High Low Pai Gow Poker
The origins of High Low Pai Gow Poker could be tracked back to 1997. In that year, major casino game manufacturer Bally Gaming Inc. filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to protect a casino game concept described as “Pai gow poker with auxiliary high / low game.”
Although it’s unclear whether this conceptual design marks the exact invention of the hybrid table game also known as Hi-Low Pai Gow Poker, it stands to reason that both games are connected.
High Low Pai Gow Poker first appeared in brick and mortar casinos around 2010, landing a debut placement at the Luxor Las Vegas in August of that year. Following this launch phase, however, the game appears to have faded away while failing to garner a wide player base. At this time, searches for High Low Pai Gow Poker tables turn up no current results.
As the name suggests, High Low Pai Gow Poker is an offshoot of the classic casino game Pai Gow Poker. Accordingly, if you haven’t had much experience playing regular Pai Gow Poker, we recommend heading over to our main Pai Gow Poker page first to give yourself a quick refresher course. When you’ve acquainted yourself with Pai Gow Poker basics, return to this page to see how Hi-Low Pai Gow Poker expands on its predecessor.
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Chinese Poker Variation
The growing family of casino games containing the words “Pai Gow Poker” includes several variations on the ancient Chinese gambling game known as pai gow. Using traditional game tiles which look much like modern dominoes, pai gow is most commonly played by gamblers with Asian backgrounds. This means that you can find a pai gow pit in most major casinos all over the world.
High Low Pai Gow Poker, like the other Pai Gow Poker versions, replaces the classic tiles with playing cards. Other than this adjustment, however, the fundamental structure of both games has been preserved. Players start with seven cards, before dividing them to form a pair of hands: the five card “high” hand and the two card “low” hand. Players at the table take turns “banking” the game, along with the dealer, adding another dimension to the already complex gameplay setup.
As the Pai Gow Poker family of games continues to gain wider popularity among Western gamblers, interest in this unique fusion of Asian and American gambling has grown by leaps and bounds. If you’ve found yourself standing near the excited din of the High-Low Pai Gow Poker table, but weren’t quite ready to dive into the action yourself, this page was written to give you all the preparation you need.
Try the Game Out
Here you’ll find a detailed walkthrough on the game’s rules and procedures, including the similarities and differences between Hi-Low Pai Gow Poker and the original game, and a description of the base wagers, side bets, and corresponding payouts. Next up is a guide to locating tables near you, followed by a primer on strategic tips you can use to get a leg up on the competition.
Rules and How to Play
As discussed in the introductory section, High Low Pai Gow Poker follows the same rules and structure as regular Pai Gow Poker, so it’s important to get a firm grasp on that game first, before branching out to alternative formats.
High Low Pai Gow Poker is played using a standard 52 card deck of playing cards, which is supplemented by a single joker card to create a 53 card deck.
In all forms of Pai Gow Poker, the High Low variety included, the joker card serves as a “semi-wild” card, meaning it can be used to improve your hand in the following ways: as an ace; or as any card needed to complete a straight, a flush, a straight flush, or a royal flush.
Poker Hand Rankings
If the hand descriptions above left you a bit confused, take a moment to review the traditional poker hand hierarchy below:
|Royal Flush||Broadway straight (A K Q J 10) in the same suit|
|Straight Flush||Five consecutive cards (9 8 7 6 5) in the same suit|
|Four of a Kind||Four of same card (Q Q Q Q A)|
|Full House||Three of a kind + one pair (Q Q Q A A)|
|Flush||Five cards in the same suit (2h 6h 9h Kh Ah)|
|Straight||Five consecutive cards (6 5 4 3 2)*|
|Three of a Kind||Three of same card (Q Q Q 2 A)|
|Two Pair||Two pairs of the same card (Q Q A A 2)|
|One Pair||One pair of the same card (Q Q 4 3 2)|
|*For straights in Pai Gow Poker, 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 High Low Pai Gow Poker
Step #1: Starting the Game
A hand of Hi-Low Pai Gow Poker begins when players put up their wagers. With the game’s banking concept, you can bet against the dealer or fellow players at the table.
Step #2: Seven Cards Dealt
Next, the dealer will distribute seven cards face down to each player, along with seven cards face down to themselves. Now you’ll need to examine your seven hole cards, before “setting” them into five card and two card poker hands.
Step #3: Two Possible Poker Hands
When playing Pai Gow Poker or any of its related offshoots, the only two card poker hands possible are “pair” or “no pair.” Paired hands simply follow the standard rankings (2s are lowest, followed by 3s, and so on through to As), while unpaired hands are ranked according to the highest card (A K beats A Q; K 5 beats Q 9, etc.)
How you decide to set these two hands provides the game’s pivotal decision point, and the most important rule to remember is that your five-card “high” hand must outrank your two card “low” hand.
Step #4: Dealer Reveals Their Hand
Once all players present have set their hands – which are still kept face down at this point in the proceedings – the dealer will then reveal their own seven card combination and follow a hand setting procedure known as the “House Way.”
Step #5: House Way
If you’ve never played Pai Gow Poker before, the House Way can be a bit complicated at first, but it’s easiest to equate this system to the “soft 17” rule and other guidelines applied to blackjack dealers. Dealers in that game have no real decisions to make, as they must always hit until they reach a predetermined hand total based on the house rules.
A complex system of guidelines is used to form the House Way, and most casinos have their own specific House Way in place. For the most part, you don’t really need to know how these systems work, as the dealer will always set their hands according to the standard “best” play given their seven card combination.
