Do not confuse Pai Gow with Pai Gow Poker: The first is a very old domino game and still played in Chinese casinos. The second one was invented in 1985 by Sam Torosian, an American poker player. This is a poker variant played with 53 cards, and the rules are similar to the domino game we mentioned above. Mr. Torosian, who is the inventor of the game, couldn’t make any profits from this invention because all of his patent applications are rejected. That's mostly because it is “suspiciously” similar to a card game that has been played in the Philippines for centuries, and even Mr. Torosian admits he got his inspiration from a Filipino card player. (If the patent application was accepted, he would earn an average of $ 70,000 per month, and so far he must have earned over $ 100 million.)
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Let's start with the basic rules: Pai Gow poker is played with at least 2, up to 7 people and with a 53-card deck. One of the players has to be the casino dealer. But you are not playing against the casino: All players are trying to beat the player who has the title "banker". The goal is to create a higher-value hand, just like the classic poker game. There's no difference in card hierarchy, but the rules are very different.
On the game table, there are two different sections for each player: high and low. For both sections, you have to create different card groups. To decide who will be the banker, a dice is rolled before every round. After the banker is identified, all the other players are playing against him. First, each player receives 7 cards. You have to create two different groups with them. In the first group, there must be 5 cards, and they should be placed in the "high" section. In the second group, there will be only 2 cards, and you will place them on the "low" section. The goal is to create a high-valued combination in both groups. The cards in both sections must beat the banker’s ones.
Let’s give an example: In your hand, there are Ace of Spades, Queen of Hearts, 8 of Diamonds, 9 of Diamonds, Queen of Diamonds, Joker, and King of Spades. You can create many different combinations with these cards. For example; Ace, Queens and 8-9 Diamonds for the high, and King and Joker combination for the low section. Or put your Queens to the low, and the other cards to the high section. Whatever you choose, your goal is to create the highest-valued sequence that can exist in both sections. However, there is a very important rule to remember: The cards you put on the high section must always be superior to those in the low section. If your low cards are worth more than your high cards, you automatically lose.
You bet twice at this game: The first one is placed to enter the game and called the “entry bet”. The second one is the bet you can place after 7 cards are dealt. The amount of both wagers varies according to table rules. Some variants also offer a progressive side betting option. This side bet increases with every game played. The player who creates the straight flush hand is entitled to receive the jackpot prize.
Pai Gow is a very dynamic card game. Since you need to create two different card sets, there is no tactic or strategy you can easily memorize. You have to make a different plan according to each hand. In general, we can give the following advice:
Some casinos take a certain percentage (5% on average) of the profits. Others work with a fixed commission rate. Choose casinos that use a fixed commission system.
In the case of a tie (if the card values are equal to each other), the banker's hand is considered superior.
Nearly all of the Pai Gow poker games in the casinos have a side bet called "bonus bet". This side bet can be fixed or progressive. If you are lucky enough to form a certain card combination, you will be entitled to this bonus award. But this is very unlikely to happen, so we recommend you stay away from bonus bets.
The house edge of this game is 2.69%. This is a low number, but not as low as blackjack or classic poker. Pai Gow poker is a complex game, and it may be a good idea to start with the classics, especially if you are a beginner.