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Pai Gow Poker Strategies

Invented in 1985, Pai Gow is a relatively new form of poker that has attracted a wide range of systems and strategizing around how to improve the odds of winning. Like all types of poker, Pai Gow depends on probability. There are mathematical models to determine what to do in a given scenario, and memorizing them should be your first goal in learning the game. Here is a quick overview of basic Pai Gow strategy:

  • At all times, try to play the best two-card (low) hand possible.
  • Play your highest card in the high hand and the second and third highest card in your low hand if you do not have a pair, straight or flush.
  • If you have two pair, always split if the top pair is aces. If the top pair is kings, split as well, unless the bottom pairs are twos. In that case, play the pairs together in the high hand and keep the remaining cards in the low hand.
  • If you have three pair, keep the highest pair in the low hand.
  • If you have a full house, split it, keeping the pair in the low hand and the three of a kind in the high. If you have a pair in addition to a full house, keep the lowest pair in the low hand.
  • Keep together four of a kind of sixes or lower. Split a four of a kind of face cards unless you have an additional pair to keep in the low hand. Spilt a four of a kind of sevens through 10s, unless you have an ace to play in the low hand.
  • Unless you have an additional pair, keep a straight or a flush together in the high hand.

As you become more familiar with Pai Gow, you will develop your own strategies. Our guide simply shows you some of the most common scenarios you can encounter, and what to do in them.

How to Play Pai Gow Poker

Pai Gow Poker blends the ancient Chinese game of Pai Gow with the American favorite of poker. Players play with the common deck of 52 cards and one joker. Players can use the joker to complete a flush, a straight or as an ace.

Play begins when the dealer gives each player a hand of seven cards. The player makes two hands, a five-card hand and a two-card hand. The game ranks each hand based upon the traditional poker ratings. A two-ace hand is the highest two-card hand, while a royal flush is the highest five-card hand. The player’s five-card hand must rank higher than the two-card hand.

The player wins when both of his hands beat the Banker’s hands. The banker wins all tie hands. If the player only wins one hand, neither the Banker nor the Player win – this is called a “push.”

Winning hands earn even money, excluding a five percent commission. Losing hands lose all wagers.

Playing Pai Gow Poker

After shuffling the deck, the dealer gives seven face down hands of seven cards each, placing the four leftover cards in the discard holder. The Banker rolls three dice to determine which player gets the first hand, and all players place bets before the dice are revealed. The dealer places the hands in a clockwise rotation following the first hand; the Banker’s position is always 1, 8 or 15.

The Banker and all Players arrange their cards into two hands each. Once everyone finishes, the dealer turns all cards face up. The dealer leaves winning hands face up; the dealer places losing cards in the discard tray, collects the lost wagers and pays the winners.

Dover Downs Hotel & Casino reserves the right to change game rules and regulations without notice.