Pai Gow Poker

If you're looking for a slower-paced game than Craps or even Blackjack and want to spend a lot of time gambling without losing an outrageous amount of money, play Pai Gow Poker. Once you comprehend the basics of poker (see Hand Rankings, below), you'll feel comfortable with this version and be able to relax.

The Basics

One 52-card deck is used plus one Joker, which can be used only as an Ace or to complete a straight or any flush.

After individual wagers are placed in the circle in front of the Players, the dealer then rolls the dice to determine which Player is dealt cards first. Next, the Players are each given seven cards with which to make two separate poker hands. Five cards must be placed in the Highest Cards section, and the remaining two cards must be placed in the Low Cards section. The five-card hand always must be the highest-scoring hand. If you place the highest-scoring cards in the Low Cards section, you will lose automatically.

To win, the highest and second highest hands must beat the dealer's highest and second highest hands. If the Player or dealer wins only one hand, it is a push (tie), and the bet is neither won nor lost.

An interesting element of Pai Gow Poker is that any Player can request to be the Banker. In this instance, all Players compare their hands with the new Banker rather than the dealer. The new Banker wins all ties, pays any winners from their own pocket, and collects any losing wagers. However, the casino still collects a 5 percent commission on any winning hands as in Baccarat and Mini-Baccarat.

Some Pai Gow Poker Examples

If you are dealt an Ace of Hearts, Joker, Queen of Hearts, 9 of Clubs, 10 of Clubs, Queen of Diamonds and King of Hearts, here are some hands to think about:

Highest hand: A/Hearts-Joker-Q/Hearts-Q/Diamonds-9/Clubs (Two Pairs)
Second highest: K/Hearts-10/Clubs (High Cards)

With this example, the chances of beating the dealer's highest hand are great, but maybe not the second-highest hand. This results in a push, or tie, which extends your playing time.

Another arrangement for the same cards would be the following:

Highest hand: A/Hearts-Joker-9/Clubs-10/Clubs-K/Hearts (One Pair)
Second highest: Q/Hearts-Q/Diamonds (One Pair)

With this example, the highest hand would probably not beat the dealer's, but the second-highest hand probably would. Again, another push, but nothing lost.

Here's an arrangement that might win you a hand:

Highest hand: 9/Clubs-10/Clubs-Joker-Q/Diamonds-K/Hearts (Straight)
Second highest: Q/Hearts-A/Hearts (High cards)

The Straight would almost certainly win, and there is a good chance that a Queen and Ace as the high cards would beat what the dealer has for the second highest hand.

Pai Gow Poker Hand Rankings
(Typically the same as traditional poker rankings)

Five Aces - A-A-A-A-Joker
Royal Flush - 10-J-Q-K-A of the same suit
Straight Flush - Five cards of the same suit ranked in order (for example, 5-6-7-8-9 of clubs)
Four-of-a-kind - Four cards of the same rank (for example, 7-7-7-7) The highest-ranked cards would win should the dealer and player both have four-of-a-kind.
Full House - Three-of-a-kind and one pair. Ties are broken by the highest-ranking three-of-a-kind (for example, Q-Q-Q-7-7 beats a J-J-J-10-10)
Flush - Five cards in the same suit, regardless of ranking (for example, 3-6-8-10-J of diamonds)
Straight - Five cards of different suits ranked in order (for example, 5 hearts - 6 clubs - 7 diamonds - 8 hearts - 9 spades)
Three-of-a-kind - Three cards of the same ranking (for example, 5-5-5)
Two Pair - Two sets of pairs (for example, 10-10 and 4-4)
One Pair - Two cards of the same ranking (for example, 3-3)
High Card - If no one has at least a pair, then the highest-ranking card wins (for example, A-10-5-4-2 beats Q-10-7-4-2)