The House Way is important, though, because as you’ll soon discover, your own hand can be set according to the House Way when you make a particular wager.
Step #6: Comparing Hands
Once the dealer has set their own “high” and “low” hands, the next step is to turn both of your set hands face up. The “high” hand will then be compared to the dealer’s “high” hand, while your “low” hand goes up, rated against the dealer’s “low” hand.
The rules above are common to both Pai Gow Poker and the High Low Pai Gow Poker game, but the latter introduces three additional wagering options for players to choose from: High, Low, and Both.
Step #7: Betting High, Low, or Both
- When betting on High, you’re simply betting that your own “high” hand will outrank the dealer’s equivalent “high” hand. Normally, in Pai Gow Poker, you must beat the dealer with both of your hands in order to claim a win, but in High Low Pai Gow Poker, this extra betting option allows you earn a win when just your High hand is superior.
- When betting on Low, the reverse is true, so you’ll be trying to beat the dealer’s “low” hand with your own.
- When betting on Both, the usual system used in traditional Pai Gow Poker is applied, so you’ll need to beat the dealer’s “high” and “low” hands.
Adding to the intrigue, you can place multiple wagers on the High and Low bets during the same hand. But when you do, wagering an unequal amount on the High and Low bets mean you’ll have to set your two hands according to the House Way.
Step #8: Getting Paid
With the game’s revised betting system, players now have the option to wager that only one of their two set hands will prevail over the dealer’s equivalent. This change was made to remedy the biggest complaint levied against basic Pai Gow Poker: the prevalence of chopped or pushed pots.
Essentially, in Pai Gow Poker, most hands will end with only one of your set hands beating the dealer’s, and the other losing. In this case, your bet is returned as a push, and the game continues with no losses or gains incurred. Of course, this can make for a casual and less volatile gambling experience, but for players who crave the action of definitive wins or losses, pushing the majority of hands during a session can be a bore.
High Low Pai Gow Poker solves this dilemma by letting players wager on just one of their set hands or the other. And if you prefer the old way of doing things, you can just bet on Both and play the game according to traditional rules.
Best Places to Play High Low Pai Gow Poker
Unfortunately, for fans of this Pai Gow Poker offshoot, the High Low variety of the game appears to have vanished sometime after its 2010 debut at the Luxor.
A thorough search of industry databases and resources returns no current placements, and as of today, High Low Pai Gow Poker seems to be a thing of the past. A website dedicated to marketing the game has allowed its domain name to expire, signaling that Hi Low Pai Gow Poker is no longer active within the increasingly competitive casino game industry.
Of course, casinos are constantly adjusting to market conditions, and many smaller venues simply don’t update their websites that often. With this in mind, you may be able to locate a few holdover High Low Pai Gow Poker tables at your local casino or tribal gaming establishment, so place a few phone calls and hope for the best. You can also pick one of our recommended online casinos and keep checking with them.
Strategic Considerations for High Low Pai Gow Poker
When it comes to analyzing the strategic elements found in any form of Pai Gow Poker, the High Low variety or any other, a game offering so many poker hand possibilities and player decisions poses an enormous challenge.
Thankfully, experienced casino game theorist and mathematician Michael Shackleford, who serves the gambling community through his Wizard of Odds website, spent the time necessary to devise a proper strategy for setting your hands in Pai Gow Poker.
Simple Pai Gow Poker Strategy
Shackleford’s Simple Pai Gow Poker Strategy boils the game’s seemingly endless array of options down to a single page of hand setting advice.
This strategy chart is fully applicable to the hand setting process in High Low Pai Gow Poker, as are the sections covering banking procedure.
If you’ve invested the time to burn the Simple Strategy Chart into your memory banks, the time will soon come to begin exploring advanced strategic approaches. Once again Shackleford has done yeoman’s work to devise an even stronger set of hand setting strategies designed for advanced players, so check out his comprehensive Pai Gow Poker strategy page to see how elite players size up each possibility.
As far as strategies which are exclusive to the three-tiered betting system found in High Low Pai Gow Poker, Shackleford recommends following a simple set of rules to govern your play.
- When you are engaging in player banking on a regular basis, it’s best to play the Both bet exclusively, while assuming that the dealer will always bet the same amount against you as you previously bet against them.
- However, for several valid reasons, many players simply don’t feel comfortable banking. If you’re one of them, the best approach is to take the High bet only.
Decision Making Odds
In order to visualize this advice, and the reasoning behind it, take a look at the table below:
High Low Pai Gow Poker Return Table
The figures above represent your expected return, but for readers more familiar with the concept of house edge, simply slide the decimal place two spots to the right and remove the minus sign.
- Thus, when you choose to bank the game regularly, the bet which carries the lowest house edge is the Both bet, at 0.198 percent.
- When you decline to bank the game, the lowest house edge available is on the High bet, with a 2.537 percent rate.
- Finally, if you alternate between sessions of banking and no banking, the Both bet offers the best odds with a house edge of 1.463 percent.
Comparing House Edge and Variants
With each of these “best” bets given your particular circumstances, you’ll actually enjoy a reasonable house edge rate which is either better or right on par with other Pai Gow Poker variants.
When playing traditional Pai Gow Poker, for example, the overall house edge stands at 2.6892 percent. The game of EZ Pai Gow Poker, on the other hand, offers players an overall house edge of 2.47 percent, while Commission Free Pai Gow Poker carries a house edge of 2.51 percent.