EZ Pai Gow Poker

EZ Pai Gow Poker logoThe hybrid table game known as EZ Pai Gow Poker was designed by casino game manufacturer DEQ Systems Corporation.

The game made its debut in October of 2009 with a two table installation at the Barona Resort & Casino in San Diego, California, and since that time, EZ Pai Gow Poker has become a veritable sensation among casino gamblers.

DEQ Systems Corporation maintains offices in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Levis, Quebec, Canada, and the company provides casino game servicing to over 300 casino properties in 30 countries worldwide. Games like EZ Baccarat, Wild Rank Poker, and Player’s Choice 21 round out the company’s table game portfolio.

As you may have suspected, EZ Pai Gow Poker is a variation on the classic game of Pai Gow Poker. With that said, readers who may be unfamiliar with the rules of original Pai Gow Poker are best served by heading over to our main Pai Gow Poker page in order to learn about the base game. Once you have the hang of things, check back here to see how EZ Pai Gow Poker expands on the original.

Getting its Roots from Pai Gow

Pai Gow Poker game logoAny casino table game with “Pai Gow Poker” as part of its name represents a further variation on an even older gambling pursuit: the ancient Chinese gambling game of pai gow. Played with distinctive tiles, similar to dominoes, pai gow is typically played by those hailing from Asian backgrounds, and thus tables can be found in most major casinos around the world.

The tiles have been replaced by standard playing cards in EZ Pai Gow Poker, but other than that, the underlying concept of both games remains the same: begin with seven cards before arranging them into a pair of hands, the five-card “high” hand and the two-card “low” hand. In order to make things easier, EZ Pai Gow Poker also ditches two other traditional elements of the game: the 5 percent commission charged to winning wagers, and the use of “player banking” to run the game.

As a result, many real money poker games present a more enjoyable gameplay experience, at least for the general public, as more time can be spent actually playing hands, rather than tending to the commission accounting and player banking tasks.

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Take a Chance and Play

If you’re interested in learning the ropes of EZ Pai Gow Poker, this page was written with the true beginner in mind. We’ll begin with a detailed walkthrough designed to introduce you to the rules and gameplay setup, including a description of the available wagers and pay out schemes, along with explanations on the ways in which EZ Pai Gow Poker plays differently from ordinary Pai Gow Poker. After that, we’ve compiled a useful guide to finding the game in your nearest casino, before concluding with an introduction to the proper strategy you can use to excel.

Rules and How to Play

This was mentioned in the introduction, but EZ Pai Gow Poker follows the same rules and structure as original Pai Gow Poker, so you should take the time to study that game first before branching out to this exciting new format.

Game Overview

EZ Pai Gow Poker is played using a standard 52 card deck of playing cards, plus a single joker card which creates a 53 card deck.

In EZ Pai Gow Poker, this joker card acts as a “semi-wild” card, which means it can be used in the following ways: as an ace; or as any card which will complete a straight, a flush, a straight flush, or a royal flush.

Basic Hand Rankings

Before we move on, readers who might not be well-versed in the traditional poker hand hierarchy can review the list of poker hand rankings used in EZ Pai Gow Poker below:

  • Royal Flush: 10 J Q K A, all in the same suit
  • Straight Flush: any five card straight (4 5 6 7 8), all in the same suit
  • Four of a Kind: four of the same card rank (6 6 6 6 X)
  • Full House: three of a kind AND one pair (7 7 7 4 4)
  • Flush: any five cards all in the same suit (2h 4h 8h Jh Ah)
  • Straight: any string of five consecutive cards (4 5 6 7 8 or 9 10 J Q K)*
  • Three of a Kind: three of the same card rank (9 9 9 X X)
  • Two Pair: (5 5 Q Q X)
  • One Pair: (J J X X X)
*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.

Playing EZ Pai Gow Poker

Step #1: Starting the Round

The game begins with players placing a single mandatory ante wager of their choosing, so long as the amount meets or exceeds the table minimum. Then, the dealer will pass out seven cards face down to each player, before dealing seven cards face down to themselves. All players then take a moment to examine their seven hole cards, before “setting” their five cards and two-card poker hands.

Step #2: Setting up Your Two Card Hands

For the sake of Pai Gow Poker and its related variants, the only two-card poker hands you can make are “pair” or “no pair.” No-pair hands are ranked by the highest card, while paired hands follow the standard rankings (2s are lowest, followed by 3s, and so on through to As).

The process of setting these two hands is pivotal, and the primary rule to keep in mind is that the five-card “high” hand must outrank the two-card “low” hand.

