Pai Gow Poker
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Rules and Strategies for
Pai Gow Poker
Pai Gow is a Chinese game of dominoes. Pai Gow Poker is the marriage
between Pai Gow and a 7-card Stud Poker.
The goal of Pai Gow Poker is to make two poker hands that beat the banker's hands. The
player is dealt 7 cards that he/she sets into a 5-card hand (high hand) and a 2-card hand
(low hand). Skill is involved in setting the two hands, which will help reduce the casino
edge to about 3%. The hands are played and ranked as traditional poker hands except A2345,
which is the second highest straight, and the 5-card hand must be higher than the 2-card
hand. One wins, if both hands are better than the banker's hand. One loses, if both lose.
Otherwise it's a push. The banker wins absolute ties (i.e. K Q vs K Q). The game is played
with 52 cards and a Joker. The Joker can be used as an Ace or to complete a flush or
straight. The table layout has 7 spots - one in front of the dealer and 6 for players.
Each player spot has spaces for a bet, low hand, high hand and sometimes the house
commission. The dealer deals 7 7-card hands in front of the chip tray. The banker can be a
player, but is usually the house. The banker designates which hands go to which player by
shaking a dice cup with three dice. The banker's position is either 1, 8 or 15 and the
hands are passed out counter-clockwise. So, if the dealer is the bank and the dice total
to 6, player 5 gets the first hand, player 6 gets the second, the dealer gets the third
and so on. The dice rules are only ritual - you don't need to worry about anything until
you get your hand.
The player puts the 2-card hand face down in the box closest to the dealer, and the five
card hand face down in back. Once everybody has set their hand, the dealer turns over and
sets the bank's hand. The dealer goes counter-clockwise around the table comparing the
banks hand to the players, and taking, paying, or knocking. There is a 5% commission on
winning bets that you can either put out next to your winning bet, or the dealer will
subtract from your payoff.
In Pai Gow Poker, the only strategic decisions are how much to bet and how to set your
hand. The simple basic strategy for setting your hand is to make the highest 2-card hand
that is less than your 5-card hand. If you can't figure out what to do, you can show your
hand to the dealer and they will tell you how the house would set it. Since pairs
generally win the 2-card hands, and two-pair wins the 5-card hands, the only difficult
decisions are when to split two pairs.
The player may want to play as the bank. The House Dealer or the player may be the banker.
The Bank wagers against all players. The bank will alternate between the house and the
player (the House Dealer will at least take the bank every other hand). The BANKER will be
designated by a white plastic marker. A Bank Player must either cover half or all wagers
against him/her. The House will co-bank at 50/50 only at the Bank Player's request. The
hand will be set according to house way and the table limit will apply if the House acts
as a co-banker. In order to bank, a player must have played the previous hand against the
House. The House will wager a sum equal to that player's wager against the house the
previous hand. The player may request that a smaller amount be wagered. A Banker must be
bank at the same spot of the hand he previously played against the house.
Pai Gow poker is an easy game to play, and since each hand takes a while to play (dealer
has to shuffle for each game) and most hands push, you can play on $20 at a $5 table for
quite a while.
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