How to Play Pai Gow for Free or Real Cash

This post was written by carlos chacon on November 16, 2017

Also known as double-hand poker, Pai Gow Poker is a modern, casino table game based upon the ancient Chinese dominoes game. While the two versions share some basics, the card game features a series of variations that make the game unique. Instead of the traditional tiles, Pai Gow Poker uses a standard 52-card deck and one joker. The game is played on a six seat table and the goal is to create two poker hands out of the seven-card hand. The joker can be used as an ace or a wild card to complete a straight, a flush or straight flush only.

How to Play Pai Gow for Free or Real Cash

Game Rules

The rules for this game are quite simple. In Pai Gow, players go against the banker, but unlike many casino games, players can chose serve as the bank, although, that would require a large bankroll in case the player losses the bet. At the beginning of each hand, players have to place a bet, then players are dealt seven cards and have to make two poker hands: A five-card hand and a two-card hand. The five-card hand is also called “behind”, or the “bottom,” “high,” or “big” hand. The two-card hand is called “in front”, “on top”, or the “small,” “minor,” or “low” hand. Keep in mind the following: the five card hand has to be higher than the two-card hand. In other words, if you are dealt K-K-6-9-7-10-J and you can‘t go with a flush, you must take the K-K as part of the five-card poker hand, not the two-card poker hand.

The Joker

Unlike other card games where the Joker acts like a wild card, the joker in Pai Gow, which is called a “bug”, only acts as an ace unless it can be used to fill out a straight or a flush. Additionally, the extra joker adds the possibility to beat even the strongest hand (Royal Flush), since you have the possibility of hitting a five of a kind. Once players have set their two poker hands, they reveal their hands. If both of your hands beat the Banker’s hands, then you win. Now, if only one of your hands beats the Bankers and one loses, it is a push and there are no winners. If both of your hands have the same value as the Banker’s hand, it is a tie (also called a copy) and the Banker wins. In another case, if the Banker’s two hands beats both of your hands, you lose your bet.

Basic Pai Gow Strategy

  • No pair, then use your highest card in the back and second and third highest in front.
  • One pair, place it in the back hand, and use the highest two cards in front.
  • Two pair J trough A, place the small pair in front.
  • Two pair 7’s thru 10’s, place both pairs in back if you can put Ace in front.
  • If you hit two pair 2’s thru 6’s, place both pairs in back if you can put King in front; otherwise split. If you hit three pair, place the big pair in front.
  • 3 of a kind (Aces) place an Ace and next highest card in front.
  • 3 of a kind (Kings and below), place three of a kind in back; two highest cards in front.
  • Two 3 of a kind sets, place a pair from higher set in front.
  • A Straight, Flush or Straight Flush with NO PAIR, place the two highest cards in front that leave a complete hand in back.
  • A Straight, Flush or Straight Flush with ONE PAIR, place two highest cards possible (pair or no pair) in front that leave a complete hand in back.
  • If a Full House is hit, put pair in front and three of a kind in back.
  • If you hit Four of a Kind (Jacks thru Aces), always split and put one pair in front and one in back.
  • Four of a Kind (7’s thru 10’s) place four of a kind in back if you can put Ace or King in front; otherwise split.
  • Four of a Kind (6’s or Below) do not split as long as you can put a card higher than the 4 of a kind in front.
  • Hitting Four of a Kind with a Pair, play four of a kind in back; pair in front.
  • Hitting Four of a Kind with Three of a Kind, put highest pair in front; full house in back.
  • If you hit Five Aces, place pair of Aces in front.