Do you know how to rank poker hands?  Do you want a casino game that will let you play slowly and make your bankroll last longer?  Do you like dragons and other assorted Asian designs on your casino game tables?

Welcome to the wonderful world of Pai Gow Poker!

While Pai Gow Poker isn’t the easiest game to learn, once you catch on, you’ll see it’s a breeze!  In this article I will take you step-by-step through a complete hand of Pai Gow Poker.  If you would like to follow along with the guide, simply download the FREE casino games software from Silver Oak Casino, which includes a Pai Gow Poker game.

How To Play Pai Gow Poker

In Pai Gow poker, the player (you) is always playing against the bank, as it is done in blackjack, for example.  A typical Pai Gow Poker game goes like this:

  1. Both the player and the dealer (the bank) receive 7 cards.
  2. With these cards, both the bank and the player make the best 5 card hand and the best 2 card hand possible.
  3. Both the player and the banker show their cards and to the winner goes the spoils!

How To Win Pai Gow Poker

As was said above, both the player and the dealer need to make 2 hands- one of 5 cards, and one of 2 cards.

If both the dealer’s 5 card hand beats the player’s 5 card hand AND the dealer’s 2 card hand beats the player’s 2 card hand, the dealer wins.  If the both the player’s 5 card hand AND 2 card hand beat the dealer’s, then the player wins (the player technically wins 1:1 odds, minus a 5% commission).

If the player has only one winning hand (ie the player has a better 5 card hand, but a worse 2 card hand), then the game is considered a tie, and the player receives his original bet back.

Pai Gow Poker Hands

Pai Gow Poker uses the same ranking system as regular poker.  For 5 card hands, the ranking system is exactly the same as regular poker, EXCEPT many casinos have one exception: the “wheel straight” ( Ace, 2, 3, 4, 5 ) is considered the 2nd highest ranking straight after Ace, King, Queen, Jack, Ten.

The two card hands are ranked exactly as you would expect- the highest hand you can have is a pair of Aces, and the lowest you can have is a 2, 3.

To make things a little more interesting, Pai Gow Poker always features a Joker, which can be used as a substitute for any other card.

One final rule: The 2 card hand cannot be a better poker hand than the 5 card hand.  For example, if you are dealt a 7 card hand of King, King, 2, 5, 6, 8, 10  you may be tempted to make the pair of Kings the 2 card hand.  However, this would make the 2 card hand larger than the 5 card hand, which is against the rules.  In this situation, you would have to make the 2 card hand 10, 8 and leave the Kings in the 5 card hand.

The Pai Gow Poker Table

Below is an example of a typical Pai Gow Poker table.

Pai Gow Poker Table

As you can see above, there is an area on both the dealer’s side and the player’s side that is marked “Highest”.  This is where the 5 card hands will be placed.  The area marked “2nd Highest” is where the 2 card hands will be placed.

To get the game started, simply make a bet by clicking on the desired chip denomination in the lower right hand corner of the Pai Gow Poker game screen.  The minimum bet in this game is $5, so I will bet $5.

Once you make your bet, the Pai Gow Poker screen will look like this:

Pai Gow Poker Bet

Now that we have made our first bet, to get our cards and get the game started, we just need to click on the “Deal” button in the bottom-center of the Pai Gow Poker Screen.

After clicking on “Deal” the Pai Gow Poker screen will look like this (you may have different cards!):

Pai Gow Poker Cards

Now that we have been dealt our 7 cards, we want to make the 2 best hands we can- one of 5 cards, and one of 2 cards.  To review the rules of what hands you can make, see the “Pai Gow Poker Hands” section above.  If you are ready, let’s make our 5 card and 2 card hand.

Since the pair of Aces is the highest 5 card hand I can make, they will be my 5 card hand.  Now, what to do with those 8’s?

Some people like to keep both of the pairs in the same hand, so that there is a better chance that the 5 card hand will at least be better than the dealer’s.  Others like to split up the pairs so that both the 5 card hand and the 2 card hand are at least somewhat strong.

I personally like to make both hands strong in this situation ( I will explain WHY in my future Pai Gow Poker Strategy article, stay tuned!).  To execute this strategy, I need to make the pair of 8’s the 2 card hand, and leave the rest of the cards for the 5 card hand.

To do this, I simply click on each 8.  When I click on each 8, they will pop up from the rest of the hand slightly.  It looks like this:

Pai Gow Poker Hand

Once I have selected the two 8’s, I can send them over to the 2 card hand by clicking on the “Split” button in the bottom-center of the Pai Gow Poker game screen.  After I click on the “Split” button, the computer will separate the cards into the hands I chose, and the dealer will reveal his cards.  The computer then shows who won each hand, and settles the bet on the table.

After I click on “Split” the screen looks like this:

Win Pai Gow Poker

As you can see from the Pai Gow Poker game screen above, I won both the 5 card hand AND the 2 card hand!

Can you see why?

Well, in the 5 card hand, I have a pair of Aces, while the dealer only had a pair of Kings, meaning I win.  Also, in the 2 card hand, I had a pair of 8’s, while the dealer only had an Ace high.

Since I won both hands, I win $5 minus the 5% commission to the house.  After the commission is taken out, I am left with a win of $4.75, not bad!

Pai Gow Poker Final Thoughts

Pai Gow Poker is a great game to play if you want some casino games action while still conserving your bankroll.  Since there are a lot of ties, and the game usually takes slightly longer to play than other popular table games and slot machines, your bankroll will survive longer than if you played many other games.

Now that you know how to play, do you want to know how to win as much money as possible playing Pai Gow Poker?  Later this week I will publish a full Pai Gow Poker Guide that will explain perfect Pai Pow Poker strategy.

If you want to get started playing right now, click on the Play Now button below to download over 130 FREE casino games (including Pai Gow Poker) that you can start playing now!

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Jeff White

Jeff has been an active gambler from the age of 18 when he won a small local poker tournament in San Jose, CA. He moved on to playing other casino games shortly thereafter, with a great interest in the statistics and mathematics involved. He has studied the historical gambling systems of nearly every popular casino game played today, and has written strategy books for several of them including blackjack, slot machines, craps, and roulette. Jeff has been a daily contributor to the Silver Oak Casino blog since the beginning of 2009.