Step #3: Dealer Shows Their Cards

After each player at the table has set their hands, which remain face down through this point, the dealer will then turn over their own seven-card combination before setting their “high” and “low” hands. When setting their hands, the dealer won’t be relying on their own card sense or skill, however, and instead, they must utilize a predetermined system of hand setting known as the “House Way.” For those unfamiliar with Pai Gow Poker concepts, the House Way can be equated to the “soft 17” rule and other guidelines blackjack dealers must follow at the tables. Even when a dealer suspects that hitting on a soft 17 may be the best play, every casino enforces its own house rules regarding whether or not they must hit or stand in this scenario.

Step #4: House Way Rules

The various guidelines which make up the House Way are numerous and complicated, and for the vast majority of EZ Pai Gow Poker players, knowing exactly why the dealer sets their hands in a particular way isn’t really necessary. The gist of it, though, is that the House Way confines dealers to disciplined, straightforward plays, and for the most part they will be playing as close to correctly as possible.

One other caveat about the House Way to keep in mind is that players can also have always asked the dealer to set their hand. In this case, the dealer will examine your seven cards before applying the same House Way rules to form your “high” and “low” hands. When in doubt, take advantage of this move, but for the most part, you should be attempting to play your own game based on sound strategy and creativity.

After the dealer has set their “high” and “low” hands, they will then turn both of your hands face up. Your “high” hand will be compared to the dealer’s “high” hand, while your “low” hand goes up against the dealer’s equivalent.

Step #5: Winning Against the Dealer

In order to win in this game, each of your hands must outrank the dealer’s counterpart, and when you do this, you’ll earn an even money payout on your initial ante wager.

What separates EZ Pai Gow Poker from the original form of the game is that even money payout. Under the rules of regular Pai Gow Poker, the house charges a commission of 5 percent on every payout you receive. EZ Pai Gow Poker foregoes this commission in the name of making the game more streamlined and efficient.

Of course, you only get paid out when both of your hands turn up winners. On occasions when just one of your hands outranks the dealer’s equivalent, while the other hand loses, your initial ante bet will be returned as a push.

Step #6: Getting Paid or Not

When the dealer beats you with both hands, your ante bet will be claimed by the house.

In another crucial rule adjustment, one which was incorporated to return casinos a portion of the edge given up by removing the commission, your bet will be returned as an automatic push whenever the dealer plays exactly Queen high as their five-card “high” hand.

If you have placed any of the side bets during the round, you can follow the guides below to see what you have won.

Step #7: Start Over

When all winning wagers have been settled, and all losing bets scooped by the house, the dealer will reshuffle the deck and begin a new hand.

EZ Pai Gow Side Bets

Queen’s Dragon Bet

EZ Pai Gow Poker also offers several side bets to supplement the base game, and one of these relies on this “Queen high ties” rule. The Queen’s Dragon side bet lets players wager on this exact scenario before each hand, so on occasions when the dealer produces exactly Queen high as their “high” hand, you’ll receive a payout of either 45 to 1 or 50 to 1 on your money.

Dynasty Bonus Bet

Another side bet found in EZ Pai Gow Poker is known as the Dynasty Bonus, which is based on the best five-card poker hand among your seven cards. For the Dynasty Bonus side bet, you don’t need to set your “high” hand with these five cards in order to win.

Payouts on winning Dynasty Bonus bets are awarded according to one of the following two common pay tables (all payouts are awarded on a “to one” basis):

A-5 Straight Flush + Natural AQ Suited2,000 to 12,000 to 1
Natural 7-Card Straight Flush2,000 to 12,000 to 1
Wild 7-Card Straight Flush1,000 to 11,000 to 1
Royal Flush + Natural AQ Suited1,000 to 11,000 to 1
Five Aces500 to 1500 to 1
Royal Flush150 to 1120 to 1
A-5 Straight Flush120 to 1120 to 1
Straight Flush50 to 150 to 1
Four of a Kind25 to 125 to 1
Full House5 to 15 to 1
Flush4 to 14 to 1
Three of a Kind3 to 13 to 1
Straight2 to 12 to 1
All OtherLossLoss

Bonus Side Bet

The Bonus Bet side bet is also based on the combined strength of your best five cards, and payouts are awarded on a “to one” basis according to the following pay table:

Natural 7-Card Straight Flush8,000 to 1
Royal Flush + Natural AQ Suited2,000 to 1
Wild 7-Card Straight Flush1,000 to 1
Five Aces400 to 1
Royal Flush150 to 1
Straight Flush50 to 1
Four of a Kind25 to 1
Full House5 to 1
Flush4 to 1
Three of a Kind3 to 1
Straight2 to 1
All OtherLoss

Red/Black Bet

The final side bet found in EZ Pai Gow Poker is known as the Red/Black bet, and you’ll be wagering on whether the majority of your seven cards are either red or black. The payout scheme for the Red/Black side bet can be found below:

75 to 1
4 to 61 to 1
0 to 3Loss

Best Places to Play EZ Pai Gow Poker

With a game like EZ Pai Gow Poker, which has spread like wildfire throughout the casino industry since its introduction in 2009, chances are your favorite venue has a few tables on site.

