Pai Gow Poker

Pai Gow Poker is the American version of a Chinese domino game which is called Pai Go.  It is also termed as Double Hand Poker in some places. It is a combination of 7-Card Stud and the domino game.

After 30 years of its creation by an American casino owner Sam Torosian, Pai Gow is still known as the casino staple. This game, in simple terms, is all about making two poker hands – one 5-card hand and one 2-card hand. In case your two poker hands beat the dealer’s two poker hands, you win. And if only one of your hands wins, it’s a push. Unfortunately, if both of your hands lose, you lose your bet.


Just like any other casino table games, Pai Gow poker starts with the player placing a bet before getting any cards. At some Pai Gow tables, you are also allowed to make a Bonus bet on whether you’ll make a “premium” hand. The higher your premium hand the more the casino will pay out on your bet. The bonus wager has nothing to do with your win. It is always suggested not to bet the bonus! The house edge on the bonus bet is huge which increases the chance of losing money over the long haul.


Once all of the best have been placed each player then (typically there will be 6 players and one dealer) receives 7 cards face down out of the 53-card deck. If all the seats have not been filled, the dealer will deal out all 7 cards to each of the places. The left out four cards are placed face down as a muck pile. When the dealer picks up any unused hands each player can set their two Pai Gow hands.


For arranging a Pai Gow poker hand the backhand/big hand/high hand is a standard 5-card poker hand and the front hand/small hand/low hand) is made up of mere two cards. You can have only two high cards or a pair in your low hand.


If you’re dealt the joker it can be used to substitute for a card in 3 ways:

  1. Can replace any card to complete a straight
  2. Can be any suit to complete a flush
  3. If it can it is not used in either way it will be an ace.

The joker always acts as an ace in the two-card hand.


You need to split your hand in a way so that it can offer you the strongest possible two-card hand. When you are playing hands with no pairs the best method is to:

  • Keep the highest-ranked card in the back (big) hand
  • Place the second two highest-ranking cards in the front (small) hand
  • It will make your small hand strong without outranking the backhand.

If you have a single pair in your dealt hand:

  • Play the pair in your high hand
  • Play your other two highest cards in your low hand

If you’re dealing with two pairs always split them if you have:

  • Two high pairs (JJ-AA)
  • A pair of Aces
  • One medium (77-TT) and one high pair (JJ-AA)

If you do not have the Ace in your hand you should also split:

  • One low (22-66) pair and one high (JJ-AA)
  • Two medium (77-TT) pairs

If you do not have an Ace or a King you should always split:

  • Two low (22-66) pairs
  • And one low (22-66) pair and one medium (77-TT) pairs

Always Play 3-of-a-Kind in your big hand unless you have 3 Aces. In case you have 3 aces, try to play a pair in your big hand and Ace-high in your low hand.

Play flushes and straights in your big hand unless you also have two pairs. Then split them as per the above rules for two-pair hands.

Keep 4-of-a-kind 6s or lower together

Split quads (4-of-a-kind) into two pairs if they are JJ or higher value

Keep 4-of-a-kind (77-TT) together only if you have an Ace.



The house edge in Pai Gow is quite low to start with and can be cut down even more about 2.8% if you know how to set your hands the best way. When you win a hand the casino keeps a 5% commission but some casinos do not do that.


As you know the rules and simple strategy to reduce the house edge, it’s time to take a shot at a few free Pai Gow games online. Check out the online casinos that offer Pai Gow Poker. You can play free version for practice and get used to the rules and play. Enjoy!

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