All About Pai Gow Poker: What It Is And How You Can Play It Well


Pai Gow, a game that dates all the way back to ancient China, has managed to survive centuries and continents to become modern variation that is played in casinos worldwide, including the glittering venues of Las Vegas and the virtual rooms of online gaming platforms. This game has managed to not only merge favorites of East and West, but has incorporated strategy, skill, and a hint of chance to players. This allows those weary of fast-paced casino games, who want a break from checking charts to discover their winnings, to have a chance at a more leisurely game offering.

Where Pai Gow Began


The origins of Pai Gow come from ancient Chinese culture, and the games dates back to the Song Dynasty, which lasted from 960 to 1279. Originally, it was played with a set of 32 Chinese dominoes. If you’ve ever wondered what Pai Gow means, its literal translation is to “make nine” in English, which reflects the maximum score achievable in a hand.

Like many older games, the ancient version of Pai Gow was a very complex and slow-paced game, that requiring players to not only be skilled in mathematics, but to also have a thorough understanding of Chinese philosophy, since the game combined both.

As the game lasted and thrived through the centuries, it also travelled across countries, and it came to the United States in the late 19th century. Here, it underwent significant transformations, as Westerners were not well acquainted with tile games. To make it more palatable to Western tastes and to simplify the game to ensure it reached a wider audience, Pai Gow Poker was created, and it became popular almost overnight. It started to become popular in American casinos during the 1980s.

As such, Pai Gow Poker became a blended game which traded the Pai Gow tiles for a standard deck of cards, along with including an additional Joker card. By changing up the format of how the game was played, it became easier for different players to pick up the game.

How to Play Pai Gow


When it comes to Pai Gow Poker, it is usually played at a table that can host up to six players, along with a single dealer. The aim of the game is quite easy: make create two different poker hands from the seven cards that are dealt to each player. The hands need to be made up of a hand with five cards, known as the High Hand, as well as a two-card hand which is known as the Low Hand. The only thing to keep in mind is that the low card hand cannot outrank the cards in the High Hand. Which keeps this in line with traditional poker hand rankings.

Once all the bets have been made and are down on the table, the dealer will deal out seven cards to all players, and themselves. The players are then required to try and arrange their cards into the two distinct hands, of High and Low. The dealer then has to do the same thing, while following the specific house ways rules that are specific only for dealers cards.

In order to win the game at Grand Eagle casino or any ither site or land-based venue, both of a player’s hands have to outrank and beat both of the dealer’s hands. If only one hand from the player wins and the other loses, it becomes what is known as a push, and the original bet made is given back to the player. However, if both hands are lower than the dealers, then the player loses, and the dealer wins the round.

The Winning Pai Gow Poker Hands

By having a good understanding of the types of hand rankings that can be achieved in Pai Gow is important to help build the overall strategy of the cards being dealt. Hands which are considered good winning contenders are:

  • The Royal Flush

The one and only poker hand which is almost unbeatable is the royal flush hand. This is one which includes the face cards of royalty and would appear only in the high hand. It is what many consider to be an almost certain win, unless a Tie occurs.

  • Straight and Flush Combinations

By having a high hand which includes a straight or a flush can significantly bolster your winning chances. Mostly if you are able to get a good pair in your Low Hand, especially if the pair is a high ranking one.

  • Full House

While a full house is generally a strong hand all on its own, it’s typically advisable to split it, using the pair in your low hand and the three-of-a-kind in your high hand. This strategy balances your chances of winning both hands.

  • Three Pairs

A hand which containing three pairs is one which allows players to have a unique opportunity. Since the Low Hand can only consist of two cards, by putting the highest pair you receive there, it bolsters strength, while the remaining pairs will form a formidable High Hand.

  • The Joker

The Joker acts as a wild card though it does come with several restrictions, notably that it can only be used to complete a straight or flush, or as an Ace. This versatility makes it a fantastic card to turn up and help players to form a winning hand.


Strategies to Consider

A Pai Gow Poker strategy should revolve entirely around balancing a High and Low hands to ensure that there is a good chance of either winning or getting your money back in a push. As the game’s pace is fairly leisurely, players have the chance that many of their hands will end in a push, which ensures that Pai Gow Poker can give an extended playing option to those with smaller bankrolls. Understanding the house ways which the dealer must adhere to, and applying a similar approach to arranging your hands, is another way in which players can bring down the overall house edge.

The way in which Pai Gow has changed over the centuries, going from a fully tiled game in ancient China, through to becoming a casino classic played with cards, is a great way to showcase its appeal for players both past and present.

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