Pai Gow Poker – version of pai gow

Pai Gow Poker is also referred to as the Double Hand Poker and it is an American variant of Pai Gow and this is because it is played with cards with values of poker and not the Chinese Pai Gow dominoes. This game is a development of Sam Torosian in 1985 who owned Bell card Club. You play the game with a standard deck of 52 cards and a joker. The game is played by six players and the dealer. The object of this game is to have a better hand than the banker.

The player is required to come up with two poker hands from the seven card hand they are dealt. These hands need to beat the hand of the dealer. The five-card hand needs to be better than the two-card hand. This is the reason the two card hand is referred to as the in front hand or the top, small, low, minor or the hair hand. As for the five card hand, it is referred to as the bottom, high, big or the behindhand.

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The Deal

For the game to start, the cards are shuffled and are dealt on the table in piles of seven face-down. Without consideration of the number of players in the game, four cards are not used. Betting positions have numbers assigned from one to seven and the numbering starts from the player acting as the banker and continue counter-clockwise around the table. The betting positions are determined at random through a software or manually with a dice and the deal will start with the corresponding position and continue counterclockwise. A common way that’s used to determine the starting number will be rolling three dice and count the betting spaces clockwise from the first spot to the number the dice landed.

When there is no punter sitting on the spot, the hand is still assigned but it is placed on the discard pile along with the four unused cards. In some casinos, you will find that an additional dragon hand is dealt when a seat is vacant. After the punter sets their original hand, they will be asked to place an additional bet at their will for them to take part in the dragon hand. The bet on the dragon hand is usually the table minimum to as much as the amount the punter bets on the original hand. The first punter who will accept the dragon hand will receive it and they will be playing with two separate hands.

With the dragon hand, the rules will vary from one casino to the other but the dealer will turn over the dragon hand and set it according to their casino’s tradition. This happens because the punter will have seen the seven cards from their initial hand and this will affect how the dragon hand will be seen.

Ranking of hands

The five card hands make use of the poker hand rankings but there is one exception: in some casinos, the wheel which is a hand consisting of A-2-3-4-5 is said to be the second highest straight. In some casinos, they do not apply this and this hand is the lowest possible hand you can come up with. As for the joker, it is taken as the bug. As such, when used in a five-card hand, it will be used to make up a straight, or flush. If the joker is not used in completing those hands, it is taken as an ace. When used in the two-card hand, it will be used as an ace apart from a couple of the casinos where it is used as a wild.

Getting better at Pai Gow Poker

Beating the house at its game is one thing that will excite you when playing any game in an online casino. When it comes to Pai Gow Poker, a good strategy will set you apart from a newbie player and might as well lower the house edge and make it easy for you to bag a win. In this section, we will teach you how best to make it in Pai Gow Poker and implement your strategy without problems.

Overcome the House Edge

Pai Gow Poker gives you a chance to enjoy one of the best games in the online casino industry with a relatively low house edge. The house edge in this game stands at about 2.9%. Pai Gow Poker has a house edge that is slightly more than that of Blackjack. You cannot completely eliminate the house edge but there is the possibility of lowering it to about 2.57%. Also, note that there is a 5% commission on hands that win.

Tame the dragon

When it comes to casino games, we can make use of the saying by the famous philosopher Seneca that luck comes to play when preparation meets with opportunity. This is one game that’s rooted in the Chinese culture and will need you to have a strategy for you to have the dragon tamed. In Pai Gow Poker, you only play against the dealer and not other punters. The percentage at which the house edge will be lowered is small and it might seem negligible but it will work in your favour in the long run.

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The house way strategy

Beating the house will require you to think and act like a casino dealer. Think of how a dealer will play his hand, would he split his two pairs? Will he place a pair in the front hand? When you start thinking like this when you are playing Pai Gow Poker, you will be mimicking the house and you will end up being on the winning side. Here are some things to consider:

  • When you do not get dealt any pair, place your highest card in the backhand and the next two highest cards in the front.
  • When you have a pair in your hand, keep it in the backhand and move the two highest in the front hand. This might make it easy for you to beat the dealer though these are not the best hands
  • When you get two pairs, split them between each hand. The highest ranking pair should be placed in the backhand and the other in the front hand. When you do contrary to this, you will be fouling your hand.
  • You need to also put the highest pair in the two card hand and two other pairs in the backhand, as long as you have been dealt with a three pair.
  • In the event where you are dealt three of a kind, keep all three cards of similar rank in the backhand. When all three are aces, put two aces in the backhand and one in the front hand.
  • In the event where you end up with two three of a kind hands, you need to play the lowest in the five cards and split the higher three of a kind to have a pair in the front and the other in the back.
  • When you are lucky enough to have a full house where three are of a kind and two pairs, you can split the initial hand in two and have the higher pair in the front hand and the other cards in the backhand.
  • When the full house is made up of three of a kind and two pairs, split the initial hand in two and have the highest pair in the front hand and the rest in the backhand.
  • When you have two three of a kind, you will play the highest pair in front.
  • When you get straights, straight flushes, royal flushes, and flushes, play the straight or flush in the backhand. Play the hand as two pairs if you have the following:

· a pair of aces or any pair,

· a pair of jacks and a pair of 6s,

· a single ace and two pairs.

Use the joker for your benefit

For some of the variants in Pai Gow Poker, they have Jokers and they are taken as semi-wild cards. A joker will be counted as an Ace but when used to complete a flush or pair it will be taken as any card you want to build your hand. When you have one in your hand, you are lucky.


With all the information we have provided above, you can be sure that you will have one of the best moments in your gaming experience. This is one game that will make things work out for you in the best way possible. You can play the free version of Pai Gow Poker before you can proceed to play the game for real money. If you want a reliable casino for this, look through the list we have built of reputable online casinos with the best gameplay and bonuses.

Zigmas Pekarskas

Written by:

Casino card games and poker expert

Founder and CEO of also well known poker professional player, with more then 15 years of playing poker and other card games. 10 years of writing articles, doing reviews of poker rooms and teaching other poker players how to improve their game.