Pai Gow is a two-hand poker game that traces its roots back to China. Traditionally played with tiles, the game is now more commonly played with a standard deck of cards. Learning how to play Pai Gow Poker with cards is relatively simple and many top sites offer it in either a virtual or live dealer setting. In this guide, we’ve explained both the basics of the game and useful tips and strategies that you can use to try and beat your opponent.

Pai Gow: How to Play

The rules of Pai Gow require a minimum of two players, one of which is designated as the Banker. On some tables, especially those where three or more players are playing, the role of the Banker can shift one place every turn. In other versions of the game, especially those found online, this role is normally held by the computer or dealer.

While there are several variants of this casino card game, they normally always follow the same gameplay. As such, the quickest way to learn how to play Pai Gow Poker online is through the following steps.

  1. At the start of a new round, you’ll be invited to place your wager.
  2. Seven cards will be dealt to you, but only you can see them.
  3. Another seven cards are dealt to the Banker, or dealer, and kept face down.
  4. You must create your two hands according to the rules of Pai Gow.
  5. The Banker creates two hands as well.
  6. The showdown between you and the Banker takes place and the winner is determined.

Throughout the rest of this guide, we’ve taken a closer look at these steps and provided you with a list of top casinos on which to play Pai Gow Poker.

Learning How to Play Pai Gow: The Basics

No matter whether you wish to learn how to play Pai Gow Poker in Vegas or to play online, you must learn the basics of this game. This game is played with a standard, 52-card deck along with a Joker. The game can accommodate up to six players and the dealer, but in any case, each player is only competing against the dealer, just like in Blackjack.

How to Play Pai Gow: General Gameplay

Every participant at the table will get seven cards that are hidden from view. Only the player or dealer can view his or her own set of cards. It is up to you to play your hand to increase the likelihood of beating the Banker. To do this, you must split your Pai Gow Poker cards into two hands, one made of five cards and the other of two cards.

The five-card hand is called your High Hand while the two-card hand is your Low Hand. Pai Gow rules state that, in order to qualify, your High Hand must beat your Low Hand.

Handy Tip:

Pai Gow does not require you to be good at bluffing as is the case with some other types of poker games, including Texas Hold’em. When you play this game, your focus should be on creating the best High and Low hands possible to beat the Banker.

How to Play Pai Gow Poker: The Showdown

There are four possible outcomes in the Pai Gow Poker online showdown. These are:

  1. The player wins both hands – This provides the player with the standard Pai Gow payouts.
  2. The dealer wins both hands – This leads to the player losing the bet.
  3. The player wins one hand while the dealer wins the other – The game ends in a push and, with minor exceptions, players don’t win or lose anything.
  4. The player and the dealer have equal hands – The dealer wins and the player loses the bet.

The usual format for the showdown has players putting their Low Hands in front and their High Hands behind. When you play this game at Pai Gow Poker online casinos, the game’s result is shown instantly and any payouts are provided automatically.

How to Play Pai Gow Showdown

How to Play Your Pai Gow Poker Hands

To win a Pai Gow Poker game, you must try and create two very strong hands based on poker hand rankings. Naturally, for your Low Hand, you can only create a high card hand or, if you’re fortunate, a Pair. However, you must make sure that your High Hand has a better rank, so if you’ve only got a Pair across your seven cards, this must be placed in your five-card hand.

If you cannot create any of the suitable hand rankings you’ve gotten was is referred to as a non-hand. The actual term for this is, perhaps surprisingly, Pai Gow.

Handy Tip:

The Joker can help you complete a Straight or Flush and is, therefore, extremely valuable. However, if you’ve gotten a Joker but have no hope of creating either of these hands, then the Joker must be treated as an A. Joker rules may, however, be different depending on the game.

Pai Gow Poker Payouts

In most online Pai Gow games, winning the game with both hands results in an even payout. This means that you’ll get double your wager. However, in most cases, a 5% commission will be deducted from your prize. This means that you’ll get your original wager back plus 95% of the prize.

Pai Gow Payouts

Handy Tip:

Standard poker rules often encourage side bets by allocating them a significantly higher payout than standard bets. While placing side bets provides an increasingly thrilling experience, you are more likely to exhaust your bankroll quicker.

How to Play Pai Gow Variants and Side Bets

Just like other popular casino table games, you will find Pai Gow games that feature one or more optional side bets. These bets are not part of the main game, so the outcome of that stage of the game does not influence the result of any active side bets.

No matter which of the variants you’re playing, payouts for winning different side bets are usually the same. This means that if you create a 5 Aces hand in Pai Gow Mania or Fortune Pai Gow, you’ll win the same prize. In addition, some variants let you wager on other players creating specific hands. Winning these bets makes you eligible for an Envy Bonus.

