Commission Free Pai Gow Poker
Credit for the invention of a hybrid table game known as Commission Free Pai Gow Poker goes to casino game designer Daniel C. Lubin.
As a former table games dealer working at the Stations Casino in Henderson, Nevada, Lubin was already involved in the casino gaming industry when inspiration struck for a new form of the popular Pai Gow Poker concept. By removing the house commission of 5 percent charged to players on winning wagers, and slightly modifying a few other rules to compensate, Lubin created a new take on a decades-old table game format.
Today, Lubin leads the Table Game Development department at Galaxy Gaming, the company behind games like Cajun Stud and Emperor’s Challenge.
Commission Free Pai Gow Poker is obviously an offshoot of original Pai Gow Poker, so if you’re unfamiliar with the rules of that game, we recommend heading over to our main Pai Gow Poker page to brush up on the basics. Once you’ve learned the ropes, return to this page to see how Commission Free Pai Gow Poker stacks up to its predecessor.
All forms of Pai Gow Poker are themselves derivatives of an ancient Chinese gambling game that uses tiles, known as pai gow. That game is steeped in tradition and quite complex, at least to Westerners, but you can still find pai gow tables in most major casinos.
Cards for Tiles
Unlike Pai Gow Tiles in Vegas, when it comes to Commission Free Pai Gow Poker, the tiles from pai gow have been replaced with standard playing cards, but the objective remains the same: arranging seven cards into the best combination of five-card and two-card hands. Commission Free Pai Gow Poker also removes the role of player banking which forms the basis of original Pai Gow Poker, and the result is a much more streamlined and easily understandable gameplay experience.
This page was written as an introduction to the game of Commission Free Pai Gow Poker, so we’ll cover everything for the true beginner. You’ll find a detailed rundown of the rules and gameplay setup, including a description of the available wagers and payout scheme, and explanations as to how Commission Free Pai Gow Poker differs from ordinary Pai Gow Poker. Next up is a guide to locating the game, followed by a primer on odds and proper strategy.
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Rules and How to Play
As we already mentioned, Commission Free Pai Gow Poker is based on the same rules and structure as Pai Gow Poker, so take the time to read up on the base game before turning your attention to this variant.
Commission Free Pai Gow Poker is played with a standard 52 card deck of playing cards, with a single joker card added to create a 53 card deck.
That joker card acts as a “semi-wild” card, meaning it may be used as an ace, or when completing a straight, a flush, a straight flush, or a royal flush.
Poker Hand Ranks
If you’re unfamiliar with the traditional poker hand hierarchy, you can review the list of possible poker hands in Commission Free Pai Gow Poker below:
Steps to Playing Commission Free Pai Gow Poker
Commission Free Pai Gow Poker includes several side bets in addition to the base game, one of which concerns this “9 high ties” rule. Known as the Tiger 9 side bet, players can wager that this exact scenario will occur before each hand, and when the dealer does happen to show down a 9 high as their “low” hand, you’ll win 30 to 1 on your money.
The other side bets in Commission Free Pai Gow Poker are known as the Fortune side bet and the Fortune Progressive side bet.
Fortune Side Bet Payouts
The Fortune side bet is based on the combined strength of your seven cards, and payouts are awarded according to one of the following seven common pay tables (all payouts are awarded on a “to one” basis.
The Fortune Progressive side bet is also based on the combines strength of your seven cards, and payouts are awarded on a “to one” basis according to the following pay table:
Best Places to Play Commission Free Pai Gow Poker
Details on exact locations for Commission Free Pai Gow Poker tables are difficult to pin down, but the game is plentiful enough to be found in several states across the U.S.
Below you can find a list of brick and mortar casino properties located in or around Las Vegas, Nevada which are known to carry Commission Free Pai Gow Poker at this time:
The game has yet to be adapted for play via online poker platforms, although this may change at some point down the road.
Strategic Considerations for Commission Free Pai Gow Poker
When it comes to the strategy of Pai Gow Poker, the Commission Free variety or otherwise, the game’s sheer complexity makes boiling things down into a few hard and fast rules next to impossible.
With that said, acclaimed casino game theorist and mathematician extraordinaire Michael Shackleford, who runs the invaluable gambler resource known as Wizard of Odds, has taken the time to crunch the numbers and devise several forms of strategy for setting your cards.
Basic Strategy Table
The first place to start is Shackleford’s Simple Pai Gow Poker Strategy, which condenses his more expansive strategic advice into one page’s worth of guidelines.
To adapt this chart for use in Commission Free Pai Gow Poker, simply ignore any mention of the commission or player banking, as both concepts are removed in this updated version of the classic game.
Once you’ve mastered the basics, you may prefer to move on to a more advanced method of setting your hands, and once again Shackleford has you covered with his comprehensive Pai Gow Poker strategy. Here you’ll find detailed breakdowns of every possible scenario, along with explanations on the mathematical basis for each play.
House Edge & Bets
When it comes to the house edge you’ll be facing when playing Commission Free Pai Gow Poker, the 2.51 percent rate is actually quite reasonable. In fact, compared to the 2.6892 percent house edge offered by traditional Pai Gow Poker using a commission, the Commission Free variety of the game actually presents a more favorable bet from the player’s perspective.
As for the game’s side bets, the Tiger 9 side bet carries a house edge of 17.50 percent, placing it squarely among the worst of the “sucker bets” found in every casino.
Both the Fortune and the Fortune Progressive side bets have variable house edge rates depending on the house rules and jackpot amount, but in any case, they both sit in excess of 11 percent most of the time. Once again, this represents a bad bet by any definition, so the sound strategy for Commission Free Pai Gow Poker dictates sticking to the base game only.