What You Need to Know about Pai Gow Poker for Poker Enthusiasts

People playing Pai Gow Poker image

📖 Published on: June 6th, 2024

✍️ Updated: June 6th, 2024

⏳ 9 mins read


If you’re a pro at Texas Hold’em, exploring other types of poker games can be a great way to build your poker skills. There’s a sense of pride when you’re able to master a whole new game and find ways to win good money. While popular variations of poker like Omaha and Two Card Stud continue to be go-to games, there’s another interesting variant that often flies under the radar—Pai Gow Poker.


Pai Gow Poker combines elements of the ancient Chinese game of Pai Gow and traditional poker, creating a unique and strategic game that’s gaining popularity in casinos across the US. If you’re interested in working on your casino gaming skills, read on to figure out the basics, explore your gaming options, and learn a new poker variation you could play with your friends and colleagues.


Where Did Pai Gow Poker Originate?

Pai Gow Poker is another kind of table game with American and Chinese origins. It was first played in the US in the 1980s. Sam Torosian, the proprietor of a card club in California, created the game by transforming the traditional Chinese domino game Pai Gow into a card game. His creative tweak blended the original Pai Gow's framework with conventional poker hand rankings. Pai Gow Poker is already a mainstay in casinos all over the world, despite being a relatively new game.


Remember that the objective of Pai Gow Poker is to create two hands—a five-card hand and a two-card hand—that both beat the dealer's corresponding hands. Your five-card hand should be stronger than your two-card hand, so careful strategy is key. It’s a game of skill and luck, offering a unique twist for poker enthusiasts looking for something different.

Girls playing Pai Gow image


How Does Pai Gow Work?

The dynamic of this type of poker begins with a seven-card hand. Players must arrange seven cards to form two hands which are usually hands that are composed of five cards and then two cards, totaling a seven-card hand. Keep in mind that the five cards should have a higher ranking than the two other cards.


If you’re playing virtual Pai Gow poker, you’ll find the dealer shaking up the dice cup which holds the three dice that will determine the player’s stake in the game. Regardless of whether a player is present or not, the Pai Gow dealer will deal the seven hands—each comprising seven cards—clockwise to each position after counting counter-clockwise from the Banker position (number one).


If you want your hand to be set based on the “House Way,” then the dealer can simply reset it for you. The Dealer will reveal the Banker's hand once all Players have established their hands. The Banker's hand is then compared to each Player's hand, and wagers are made after the Dealer sets the Bank hand by the "House Way."


House Hand vs. Player Hand

With seven cards, each player at the table will form two hands: a five-card hand and a two-card hand. So the players' responsibility is to set their own hands, and they ought to do so carefully. It is always necessary for the five-card hand to have a higher poker rank than the two-card hand.


A two-card hand that is positioned higher than the five-card hand, or a hand that has more or fewer cards than the required number, will be fouled, and a Supervisor will need to be alerted. In the event of a fouled hand, the Supervisor or Pit Manager will decide.


Pai Gow Poker Dealer image


The dealer will reveal and set the House Hand after all player hands have been set. The House Hand will always be arranged in accordance with the "House Way," which calls for placing it parallel to the bankroll rack in a left-to-right declining order of value. The five-card hand that is closest to the rack will be positioned about an inch from the edge. The two-card hand will be arranged in declining value order, parallel to the rack, and positioned above the five-card hand. Aligning both hands with the money rack's left edge is the goal.


After the dealer has set their hands, it's time to check each player's hand against the dealer's. You win if both of your hands are better than the dealer's! Should one hand prevail, it's a push, and your initial wager is returned. However, you lose if the dealer's two hands are better than yours. The technique is clear-cut and easy to understand, which keeps the game running smoothly. So take a seat back, watch the dealer at work, and cross your fingers that your hands win!


What to Know about Progressive Pai Gow Poker

Now, if you’re looking for a more challenging yet exciting Pai Gow poker round, progressive Pai Gow might be one option to consider. Except for an optional Progressive Wager side bet, Progressive Pai Gow Poker is exactly the same as standard Pai Gow Poker. A player wagers that they will be able to form a qualifying five-card poker rank hand out of the seven cards they are dealt when they place the progressive wager.


Regardless of how the Player arranges their seven cards, the Progressive Wager receives an odds payout based on the rank of the five-card poker hand. The Player will still be compensated for the Progressive Wager even if they choose to split a full house, five Aces, straight flush, etc.


  • The standard Pai Gow Poker Wager and the Progressive Wager are placed simultaneously.
  • There is a $5 progressive wager. The Player will not receive their wager back.
  • A player must wager the Pai Gow Poker hand in order to place a wager on the Progressive Wager, even if they have already placed a wager on the Bonus Wager.
  • The Dealer will declare that the bets are closed and ask for any further wagers on the progressive.
  • The Dealer will press the "coin in" button and retrieve the $5 checks once all bets have been placed.
  • Every advancing red light will be correctly lit, and that is the Dealer's responsibility. If there is a problem, a supervisor must be called.
  • The hand will then be played as normal.
  • The Dealer will reveal the Player's hands starting from the right. The Bonus Wager and Pai Gow Poker Wager have no bearing on the Progressive Wager's determination. Regardless of the result of the Pai Gow Poker Wager, the Player wins the Progressive Wager if any qualifying five-card poker hand can be made from the players' seven cards.
  • The Bonus Wager is decided after the Pai Gow Poker Wager. The reward for the Fortune Bonus Bet will come right after the Progressive Wager.


How Do You Deal in Pai Gow Poker?

The way dealers deal cards for Pai Gow Poker can be really intriguing. The dealer shuffles the cards and arranges them into seven face-down piles, one for each player and the dealer, plus four unwanted extras that are thrown into the discard pile, also known as the muck.


In fact, the dealer shuffled the cards into heaps and fashioned them into the shape of a dragon with a head, body, and tail before the invention of card shufflers. From one to seven, each seat has a number, starting with the banker. The dealer deals cards counterclockwise, selecting a number at random to determine who is given cards first.


Bottom Line

Take your poker skills for a spin in this thrilling variation on the traditional game and discover the dynamic of Pai Gow poker. It's similar to dominoes and Texas Hold'em, with the opportunity to quadruple your winnings! Chinese dominoes are used in Pai Gow instead of cards, but your knowledge of hand rankings and bluffing strategies will come in helpful. Now, take a seat at the table and try to master this special fusion of skill and luck.


Learn more about online poker and how to further improve your hand from our resources at GambleSpot today.

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