One major casino corporation which is sure to offer the game in its associated properties is Caesars Entertainment, which owns and operates nearly 40 casinos and resorts worldwide.

Caesars Entertainment Casinos

To help you find the nearest Caesars Entertainment affiliated casino, take a look at the state by state breakdown below:

  • Harrah’s Phoenix Ak Chin
  • Harrah’s Resort Southern California
  • Harrah’s Joliet
  • Harrah’s Metropolis
  • Horseshoe Hammond
  • Horseshoe Southern Indiana
  • Horseshoe Council Bluffs
  • Harrah’s Council Bluffs
  • Harrah’s Louisiana Downs
  • Horseshoe Bossier City
  • Harrah’s New Orleans
  • Horseshoe Baltimore
  • Harrah’s Gulf Coast
  • Tunica Roadhouse
  • Horseshoe Tunica
  • Harrah’s North Kansas City
  • Harrah’s Reno
  • Harrah’s Lake Tahoe
  • Harvey’s Lake Tahoe
  • Nobu Hotel at Caesars Palace
  • The Cromwell Las Vegas
  • The LINQ Las Vegas
  • Bally’s Las Vegas
  • Caesars Palace Las Vegas
  • Harrah’s Las Vegas
  • Flamingo Las Vegas
  • Rio All Suite Hotel & Casino
  • Paris Las Vegas
  • Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino
  • Harrah’s Laughlin
New Jersey
  • Bally’s Atlantic City
  • Caesars Atlantic City
  • Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City
North Carolina
  • Harrah’s Cherokee
  • Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River
Ontario, Canada
  • Caesars Windsor
  • Harrah’s Philadelphia

Online Casinos

Currently, no online adaptations of EZ Pai Gow Poker have been created for play via the internet, but as that industry continues to expand and add titles, the game could soon be playable via your favorite online casino. Be sure to pick one of our recommended online casinos and keep checking for the game’s availability.

Strategic Considerations for EZ Pai Gow Poker

Betting Strategy iconAs far as analyzing the strategy needed to play any form of Pai Gow Poker, the EZ variety or otherwise, a game with so many possible poker hand permutations and player decisions represents quite the challenge.

Nonetheless, renowned casino game theorist and mathematician Michael Shackleford, the man behind the curtain at the Wizard of Odds website, has applied his industry-leading analytical powers to crack the Pai Gow Poker code.

The best place to begin is with Shackleford’s Simple Pai Gow Poker Strategy, which manages to distill thousands of possibilities into a single page of hand setting guidelines. In order to apply this chart to EZ Pai Gow Poker, pay no attention to the parts mentioning commission or player banking, because both ideas are absent in this new take version of the traditional format.

More Advanced Strategies

After you’ve committed the basic information found on the Simple Strategy Chart to memory, you will inevitably want to explore the game’s more advanced strategic theories. Shackleford has all the bases covered, as usual, so spend some time studying his comprehensive Pai Gow Poker strategy to learn how the experts approach every possible hand setting scenario. Shackleford is careful to show his work, so you’ll be able to examine the numbers for yourself to see exactly why he recommends one play over another in the closest spots.

In terms of assessing the house edge against you when playing EZ Pai Gow Poker, a rate of 2.47 percent makes this game a relative bargain when compared to other Pai Gow Poker variants. Traditional Pai Gow Poker, for example, offers an overall house edge of 2.6892 percent, while the game known as Commission Free Pai Gow Poker carries a house edge of 2.51 percent.

OUSC Recommendation

Simply put, as a Pai Gow Poker player, the EZ variety of the game represents the most player-friendly format of the game in any casino, so you’ll always be better served by taking your money to the EZ Pai Gow Poker tables in lieu of the alternatives.

Stay Away from Side Bets

Caution iconAs far as the numerous side bets available on EZ Pai Gow Poker are concerned, for the most part, the sound strategy suggests passing on these high risk, high reward wagers.

The Dynasty Bonus side bet, for example, is a terrible bet for players with a house edge of 8.16 percent. The option to take Protection is a little better, with a house edge of 7.01 percent, but this is still much too high to be played consistently, if at all. Finally, the Queen’s Dragon side bet is the worst of the bunch, offering players an unbeatable house edge of 18.84 percent.

If you simply can’t resist the side bet action, stick to the Red/Black side bet, as this simple proposition offers players a reasonable house edge rate of just 2.68 percent.

About the Author
Neil White

Neil White - Editor in Chief

His drive and passion for casinos and the most popular games keep him in touch with the latest news and interests to provide the best for his readers.