

The top five tips for betting/playing Pai Gow are:

  1. Know the rules
  2. Understand the banker's edge
  3. Strategies to go by 
  4. All the hands to use
  5. Bankroll 

Know The Rules of Pai Gow Poker

If you are new to this game, there are a few scenarios to keep in mind. So not let it discourage you. Your task is to set your cards into two hands. 

You want to make sure the five-card hand is the highest. Once the dealer hands out the banker hand, using a casino chosen house way, the hands are then compared. 

If your two-card hand beats the banker's two-card hand and if your five-card hand beats the banker's five-card hand, you win. When only one wins and then one loses, it is called a push. 

In the case where either of the player's hands is the same value as the banker's hands, it is considered a tie or "copy," and the banker wins. Of course, if the banker's two hands beat both of your hands, then you lose.

Understand The Banker's Edge

Remember the "copy" outcome? That is what gives the house an edge. Since two hands will copy about 2.6 percent of the time, the banker (or house) wins 29.9 percent of the total outcomes and you win 28.6 percent. 

On top of that, when you do win, the house charges a five percent commission. Some variations of the game may not have that much, it all depends on the casino. But there will be an overall tie about 41.5 percent of the time.

Pai Gow Poker Strategies To Go By

If you have a good understanding of the game, you want some quick guides to go by, here are a few scenarios that will help you decide what to do:

  • When you do not have a pair, straight, or flush, play your highest card with your high hand (your five-card hand) and your next two highest cards in the low hand (your two-card hand).
  • When you have two pair and one of them is aces, split them. 
  • If you have two pair where your top pair is kings, split them. However, when the other pair is two's, you should play them together and play your two highest remaining cards in the low hand.

In addition to those, you should use these two pair rules below:

  • When you have two pairs, you should split sixes and below unless you hold an ace. Then play them together with the ace and your next highest card in the low hand.
  • Another two pairs of any sevens through tens you should split unless you have an ace. Then you should play them together with the ace and your next highest card in the low hand.
  • Finally, two pairs of any Jack through Ace, you should split and obviously move with the highest pair in the high hand.

All The Hands To Use

So if you have that last part figured out, there are some additional hands that you will encounter. This is a more detailed approach, but useful if you happen to apply the knowledge. Here is what to do with them:

Three Pair:Play your highest pair in the low hand.
Three of a Kind:Always play them together, except when the cards are aces, then you should play a pair of aces in the high hand and use the single ace with the next highest card in the low hand.
Full House:You should always split with the pair in the low hand, unless you have a second pair also, then play your highest of the two pairs in the low hand.
Straight and Flushes:Keep your straight or flush in the high hand, and choose whichever gives you the highest card for the low hand. The exception to this is when you also have two pairs, then split according to the two pair rules. 
Straights and flushes should always be kept together in the five-card hand unless you also have a pair of 10s or better. In the cases where you have a pair of 10s for a five-card hand, in addition to an Ace, King, or better for the two-card hand, you could consider splitting up a straight or a flush.
Four of a Kind:If you have four of a kind with sixes or lower, keep them together. In the case of seven through tens with four of a kind, split them unless you have an ace or better to play in the low hand.
If you have four of a kind with your face cards (Aces, Kings, Queens, or Jacks), you need to always split them, unless you have another pair to play in the low hand.
Five Aces:You need to always split them. Unless you also have a pair of kings, then you should play the kings in the low hand.

Bankroll 

Finally, your bank account needs to be checked, or wherever you keep your money for gambling. How much are you willing to play or bet with? What are your limits to losing or gaining money?

These are some examples of questions you should ask yourself before any poker game. Knowing a simple checklist like this could prevent you from losing too much money or gambling away everything.

How To Bet/Play Pai Gow Poker FAQ

What are Pai Gow Poker side bets?
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A bonus bet on a poker game, sometimes called a side bet, is a wager on a set of cards that you have either split or are using to beat the dealer. You see this often in blackjack.

Even though the payouts are nice, the odds are typically not in your favor, and if you want long-term success in Pai Gow, you should avoid the bonus bets.

What is Pai Gow banking?
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If you are given the chance to bank in Pai Gow, it could be profitable for you. If you have the bankroll, take the option to bank, which means you will be putting your money against every player on the table.

The best part of banking strategy is that you are winning when the other players make mistakes setting their hands, which in turn gives you a powerful edge.

Can I play Pai Gow online?
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Yes, you can play this game online. I would recommend you find a free version and test out your skills with that first to get a feel for the game. This way, when you walk into a casino, you have already tested your skills.

About Cole Paganelli
Cole Paganelli author profile

Cole is really big into Major League Baseball, but really - the big four Pro US sports are his passion. Cole grew up a Yankees fan, but married a Red Sox fan. It's tough around the house during those big games, but his hatred for the Red Sox has waned a little. Cole has a goal of seeing every Major League Baseball Stadium before the end of 2022!

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