Commission Free Pai Gow Poker

Commission Free Pai Gow Poker logoCredit 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.

Game’s Roots

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 which 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

Pai Gow tiles and cardsWhen 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.

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Game Overview

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.

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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:

Royal Flush

Royal Flush

10 J Q K A, all in the same suit.

Straight Flush

Straight Flush

Any five card straight, all in the same suit.

Four of a Kind

Four of a Kind

Four cards of the same rank.

Full House

Full House

Three of a Kind AND One Pair.

Flush

Flush

Any five cards of the same suit.

Straight

Straight*

Any string of five consecutive cards.

Three of a Kind

Three of a Kind

Three cards of the same rank.

Two Pair

Two Pair

Two sets of two cards, each set having the same rank.

One Pair

One Pair

Two cards of the same rank.

*For straights, the A 2 3 4 5 “wheel” straight is traditionally considered the second highest straight, trailing only the 10 J Q K A “Broadway” straight.
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Steps to Playing Commission Free Pai Gow Poker

#1 Once you’ve placed your mandatory ante wager, the dealer will then distribute seven cards face down to each player, along with seven cards face down to themselves. Each player then examines their seven cards, before “setting” their five card and two card poker hands.
#2 The only possible two card poker hands are “pair” or “no pair,” and when you do make a pair, the standard rankings are used (2s are lowest, followed by 3s, and so on through to As).

When setting both of your hands, the only thing to remember is the five card “high” hand must outrank the two card “low” hand.

#3 Once all players have set their hands, which are still left face down, the dealer will then reveal their own seven card holding and set their “high” and “low” hands. The dealer doesn’t actually decide how to set these hands, however, and instead relies on a predetermined system known as the “house way.” Think of the house way in the same light as the restrictions placed on blackjack dealers, who may want to hit a soft 17 on occasion, but are bound by the house rules to stand (in some casinos).
#4 The House Way is quite complex, and there’s really no need to explain the intricacies of how the dealer will play their hands, but you should know that they’ll be playing in the most standard, straightforward manner. As the player, you’re free to manage your two hands, however, you’d like, perhaps sacrificing a bit of strength from your “high” hand to improve the “low” hand. The dealer is bound by the House Way, though, and must stick strictly to the script at all times, even when a better play could be made.
#5 Players can also have the dealer set their hand for them, according to the House Way. This move should be reserved only for beginners, however, as much of the appeal of Commission Free Pai Gow Poker is thinking of creative ways to optimize your seven card holding into two potential winners in the “low” and the “high.”
#6 With the dealer’s “high” and “low” hands now set, they will then turn up each player’s pair of hands, while comparing the values to their own.
#7 Both your “high” hand and your “low” hand will be compared to their counterparts held by the dealer. When both of your hands outrank both of the dealer’s hands, your initial ante wager will be paid out at even money.

  • In normal Pai Gow Poker, a commission of 5 percent is deducted from each winning payout, but as the name suggests, Commission Free Pai Gow Poker removes this commission entirely.
  • When only one of your hands beats the dealer’s, with the other losing, your initial ante bet will be returned as a push.
  • When both of the dealer’s hands beat your own, you’ll lose the entire ante bet to the house.
#8 In another crucial rule adjustment, which was designed to return some of the edge the house sacrifices by abandoning the commission, your bet will be returned as an automatic push whenever the dealer plays exactly 9 high as their two card “low” hand.
#9 Once all winning wagers have been settled, and all losing bets claimed by the house, the dealer will reshuffle the deck and begin a new hand.
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Side Bets

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.

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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.

HAND Table 1 Table 2 Table 3 Table 4 Table 5 Table 6 Table 7
Natural 7-Card Straight Flush 5,000:1 8,000:1 5,000:1 2,500:1 5,000:1 5,000:1 8,000:1
Royal Flush + Royal Match 1,000:1 2,000:1 2,000:1 1,000:1 2,000:1 1,000:1 2,000:1
Wild 7-Card Straight Flush 750:1 1,000:1 1,000:1 750:1 1,000:1 500:1 1,000:1
Five Aces 250:1 400:1 400:1 250:1 400:1 300:1 400:1
Royal Flush 100:1 150:1 150:1 125:1 150:1 110:1 150:1
Straight Flush 50:1 50:1 50:1 50:1 50:1 45:1 50:1
Four of a Kind 20:1 25:1 25:1 25:1 25:1 25:1 25:1
Full House 5:1 5:1 5:1 5:1 5:1 5:1 5:1
Flush 4:1 4:1 4:1 4:1 4:1 4:1 4:1
Three of a Kind 3:1 3:1 3:1 3:1 3:1 3:1 3:1
Straight 2:1 2:1 2:1 2:1 2:1 2:1 2:1
Three Pair No Payout Loss Loss Loss Loss Loss Loss
All Other Loss Loss Loss Loss Loss Loss Loss

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:

HAND PAYOUT
7-Card Straight Flush 100% of Progressive Jackpot Meter
Royal Flush + Royal Match 50% of Progressive Jackpot Meter
7-Card Straight Flush with Joker 25% of Progressive Jackpot Meter
Five Aces 2500:1
Royal Flush 200:1
Straight Flush 100:1
Four of a Kind 75:1
Full House 6:1
All Other No Payout

Best Places to Play Commission Free Pai Gow Poker

Recommended iconDetails 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 Venetian Las Vegas
  • The Palazzo Las Vegas
  • Golden Nugget Las Vegas
  • Cannery Casino & Hotel
  • Boulder Station Hotel & Casino
  • Fiesta Henderson Hotel and Casino
  • Hooters Casino Hotel

The game has yet to be adapted for play via online casino 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.

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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 page. Here you’ll find detailed breakdowns of every possible scenario, along with explanations on the mathematical basis for each play.

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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.

Additional Resources