Pai Gow Poker Online — An Unusual Card Game with Thrilling Payouts
Poker is perhaps the most exciting gaming genre ever created. This card game is an irresistible combination of skill and luck, with plenty of variants played throughout the world. You can enjoy it casually with friends, enter online and real-life competitions, and even test your abilities in a head-to-head battle against the casino.
If you already know the classics like “Texas Hold’em” and “Omaha” and are looking for a different challenge, then Pai Gow poker online could become your new obsession. It’s not the most volatile poker out there, but its side bets often have incredible top rewards. In this review, you’ll learn everything about its rules, history, and how to adopt a proper strategy. If you already know how to play, the below list will show you the best gambling sites of today.
Explaining the Pai Gow Poker Rules
Pai Gow uses a standard single French deck that consists of 53 cards due to the inclusion of the joker. This version is always played against the casino, and up to six bettors can participate at the same time. However, it will mostly be you versus the house when playing online.
The Pai Gow poker rules dictate that each participant gets 7 cards per turn. You need to create two hands out of the cards you receive. The first hand is known as the “low” and always consists of two cards. The remaining five cards stay in the second hand, which is called the “high.”
When choosing how to form your hands, you need to remember that the low can’t have a better poker combination than the high. For example, if the seven cards you receive contain a pair of 5s and 7s, you can’t put the 7s in the low and form a high with the 5s. This makes the Pai Gow poker strategy super simple, and an online game will even forbid you from making this mistake. However, nobody will stop you from fouling in real-life casinos, as the error results in an automatic win for the house.
To win in Pai Gow, the two hands you create must beat the dealer’s two hands. If only one of your hands is victorious, then you have a push, and your money is returned. You lose when you have worse high and low positions than the house. The joker’s role is pivotal in the Pai Gow poker game. You can consider it as an ace that can also help you complete any straight or flush. An official term for this card is “bug,” but it’s also frequently described as a semi-wild.
Play Pai Gow Poker for Free with This Quick Guide
This dual-hand poker is prone to many tied results and won’t be harsh to your bankroll as a result. Conservative and prudent players like this trait, but you might not be charmed if you prefer faster and more volatile gameplay. What’s neat is that the online casinos on our list will allow you to try Pai Gow for free. If you’d like to know how, follow the steps outlined below:
- Go back to the beginning of the article and select an operator that offers Pai Gow poker online. We recommend 888casino for EU and UK residents and Slots.lv or Cherry Jackpot for US-based players.
- Once you create a registration, find the “table games” or “poker” tabs and locate this specific variant. We’ll be using 888casino’s “Fortune Pai Gow Poker” as an example.
- Start the title, then select a playing chip from the bottom of the table and put it on the designated area.
- Once ready, press “deal” to begin playing. Seven cards will be dealt on each side. 888casino’s version is quite neat, as it will automatically suggest how to split your hands according to the optimal Pai Gow poker strategy. Follow this advice or decide on your own, then click “split” to reveal the dealer’s cards.
- “Fortune Pai Gow” also has a special side bet with 11 different payouts. It grants low rewards for straights, three-of-a-kinds, and flushes but has a massive 8,000:1 payout if you land a seven-card straight flush. Its average return rate is lower than that of the base game, so we advise you to use it cautiously when wagering real cash.
Here’s Our Easy Pai Gow Poker Strategy
To maximize your results while playing this game online, you’ll have to follow the optimal strategy known as “the house way.” This is a term for how a specific game or operator arranges their high and low hands. There are small differences between individual products, but you can use this general approach to get good results. Here’s what to do based on the 7 cards you receive in a Pai Gow poker app:
- No Pair — When you only have single high cards, leave the best one in the high (5-card) hand, and place the 2nd and 3rd cards in terms of rank in the low (2-card) hand.
- Single Pair — Keep the pair in the high and put the two highest-ranking single cards in the low.
- Two Pair — Ideally, you’ll want the two pairs in the high hand while having a good card like a queen or above in the low. Still, there are situations in which it’s best to split the pairs:
- When the two pairs have a point total of 6 or less: Keep the two pairs only if you can put a queen or above in the low; otherwise, split them.
