How to Play Pai Gow
Playing Pai Gow online is very popular – and is attracting lots of potential new players. Here we will look at Pai Gow – how to play Pai Gow poker, what to expect when hitting the Pai Gow table and how Pai Gow players have more chance of winning real money with a Pai Gow strategy.
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Pai Gow Tiles
Pai Gow is one of the oldest casino games around – much older than other casino games such as baccarat and roulette. Pai Gow is also quite a tricky game to master but it has the same concept as Pai Gow poker – which requires both the player and the banker to make low and high hands, and then compare. Although that sounds pretty standard, it is the order of hands and tiles that seems to many as random and can be difficult to memorise, especially for new Pai Gow players.
One attraction of Pai Gow is that it is one of the best casino games for bankroll preservation. The game has a slow pace – averaging at about 30 hands per hour. Around 40% of those hands will result in a push.
Before you even attempt to play Pai Gow, it’s important to understand the primary rules first. The different Pai Gow games may have slight variations from casino to casino, but here are the rules that apply to most standard Pai Gow casino games:
- The Pai Gow game is played with a set of 32 dominoes
- Every player and the dealer will get four tiles each
- The players will need to separate their tiles into high hands and low hands
- Every pair of tiles ranks in the following order:
- Pair – there are 16 pairs
- Wong: Is a 2 or 12 tile with a 9 tile
- Gong: Is a 2 or 12 tile with an 8 tile
- 9 to 0 points (the more points the better). For any other 2 tile hand, the total number of dots will be counted and the terminal digit will be used to determine the number of points (in a similar manner to baccarat) – i.e. a 10 and 9 tile (10+9 = 19) is worth 9. A 4 and 7 tile (4+7 = 11) is worth 1 point
- There is an exception to the rule. The two tiles in the highest-ranking ‘Gee Joon’ pair are semi-wild. They are worth either 3 points or 6 points – whatever one gives the highest total. An example – If it is combined with a 5 point tile, a Gee Joon tile will count as 3 points to make it an 8-point hand. If it is used as a 6 point tile then it will create a 1 point hand
- Then the player’s high hand will go head-to-head with the dealer’s hand, while their low hand will also compare against the dealer’s low hand (similar to Pai Gow poker)
- If the players and the dealer both have a Wong, Gong or one to nine points, then the tie is broken according to which of the hands has the higher ranked tile
- If the case is that the high tile doesn’t manage to break the tie, then the banker’s hands win
- Similarly – a 0-0 result, and the banker wins
- If trying to use a high tile to break a tie then the rank order is the same as the pair order. However, the two tiles that are in the highest ‘Gee Joon pai’ will be ranked lowest individually and can never be a hand’s high tile
- If the high tile does not break the tie then the win will go to the banker
- A 0-0 tie always goes to the banker
- When using high tiles to break a tie, the rank order is the same as the pair order, except the two tiles in the highest ‘Gee Joon’ pair are ranked lowest individually and will therefore never be a hand’s high tile
- If players win the two separate hands, he gets an even money return minus the casino’s commission. However, if the player wins one hand and loses a hand then their wager will push. Should the dealer win the high and low hands – then the player loses the wager
- Most casinos structure the game so that the turn to be the banker rotates around the table as the game continues. Some other casinos have different structures
- The player is allowed to invoke his turn to bank when it comes to his turn
- The banker takes on every player’s hand around the table and the dealer. The dealer wagers the same amount the player wagered the previous time that the dealer was banker. It isn’t unusual for other players to sit the hand out if another player is banking and let them take on the dealer head-to-head
Pai Gow House Edge
The Pai Gow house edge very much depends on the different Pai Gow strategies – whether you’re banking or not banking – or even whether you choose to prepay your commission, which is available in some casinos. All of these different factors can have a huge effect on the house edge and your probability of a win.
- If your strategy is the House Way and you aren’t banker, then your probability of winning is 29.21% and the house edge is 2.44%
- However, if you use the same strategy and you are banker, your chance of winning goes up to 30.18% and the house edge drops to 0.53%
- If you use the Optimal strategy and you are not the banker, then your probability of winning when the deal begins is 29.42% and the house edge is 1.66%
- However, if you use the same strategy and you are the banker, then your probability of winning is 30.21% and the house edge drops to -0.20%
As you can see, different strategies can very much affect the outcome. The house edge of the casino when playing the House Way compared to the Optimal Way is significant. If you do get to be banker when playing Optimal – the house edge is, in fact, in your favour.