Pai Gow Poker Hand Standard Payout Envy Bonus
7-Card Straight Flush 8,000:1 $5,000
Royal Flush & Royal Match 2,000:1 $1,000
7-Card Wild Straight Flush 1,000:1 $500
5 Aces (including Joker) 400:1 $250
Royal Flush 150:1 $50
Straight Flush 50:1 $20
Four-of-a-Kind 25:1 $5
Full House 5:1 $0
Flush 4:1 $0
Three-of-a-Kind 3:1 $0
Straight 2:1 $0

Handy Tip:

A wild hand is one that involves the Joker. Since a Joker makes it easier to create a winning hand, payouts are lower than those won with natural combinations. Nevertheless, you should always play a Joker to create the best-possible hand as, in either case, you’ll still win a significant prize.

Pai Gow Mania

There are two optional side bets that you can play with Pay Gow Mania. The first side bet is based on your first three-hole cards while the second covers your entire seven-card hand. If you are able to create any poker hand ranking equal to a Pair or higher, you’ll win a payout according to the side bet paytable.

Fortune Pai Gow

This is the most popular Pai Gow variant and offers the simplest side bet. Unlike Pai Gow Mania, Fortune Pai Gow features a single side bet that you can win by having a Three-of-a-Kind, also known as Trips, or better. You can use any of the seven cards you’ve been dealt to win this side bet.

Emperor’s Challenge

As we’ve mentioned earlier in this guide on how to play Pai Gow, the game’s name actually means a non-hand. By taking advantage of the side bet in the Empreror’s Challenge variant, you can still win a payout if you’ve been dealt such a hand. If you win this bet, you could get a payout of up to 100:1, depending on the value of your highest card.

Progressive Fortune Pai Gow

Several Pai Gow variants offer a progressive jackpot prize. In many cases, players that participate in these jackpots and create a seven-card Straight Flush win the jackpot. Generally, the cost of joining this side bet is $1, however, some land-based casinos may require a bet of up to $5.

FAQs About How to Play Pai Gow Poker

How do you play Pai Gow Poker and win?

What is the goal of Pai Gow Poker?

What is the best hand in Pai Gow Poker?

What are the payouts for Pai Gow Poker?

Is an Ace high or low in Pai Gow?

Pai Gow Poker: How to Play with Strategy

Pai Gow Poker is primarily a luck-based game where the outcome is heavily dependent on the cards that you have been dealt. Unlike traditional poker, you cannot use basic poker strategy to outwit your opponents or bluff your way to a win. However, you can develop your skills to identify the best way to build your High and Low hands.

Let’s imagine that you’ve been dealt a pair of As, a K, a Q, a J, and a pair of 10s. You can split these in several ways, including:

High Hand Low Hand
Option 1 A, K, Q, J, and 10 A and 10
Option 2 A, A, J, 10, and 10 K and Q
Option 3 A, A, K, Q, and J 10 and 10

Option 1 would probably lead to a push, while Option 2 could, potentially lead to a win, but it’ll be difficult. Option 3 is actually the best way to play this seven-card hand as it offers the player the best chance to win.

Pai Gow Poker Strategy

Pai Gow Poker Tips

To help you win Pai Gow Poker, we’ve listed the most helpful tips that our team of experts could think of.

  • If you’ve gotten a Pai Gow or a non-hand, place your best card in your High Hand and put your next two best cards in your Low Hand.
  • Split one pair if you’ve got two, but keep a pair of As intact. If you’ve got a single A, place this in your Low Hand and keep the pair in your High hand.
  • If you’ve gotten a Three-of-a-Kind, keep this in your High Hand. However, if you’ve got three As you should split these into a pair and put the third A in your Low Hand.
  • Split a Four-of-a-Kind made up of J or higher into two pairs and place one in each hand.
  • If you get a Four-of-a-Kind made up of 7s, 8s, 9s, or 10s, you should split them into pairs unless you can put an A in your Low Hand instead.
  • If you get a Four-of-a-Kind made up of 6s or lower value cards you should keep them intact in your High Hand and use the rest of the cards to create the best possible Low Hand.
  • A Full House should be split into a Three-of-a-Kind and a Pair unless you also have another Pair that you can place in your Low Hand.
  • Split five As unless you have a pair of Ks to put in your Low Hand.

How to Play Pai Gow Poker in Vegas

If you’re playing this casino game in person, you’ll experience slightly altered gameplay than the one featured in online games. Typically, once the dealer shuffles the cards at the start of the game, he or she splits them into seven piles that are all facing down. Each pile is given to a player and the dealer, and the four remaining cards are discarded.

To make the process even more fair and random, a number seat number is selected and that player gets his or her cards first. Then, the rest of the table gets their cards following a counter-clockwise pattern.

During the Pai Gow Poker showdown, any hands that are set incorrectly are fouled. In some instances, this means that the player loses the game, but some land-based casinos will allow the player to fix the mistake.

How to Play Pai Gow Tiles

Some land-based casinos may offer Pai Gow in its traditional format that features tiles that look similar to dominoes, instead of cards. This game is played with 32 tiles and features a Banker that can be a player or the dealer. Each tile has between two and 12 spots and the pattern of these spots affects how they can be played.

Learning how to play Pai Gow using tiles is fairly more complex than playing the game with cards. However, if you find such a table at a land-based casino or online, you’ll likely also find a list of instructions to guide you through the game.

Other Online Poker Guides

If you’re looking to learn how to play other types of online poker, you might want to browse through the following guides: