Pai Gow Poker Online
Pai Gow Online Casinos
What You Need to Know
Online Pai Gow Poker uses elements of the ancient Chinese domino tiles game, where it replaces the tiles for playing cards. Today, the game has become a popular online casino game, where players all over the world can play online Pai Gow Poker from their homes. Known for a high frequency of ties, or pushes, and a slower pace of play than most table games, Pai Gow Poker online is perfect for casino players who play for enjoyment.
Our online Pai Gow Poker guide was written with first time players in mind. You’ll be introduced to the game rules, as well as the different gameplay mechanics with our step-by-step process on how to play Pai Gow online. Learn the different terminology and wagering options to help you better understand the game. Find and play at a reputable Pai Gow Poker online casino that offers this particular game to all players. Get the latest Pai Gow Poker strategy, gain an advantage, and start playing like a pro.
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How to Play Pai Gow Poker Online
Unlike the gameplay in traditional Pai Gow, which can be all but indecipherable to the uninitiated, playing online Pai Gow Poker is actually quite simple to learn.
Ante Bet and Cards Dealt
To begin a hand, you’ll begin by placing a wager, and for the sake of this discussion, the typical bet of $5 will be used. After you’ve anted up, the dealer will distribute seven cards face up to you, along with seven cards face down to themselves.
One crucial difference between regular forms of poker and Pai Gow Poker is that the latter game utilizes a single joker card, in addition to the standard 52-card deck.
The Joker Card
This joker card is considered to be semi-wild. It can become any other card in the deck, but only when it’s being used as a substitute to form straights, flushes, straight flushes, or royal flushes. Other than those four hands, the joker can only be used as an ace to form pairs, three of a kind, and so on.
Once you’ve taken a look at your seven cards, the real fun begins. In Pai Gow Poker, the objective is to arrange your seven cards into a pair of poker hands, one comprised of five cards, and the other comprised of two.
Making things a bit more difficult, in Pai Gow Poker your five-card hand must outrank your two-card hand. So putting a pair of aces as your two-card holding, while leaving only a pair of kings in the five-card hand, isn’t allowed.
Five and Two Card Hands
For the five-card hand, standard hand hierarchy rules apply, except for one odd provision: in this game, the A 2 3 4 5 wheels straight is considered to be the second-best straight, trailing only Broadway, or A K Q J 10. Other than that, though, five-card hands are ranked as you would expect from a normal game of poker, with one pair beating high card, two pairs beating one pair, and on up the list.
For the two-card hand, suits are irrelevant and the only distinction is whether or not you have a pair or no pair. A pair of aces is the strongest two-card hand in Pai Gow Poker.
Beating the Dealer
The goal here is to set your five-card and two-card hands in such a way that both hands have a decent shot at beating the dealer, who will also be setting their own seven cards in the same way. This might appear to be a simple proposition at first glance, but the beauty of Pai Gow Poker is that a certain level of card sense must be used to find the right balance in terms of hand strength.
To show you how the above steps would work in a real-world scenario, we will have an example hand of online Pai Gow Poker.
Consider All Cards
Let’s consider a seven-card hand which includes the 7 7 4 4 5 2 3, in this example hand no flushes are possible, so suits are irrelevant. Your first instinct may be to keep the pair of 7s with the pair of 4s in your five-card hand, in order to bring a strong two pair against the dealer. However, using this arrangement leaves the 2, 3, and 5 with which to work. No matter what you do now, your two-card hand will top out at five high, and will almost always result in a losing hand against the dealer’s two-card hand.
Better Overall Hands
Suppose instead you set your hands as follows: 7 7 5 3 2 and 4 4. In this scenario, you now have a pair of sevens in your five-card hand, and a pair of fours in your two-card hand, giving you a much better chance to notch a winner in both hands.
Knowing the best way to set your hands can feel like art at times, lending online Pai Gow Poker the same sense of intrigue as the traditional tile-based game.
Three Outcomes in Online Pai Gow Poker
With only a single ante bet in play per hand, the possible outcomes for an online Pai Gow Poker hand are described below:
Whenever your hand is identical to the dealer’s hand, which usually occurs in the two-card hand portion of the game when identical pairs are shown down, the tie always goes to the dealer.
While you have the freedom to use your imagination while setting your five and two-card hands, the dealer will be bound by the house way. This term is taken from traditional Pai Gow, and it simply refers to a preset system of rules which the dealer must follow while setting their hands. Think of the house way in the same fashion as the blackjack table rules which dictate when the dealer must hit or stand.
Best Places to Play Pai Gow Poker Online
The list below highlights several of the best online poker sites that accept US players, as well as international players that offer online Pai Gow poker. Remember to read the casino review to make sure it offers you the best experience possible. Simply sign up, make a deposit, and you can start to play Pai Gow Poker online for real money.
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A Winning Hand and Commission
When you win both hands as you play Pai Gow Poker online, the return on your wager will be even money, minus a 5 percent commission charged by the house. So when you wager $5 and both of your hands overcome the dealer, you’ll receive $4.75 back. This can create some confusion for new players, but after a few hands, you won’t really notice the discrepancy.
A wager of $20 makes the 5% commission $1 so many players bet in $20 increments. Online casinos can simply make commission deductions on any wager and round off to the nearest cent. It’s not as simple in land-based casinos. Occasionally you can find a land-based casino that will let you either bet $21 and award you $20 when you win or at the least let you give them a $1 chip in exchange for $20 when you win.
The commission is used to create the house edge by which casinos turn a profit from table games. Without it, Pai Gow Poker would essentially be a player-favorable game. Even with this commission in place, however, the house edge for Pai Gow Poker online stands at just 1.46 percent, making it one of the best bets in any online casino.
Land-based versions of Pai Gow Poker also allow players to wager against one another, by acting as the banker, but online casinos are simply a one on one affair between you and the dealer.
Online Pai Gow Poker Game Variations
Online Pai Gow Poker has gotten so popular that there are now a few variations of the card game that players can try out for themselves.
Pai Gow Poker Software Providers
These are some of the major software providers which include a version of online Pai Gow poker within their platforms:
Online Pai Gow Poker Strategy
When playing Pai Gow Poker online, the name of the game is balance. If you always stack the best five cards to form your five-card hand, while leaving the lowly leftovers to the two-card hand, you’ll spend your session pushing the vast majority of pots. This is why using optimal Pai Gow Poker strategy is important.
In order to beat the dealer on both ends, and actually collect some winnings, you’ll need to figure out the optimal arrangement of your seven cards. In other words, before setting your hand, ask yourself which combination gives you the best shot at forming two strong hands.
Practice Pai Gow Poker Strategy
For the most part, this decision will become second nature after a few dozen hands of online Pai Gow Poker. To get the hang of things without risking any of your hard-earned money during the lesson, you can always try the free online Pai Gow Poker version of the game at most casinos.
By using this as a practice tool, you can experiment with various ways to set your hands. It can be even more helpful to chart your results, tracking wins, and losses as you go. Soon enough, the tricks of the trade will reveal themselves, and you’ll have an innate sense of how to set your hands.
The majority of seven-card hands you’ll be dealt with will be straightforward in terms of the possibilities offered to you. If you have one pair only, along with five other non-connected cards, that pair will always go in the five-card hand. When you have straights or flushes in play, those hands will also be automatically set in the five-card hand, with the remaining two cards going to your two-card hand by default.
The truly difficult decisions in Pai Gow Poker online come when you receive two pairs within your seven-card hand. When you see the 10 10 6 6 A 4 3, for example, deciding whether or not to keep the two pair intact for your five-card hand, or split it off to the two-card hand, can be daunting, to say the least.
Famed gambling author Stanford Wong tackles the two pair conundrum in his seminal book Optimal Strategy for Pai Gow Poker, constructing detailed charts to assess all two pair possibilities. Essentially, Wong’s work is based on assessing the other three cards in your seven-card hand and using those to determine whether or not you should keep the two pairs intact, or split it and use a pair for your two-card hand.
Because the mathematics behind Wong’s work is intricate and dense, the Ed Collins site should be consulted to find visual breakdowns, examples, and tables. These depict the optimal strategy for playing two pairs in online Pai Gow Poker.
Pai Gow Poker History
The ancient Chinese gambling game of Pai Gow poker has been played for centuries, eventually giving rise to offshoots like dominoes and even baccarat.
Traditional Pai Gow is based on players arranging their set of tiles to form both a front and a back-hand while hoping to outrank the dealer’s two hands and collect on their wager. From the intricate set of 32 tiles to the complexities of setting both hands optimally, Pai Gow is widely considered to be one of the most mysterious and difficult to master games in any casino. While players with Asian roots consider Pai Gow a staple, many Westerners are scared off by the game’s byzantine rules and unfamiliar terminology.
Online Pai Gow Poker Created
In 1985 the owner of California’s Bell Card Club, Sam Torosian sought to combine Pai Gow’s overwhelming appeal to Asian players with a game Americans could understand. The result of Torosian’s tinkering was online Pai Gow Poker, a hybrid table game that combines elements of traditional Pai Gow poker with a more recognizable set of tools: the standard 52-card deck of playing cards.
As Torosian tells the tale, a Filipino player strolling through the card club made passing mention of a Chinese card game known as puy soy. In that game, players are dealt 13 cards and must arrange them into three poker hands, which are then compared with the dealer’s trio of hands to determine a winner. By reducing the number of cards from 13 to seven, and incorporating poker’s standard hand hierarchy, Pai Gow Poker was born.
When Torosian infamously neglected to file a patent claim on his invention, competing casinos seized the opportunity and began running their own Pai Gow Poker games. Over the next three decades, Torosian’s invention spread like wildfire, becoming a staple of land-based casinos like traditional Pai Gow had before. To learn more about Torosian’s invention of Pai Gow Poker, check out this 2002 profile of the gaming entrepreneur published by the Los Angeles Times.