Pai Gow Poker is often confused with Pai Gow. They are actually two separate games, however Pai Gow Poker is the most popular variation of the game and is found in virtually all online casinos as well as many live casinos.
Pai Gow Poker is played with a 53 card deck. The standard 52 cards and a wild card joker. Like Blackjack, you are playing against the dealer.
In Pai Gow Poker players initially make a wager. The player and the banker are then both dealt 7 cards. These 7 cards must be arranged in to 2 separate poker hands. A 5 card hand and a 2 card hand.
Player then compares his 5 card and 2 card hand to the dealers hands. If the player has a better hand than both of the dealers hands he wins and doubles his money minus a 5% commission. If the banker wins one of the two hands, it is declared a draw and no money is exchanged. If the banker wins both of the hands, the player loses his bet.
Players can prepay the commission at most casinos. For example betting $105 to win $100. This lowers the commission from 5% to 4.76% and is advisable to do.
5 card hands are ranked using normal poker hand strength, IE a Royal Flush is the strongest possible hand. The only difference is that a wheel straight IE Ace, 2, 3, 4, 5 is ranked as the second highest straight instead of being the lowest straight.
With the 2 card poker hand the strongest possible hand is a pair of aces, the weakest possible hand is 3-2.
When players set their hand, the two card hand may not be stronger than the 5 card hand. So for example, if the players 5 card hand is a pair of kings. The two card hand cannot be set as a pair of aces. The highest it could be set as is a pair of queens.
Contrary to popular belief the joker card cannot be used as any card. It can only be used to complete either a straight, flush or straight flush. If it cannot be used to complete any of those hands, it is then treated like an ace.
Pai Gow Poker Odds
There are 3 possible outcomes in Pai Gow Poker, either you win both hands, you tie both hands or the banker wins both hands.
Assuming that you split optimally, the player will win both 28.61%, there will be a tie 41.8% of the time and the banker will win both 29.91% of the time.
There is very little in terms of strategy the player can do to increase their odds. Most online casinos have a button called “The House Way”, when you press this button the casino will divide your hand optimally, this eliminates any form of skill in dividing your hand and it is advisable that you click this button to protect you from making mistakes.