Pai Gow Tips and Tricks
Why You Should Prepay the Pai Gow Casino Commission
This isn’t necessarily the case for online casinos, but if you opt to take your learned skills over to the land-based casinos, then some may allow you to prepay the game commission, which normally stands at about 5%. As such, this would mean betting NZ$105 to win NZ$100. Many people don’t realise that this move does, in fact, lower the commission to 4.76%. There will also be a reduction of 0.7% on the house edge. This is a great strategy that not many players take up – but they really should.
Wager an Extra 10% as Banker
Some casinos allow players to wager up to 10% more than the amount they bet against the dealer when the dealer was the banker. If you assume that that player banks every other hand then this is another move that can lower the house edge between banking and not banking by as much as 0.07%. This is also well worth considering if the casino allows it.
Co-Banking with Friends
With most games, a player can make a back bet on the player that is acting banking – up the amount that he wagered against the dealer the last time that the dealer was also the banker. However, if a player does this, then they will have to forfeit their turn at banking. As such, it doesn’t affect the game house edge, but it does make the game much more fun if you’re playing against and with friends. This means that you don’t have to sit out the game when your friend is banking – instead, you can co-bank with them.
Play Pai Gow for Fun
As stated previously, this is not an easy game to conquer. It’s not as simple as picking a number or colour and letting the roulette wheel spin – this is a game where you have to know exactly what each tile means, how a player wins and how a dealer wins. You need to know how to work out if your high hand beats a banker’s high hand or the dealer’s high hand. You need to know which strategies help you. If the dealer’s hands win both hands then you lose – so you will need to work out the best way to either win both hands yourself or at least win one hand to at least go for a push bet.
As such, we would most certainly recommend playing Pai Gow for fun, for free on some of the top online casinos, so you can figure the game out yourself before hitting the table for real money wins.
Play Pai Gow Poker (Double Hand Poker)
Many people often play Pai Gow poker before trying their luck with Pai Gow tiles. This is because generally, casino players are more familiar with poker rules and terminology than Pai Gow rules. Even beginner poker players understand the different types of hands and how to recognise them – straight flush, royal flush, four of a kind, three of a kind, full house, two pairs, a pair etc. This makes a player’s bet much easier.
Pai Gow Poker – sometimes called double-hand poker – is played with the standard 52-card deck plus one joker. Usually, there are six players plus a dealer – and the aim of the game is for the player to beat the banker (which could be the dealer or another player).
Pai Gow Poker Variants
As you would expect, there are several variations of Pai Gow available. The game hit its height of popularity between 2004 and 2009, which was when most variants were created. The trend started with Pai Gow Mania – which is a Pai Gow poker game that allows a player to make two side bets instead of just one side bet per hand.
Another popular variant is Fortune Pai Gow. Fortune Pai Gow lets players make a side bet on a hand that ranks at three of a kind or higher. This game has become one of the most popular variations. Another similar game is Emperor’s Challenge Pai Gow Poker which lets a player bet on a side bet on a seven-card Pai Gow.
Later on, in 2006, a progressive jackpot was added to the game – and created the new variant – Progressive Fortune Pai Gow. Players can win part – or all – of the jackpot by placing a side bet and getting one of the hands that have been specified on the payout table. If you manage to hit a combined seven-card straight flush then you hit the entire jackpot!
Dealing the Pai Gow Hand
Before being dealt, the cards are shuffled and then dealt to players in seven face-down piles, with seven cards in each pile. There will be four unused cards, no matter how many players there are. The betting positions are then assigned from one to seven. It starts at whichever player acts as banker at that hand, then counter-clockwise around the poker table. A random number between one and seven is then chosen and the deal starts with the corresponding position and then continues in a counter-clockwise direction.
If there is a space vacant, then the dealer still deals a hand to that spot, but it is then placed on the discard pile along with the four unused cards. Some casinos deal a ‘Dragon Hand’ and as soon as all of the players have set their original hand, they are each asked if they would like to place another bet and play the dragon hand. The first player that opts to play the Dragon Hands gets it – and can play two separate hands. As is the norm with poker, rules can vary from casino to casino, but normally the dealer will turn the dragon hand over and set it the House Way.
Pai Gow – Get Playing
Whether you want to play Pai Gow Poker or Pai Gow Chinese Dominoes, it’s best to practice first at one of our top online casinos. This game can be quite complicated and it’s always best to look through the top strategies first before attempting to play against people who know what they are doing.