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Inside Pai Gow Poker

30 October 2021

This is the fourth article in a series that examines several aspects of popular casino games. Each article briefly explains how the game is played as well as highlighting some of the positive and negative features of that casino game.

This article explores Pai Gow poker.

Pai Gow poker is played with one 52-card deck plus one joker. Seven 7-card hands are dealt to the six players and the dealer positions. The remaining four cards are discarded. Hands dealt to empty player positions are collected and put in the discard rack.

The object of the game is to arrange seven cards into a 5-card and a 2-card poker hand. The 5-card hand must be higher than the 2-card hand.

The player wins if both hands beat the dealer’s corresponding hands, and loses if neither hand beats the dealer’s corresponding hand. If one player hand beats and the other hand loses to the dealer hands, it is a push.

If the player’s hand and the corresponding dealer’s hand is a tie, the dealer’s hand wins.

The joker can be used to complete a straight or flush, or used as an ace.

In most casinos, any player can be the banker. How often an individual player can bank depends on the casino. It could be as often as every other hand or as little as once every seven hands.

To function as banker, the player must have enough money to cover all the other player’s bets.

The house edge for Pai Gow poker is 2.84 percent. The house edge when a player can bank every other hand is 1.27 percent. This dramatic reduction in the house edge is because tie hands go to the banker.

Because many hands are pushes (one hand beats the dealer’s corresponding hand and one loses), volatility is low. The bankroll lasts longer so the player can play longer.

By playing side bets, players can win up to 8,000-to-1 for a 7-card straight flush, so large wins are possible – though rare. Also, the house edge on side bets is much higher than on the basic game.

Pai Gow poker play tends to be very relaxed. The dealer doesn’t try to speed play along as is sometimes the case with blackjack.

Players can take their time arranging their cards into the two hands. There can be as little as 12 to 20 hands per hour. It is quite often possible to play an entire afternoon without losing (or winning) anything significant.

If a player is unsure of the proper way to arrange the two hands, the dealer will arrange them using the “house way.”

There is plenty to like about Pai Gow poker. However, there are some drawbacks as well.

Even though the dealer will arrange a player’s cards the house way, the player should have a good understanding of the proper strategy for arranging the cards. This strategy is somewhat complex so it will take some work to master it.

Table limits for Pai Gow poker can be relatively high compared to other table games. This is somewhat mitigated by the lower house edge and slow playing tempo.

There is not the same level of action, excitement or camaraderie as in other table games such as roulette or craps. If action is what you desire, Pai Gow poker is not for you.

Not every player at the table is there for slow-paced, relaxing play. They can actually get a bit hostile during slow-play tactics. They also like to give their input as to how to set hands.

Summary:

Advantages:
• The house edge is 2.84 percent – not too bad for a table game.
• The game has a low volatility so the bankroll does not take large hits – meaning you can play longer.
• Side bets provide the potential for substantial wins.
• It is a slow-paced game – as few as 15 to 20 hands per hour.
• In most cases, a player can be the bank periodically which can reduce the house edge to 1.27 percent or less.
• The dealer will set your hands for you (the house way) if the player is unsure.

Disadvantages:
• Requires some knowledge of how to set the high and low hands. This can take some time to learn.
• Table limits can be relatively high - $25 or more.
• If you are playing for the action of the game, Pai Gow poker is not your game.
• Other players tend to want to show their knowledge by telling you how to play each hand.


Conclusion:
Pai Gow poker is a relaxing, slow playing game. It can be a pleasant way to pass time. A bit of knowledge is required to play the game, but the dealers can set your hands for you using the “house way.”

However, if you crave action, you should look for a different game.

The next article in this series looks at the game of baccarat.

As always, may all your wins be swift and large, and your losses be slow and tiny.

Jerry “Stickman”

Jerry “Stickman” is an expert in craps, blackjack and video poker and advantage slot machine play. He is a regular contributor to top gaming magazines. He authored the video poker section of "Everything Casino Poker: Get the Edge at Video Poker, Texas Hold'em, Omaha Hi-Lo, and Pai Gow Poker!" You can contact Jerry “Stickman” at stickmanjerryg@gmail.com
Jerry Stickman

Jerry "Stickman" is an expert in dice control at craps, blackjack, advantage slots and video poker. He is a regular contributor to top gaming magazines. The "Stickman" is also a certified instructor for Golden Touch Craps dice control classes and Golden Touch Blackjack's advantage classes. He also teaches a course in advantage-play slots and video poker. For more information visit www.goldentouchcraps.com or www.goldentouchblackjack.com or call 1-800-944-0406 for a free brochure. You can contact Jerry "Stickman" at stickmanGTC@aol.com.

Jerry Stickman Websites:

www.goldentouchcraps.com
www.goldentouchblackjack.com
Jerry Stickman
Jerry "Stickman" is an expert in dice control at craps, blackjack, advantage slots and video poker. He is a regular contributor to top gaming magazines. The "Stickman" is also a certified instructor for Golden Touch Craps dice control classes and Golden Touch Blackjack's advantage classes. He also teaches a course in advantage-play slots and video poker. For more information visit www.goldentouchcraps.com or www.goldentouchblackjack.com or call 1-800-944-0406 for a free brochure. You can contact Jerry "Stickman" at stickmanGTC@aol.com.

Jerry Stickman Websites:

www.goldentouchcraps.com
www.goldentouchblackjack.com