It’s not one of the most popular poker games in the casino, but is definitely the most popular poker game in China. Pai Gow poker is a unique combination of ancient Chinese dominoes (called Pai Gow), and standardize casino poker. Its betting structure is quite similar to video poker, while its hand rules are more similar to Omaha Hi/Lo. It is played with a standard deck of fifty-two cards plus a Joker, which actually serves as an Ace or a Wild Card that can only serve to help form a Straight, Flush or Straight Flush.
Each the betting structure is short and sweet – similar to that of video poker, the pai gow is a rather slowly moving game. It contains a single betting round before hands are assigned, which are split into a Hi and Lo hand for the showdown between the player and banker hand. Bets are made on either one of two hands, which are split into a five card standard poker hand and a two card hand ranked on card value. There is virtually no strategy, since all hands must be played as dealt. It is purely a game of luck, resting entirely on the outcome of the deal, and whether a player chooses to be the Bank Hand or Player Hand. I would like to qualify the last statement regarding strategy, for if a player can be the banker more often, the better their odds will be, since the Bank Hand automatically wins tie hands. There is a bit of strategy for you.
A game begins with the dealer disbursing the cards into seven distinct hands facedown on the table. There will be four cards remaining in the deck, which the dealer will discard in sight of all players. At this point, the dealer will ask each player if they want the Bank Hand, which the player can choose to take or decline. If no player takes the Bank Hand, the dealer will automatically take it by default. If a player opts to serve as a banker, the dealer will still play against the banker with a wager in the amount of that players last bet. As I said it is in a players best interest to be the banker. However, the players bankroll must be adequate enough to cover bets with all the other players at the table.
After the banker is set, to determine who receives the first hand, the dealer will shake a dice cup with three die. Players are assigned numbers depending on where they are sitting in relation to the dealer (who will always be number 1, 8 or 15) The dealer will count from 1,8 or 15 (whichever is closest to the value of the dice roll) going from player to player. The player whose seating position corresponds to the outcome of the dice roll is the one to receive the first hand. All players must have their bets on the table before the hands are passed out by the dealer, who then hands each remaining player a stack of seven cards, going round the table in a counter-clockwise direction.
This is when the players begin shaping their cards into a five and two-card hand. A player cannot separate their hand so that the two-card hand is better than the five-card hand. If they do so, both hands will automatically lose. In order for the player hand to win, both hands must rank higher than the Bank Hand. If the two-card low hand is not a pair, it will be ranked by the highest card value. If one of the two hands tie, the game is deemed a “push”, and no chips are exchanged. The players bet is essentially pushed over to the next game. The five-card hand is ranked according to standard poker hand rankings.
After all hands have been compared to the bank hand, all chips and cards from losing hands are collected. Cards are immediately placed in the discard pile to be shuffled again for the next game. Chips are given to the banker. All winning hands are left on the table, at which time the banker pays out chips to those players. Winnings are paid out at even odds, minus a 5% commission in most cases. If there are multiple ties (which the banker wins) the commission is imposed on the net win, which means it applies only after all losses have been figured into the bankers take.