Pai Gow has its fans and a table can be found in pretty much every casino in the world. Consider it no surprise that Pai Gow games are very commonly offered as part of the software package in online casinos. Since Pai Gow is not a game with a 100+ year history like so many other card games, the number of people familiar with it is much smaller than, say, blackjack or roulette. Anyone interested in how to play Pai Gow should be thrilled to learn the rules are fairly simple and easy to pick up. With the right skills in the basics of the game, winning at Pai Gow is ceases to be elusive.
Origins of Pai Gow
Pai Gow is a variation of poker and, contrary to what many are led to believe, Pai Gow the card game was not developed in China. The truth is Pai Gow is an Americanized version of a classic Chinese game played with dominoes. In brick and mortar casinos throughout the world, the actual domino game is available for play. Pai Gow means “make nine” and is the basis for the card game Baccarat. In recent years, Pai Gow was borrowed from American casinos to create “double-hand poker”, which can be played online.
The basic rules of the original 32 domino game are transposed to a 52 (plus one joker) deck of playing cards. Poker hand values are used to determine who wins or loses at the game. There is an interesting spin on this game. Players have to create TWO poker hands from the seven cards they are dealt. The one hand is made up of five cards and the second is made of the remaining two.
Pai Gow is like blackjack in the sense the player has to face off against the dealer. His/her two hands have to top what the dealer is presenting.
If both of your hands top what the dealer is offering, then you walk away a winner. Now, the simple rules of the game lead some to think its okay to jump right in and start wagering big. Honestly, the game is a relatively low risk one compared to other gambling options at an online casino. Do not assume you can wager a lot of money right off the proverbial bat. Take a little extra time out to know the rules.
Did you know that your five-card hand has to be better than the two card one in order for you to qualify? So, even if the dealer has nothing and you have a pair of tens among the five cards and a pair of aces make up the two cards, you do not walk away a winner.
Take this as a reason it is necessary to understand the basics of the rules.
The Nuances of the Rules
While traditional poker rules are in play here, a few nuances about the rules have to be understood. For example, a flush is only valid with the five-card hand. Two cards of the same suit is “not a big enough deal” to count as a flush. The joker is part of the game, but does not act as a wild card. The Joker is designated as an ace or it may be used to complete a straight or a flush. The “joker rules” are set in stone and do not change. Don’t think three kings and an ace gives you four of a kind.
Again, beating the dealer is achieved by having two hands that are higher than what the dealer holds. With a tie hand, however, the edge goes to the dealer. That is just an edge the house may claim for itself.
In the instances in which the player garners one winning hand and the dealer wins on the other, the fair outcome of a push is achieved.
Last, the ranks in Pai Gow are the same as “regular” poker with a few differences regarding straights. The Ace/King/Queen/Jack/10 remains the top straight but the number two straight is the Ace/2/3/4/5. This straight is followed by the King/Queen/Jack/10/9, which is then (curiously) followed by the 6/5/4/3/2.