Pai Gow Poker Rules and Strategy

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Pai Gow Poker will stretch your gambling dollar like few other games online. The goal is to make two poker hands that beat the banker's two poker hands. The majority of the time, the player and the banker each win one hand, and no money is exchanged. More than 40% of Pai Gow Poker hands end in a push, buying you more time at the table with no added risk. 

Poker players will have an easy time transitioning to this relatively low-risk casino game with a 2.84% house edge. Even players who are just starting out can quickly master Pai Gow Poker rules.

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How to Play Pai Gow Poker

How to Play Pai Gow Poker

The action gets underway when players make wagers prior to the cards being dealt. Next, seven cards are dealt in a clockwise rotation face down to each player and the banker. The dealer and the other players at the table may take turns acting as banker. In the hope that they have the best two hands, players use their knowledge of poker hand rankings to arrange their cards. Consequently, a player splits his seven cards into two poker hands: a five-card hand, called a high hand and a two-card hand, called a low hand. They’re also referred to as a five-card backhand and a two-card front hand. The high hand must outrank the low hand, which can only consist of high cards or a pair. 

While the player has the discretion to set the hand as he wishes, the banker must set his hand to the house way. In the event that you don’t know how to set your hand, turn your cards face up and ask the banker. He will tell you how to set your hand the house way. House way varies from venue to venue. Online or on mobile, tap the button labeled House Way. Once all the players hands are set, the banker sets his and pays off winners. Every hand results in one of the following three outcomes:

  1. The player wins even money: When both of the player’s hands outrank both of the banker’s hands.
  2. The player pushes and has his bet returned: When one of the player’s hands outranks one of the banker’s hands and one of the banker’s hands outranks one of the player’s hands.
  3. The player loses: When both of the banker’s hands outrank both the player’s hands, or both hands tie.

Winning in Pai Gow Poker

Result

Probability

Player wins

29.11%

Push

40.49%

Player loses

30.38%

Pai Gow Poker Hand Rankings

Hand rankings in Pai Gow Poker are identical to Texas Hold’em, with two exceptions. Since the game was invented, the royal flush has occupied the top spot on the poker hand rankings chart. In Pai Gow Poker, five aces, or five of a kind, has taken its place. It’s comprised of four aces and a joker, the 53rd card in a Pai Gow Poker Deck. A joker can be used as an ace or to complete a straight or flush. While the royal flush loses value, an ace to five straight, called a wheel, is worth more. Therefore, the lowest straight in Hold’em is the second highest in Pai Gow Poker, only behind an ace high straight.

HAND

Cards

Five aces

Four aces and a joker

Royal flush

Five suited cards ranked ace to 10

Straight flush

Five cards of the same suit in consecutive order

Four of a kind

Four cards of the same ranking

Full house

Three cards of the same ranking, and two of another ranking

Flush

Five cards of the same suit that are not in consecutive order

Straight

Five cards of different suits in consecutive order

Three of a kind

Three cards of the same ranking

Two pair 

Two cards of the same ranking and two cards of the same ranking

One pair

Two cards of the same ranking

High card

A hand that is ranked by its highest card

Fortune Pai Gow Poker

This popular game is played like regular Pai Gow Poker, with an optional Fortune Bonus side bet. The side bet is based on your best possible five-card poker hand using all seven of your cards. In order to get paid, your hand must be a straight or better. The Fortune Pai Gow Poker side bet is offered at many online casinos. Play free in demo mode or wager for real money on Mohegan Sun Casino, Tropicana New Jersey and Golden Nugget Casino.Com. While the main game has a 97.47% RTP, the Fortune Bonus side bet has a much lower 92.23% RTP. Payouts for the Fortune Bonus side bet are shown below:

Fortune Pai Gow Poker Pay Table

Hand 

Pays

Natural 7-card Straight Flush

8,000 to 1

Royal Flush + Royal Match

2,000 to 1

Wild 7-card Straight Flush

1,000 to 1

5 Aces 

400 to 1

Royal Flush

150 to 1

Straight Flush

50 to 1

Four of a Kind

25 to 1

Full House

5 to 1

Flush

4 to 1

Three of a Kind

3 to 1

Straight

2 to 1

Face up Pai Gow Poker

Face up Pai Gow Poker moves faster than the traditional face down version, and offers a lower house edge. Another player advantage, there’s no commission on winning hands. In contrast, a 5% commission is deducted from your winnings at Face Down Pai Gow Poker. 

The main drawback, players can’t act as banker according to Face up Pai Gow Poker rules. The banker plays with a lower house edge because, among other things, his commission is calculated differently. Moreover, the banker wins when both hands tie, and his advantage improves against unskilled players. Online, you’ll likely never have the opportunity to act as banker because most Pai Gow Poker games are single player.

Online Poker Resources

Confidence is key to be a successful poker player. Take advantage of the following poker guides to help boost your play:

Online poker is currently legal in MichiganNew JerseyPennsylvania, West Virginia, and Delaware. For more legal information regarding your state, take a look at our online casino legalization tracker.

Best Online Casinos For Poker

Not sure which the best casino is for poker? We've got you covered! Action Network has created the Best Real Money Online Casinos to help you narrow down your list of casinos to play so you could use your newfound knowledge gained from reading our poker tips.

Be sure to shop around at all of these great online casinos to ensure you're keeping your options open and putting our poker tips to good use:

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Pai Gow Poker Rules FAQ
Is it legal to play Pai Gow Poker online?
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Can I play Pai Gow Poker on my mobile device?
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Is Pai Gow Poker Rigged?
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What are the odds of winning at Pai Gow Poker?
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Where did Pai Gow Poker originate?
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Where are the best places to play Fortune Pai Gow Poker online?
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