- From 7 to 11 points: You’ll get the best Pai Gow poker odds by playing a king or better in the low and keeping the two pairs in the 5-card hand. If that can’t happen — split.
- If the pairs are worth 12-16 points: Split in all cases. The sole exception is if you have an ace that you can put in the low hand. Anything above 17 points should be automatically split.
3-of-a-Kind — Keep it in the high. If you get two of them, divide the lower-value hand. It’s only advisable to split a 3-of-a-kind if it consists of three aces.
Straight/Flush — In most cases, you’ll lower the Pai Gow poker house edge if you keep such 5-card combos intact. You can also play it as a two pair if you have: Two aces and any other pair, A pair of 10s and better, When you have two pairs lower than 10s and a single ace, On a flush or straight with 6 or 7 cards, maintain the combination at the high hand while playing the best possible low hand. When you have both of them, keep the flush in the high.
Full House — Don’t split only if you have a spare ace & king that you can put in the low. If you have a 2 pair plus 3-of-a-kind, remember the Pai Gow poker strategy of using the low-value pair for the low hand.
4-of-a-Kind — Don’t split the lower-ranked quartets of 2/3/4/5/6. If you get four 7-10s, keep them only if you have an ace + face card for the low hand. Any four face cards should be split unless you can put together a pair of 10s or better for the low hand. The same goes for aces, but in such scenarios, you can also put pairs of 7s, 8s, and 9s as the low.
Straight Flush & Royal Flush — Keep them in the high unless you can play them as 2 pairs with a couple of aces and any other pair.
Five Aces — Keep intact only if you have a pair of kings for the low hand. Otherwise, split.
The Pai Gow Poker House Edge and Payouts
If we forget about the Pai Gow poker bonus payouts coming from any side bets, the base game rewards the player in a straightforward way. Your wager gets doubled when both of your hands are better than the house. Keep in mind that some casinos charge a 5% commission on this win. When only one of your hands beats the dealer, all bets are returned. And, as we mentioned earlier, you’ll lose when both your high and low are beaten.
In most cases, the Pai Gow poker game comes with a house edge of 2.5% to 3%, assuming you follow the house way. This puts it on equal grounds with European roulette in terms of return rates. In other words, you can expect to lose less money compared to slots and American roulette, but blackjack, baccarat, French roulette, and are better choices in the long run. Still, the fact that draws occur so frequently in Pai Gow might not expose you to big losses in the short term.
Does This Game Have a Live Dealer Variant?
So far, we’ve only seen iGaming sites offer RNG or all-virtual iterations of this game. Perhaps the fact that playing with two hands simultaneously makes Pai Gow poker online a bit hard to recreate in a live dealer environment. Still, leading studios like Evolution and Playtech can make it happen if they sense that players’ interest is high.
Until then, you can try more traditional versions like “Casino Hold’em,” “Texas Hold’em,” “Caribbean Stud,” and “Three-Card Poker” in the lobbies of the biggest online operators. It’s worth noting that some of these games have progressive jackpots that can reach several million dollars.
A Short History of Pai Gow Poker
As its name suggests, this poker is loosely based on the ancient Chinese game of Pai Gow, which is played with domino tiles. It’s interesting that the card game is a rather recent invention. It was created by casino owner Sam Torosian in California during the mid-1980s.
Torosian could have patented the Pai Gow poker rules but failed to do so after an attorney wrongly convinced him that it wasn’t possible. In any case, Vegas casinos quickly picked up on this form of gambling, which eventually popularized it throughout the world.
Pai Gow is a slow-paced poker version that isn’t difficult to comprehend if you know the basic rules. We recommend it to laidback and patient players who don’t mind going through a few pushes to get a win. Its return rates are more than reasonable, especially if you find a title that doesn’t charge a 5% commission and follow the Pai Gow poker strategy tips we outlined above.
From here, it’s up to you. If you’d like to try your luck, the online casinos on our list offer fast payouts and hefty bonuses. Remember, you can always play for free before wagering real money.