Pai Gow Poker is the American variant of the Chinese game Pai Gow, played with 32 Chinese dominoes and popular in most casinos in China. According to some sources, it is also the basis of the popular casino card game Baccarat.
Instead of dominoes, Pai Gow Poker is played with a standard 52-card deck and a single joker. There are seven players at the Pai Gow poker table – six normal players, and the banker, who the others must beat. It’s not exactly a poker game, rather a table game similar to blackjack.
Players, and the banker, are dealt seven cards each, that they must use to form two poker hands – one consisting of five cards, and another one of two cards. Both hands are ranked according to standard poker hand ranking rules.
The highest possible combination for the two-card hand is a pair of aces, followed by one pair, and high card. The highest possible hand is an Ace-high straight. The joker acts as a wildcard in the five-card hand – it can be used to complete a straight or flush. In the two-card hand it is always considered an Ace.
Let’s see how a round of Pai Gow Poker is played.
Each player participating at the game puts up a bet against the banker. Seven cards are dealt to each player, who then divide these cards into two hands – one hand consisting of five cards, and another one made up of two cards. The five card hand must always have higher value than the two-card hand – for example, if the five-card hand has a pair of kings, and the two-card hand has a pair of aces, it is considered a foul, and can lead to forfeiting the poker hand and losing the bet.
Once all the hands are arranged according to the rules – including the banker’s hand – the players and the banker expose their hands. Each player compares their five-card and two-card hands to the banker’s ones.
- If both the player’s hands beat those in the banker’s hand the player wins.
- If only one hand beats the banker’s hand, neither one wins – this is called ‘push’.
- If both the player’s hands rank lower than the banker’s hands, the player loses.
- If the banker’s hand and the player’s hand have the same value, the banker wins.
The minimum and maximum bet amounts are usually set by house rules. Payouts are 1:1, minus the fee taken by the casino or poker room – this may be a fixed amount or a certain percentage, usually 5%, of the player’s winnings.