Do you prefer high-risk wagers, or does staying in the game matter most? If extended playing time and reduced risk are top priorities, Pai Gow Poker in Las Vegas may be right for you. You won’t get rich quick, but your bankroll will last longer playing Pai Gow Poker than almost any other casino game. You get more play time than trying classic Las Vegas Poker or even the Sin City fan-favorite Blackjack.
Pai Gow Poker stretches your gambling dollar to the max because it’s slow paced and just over 40% of hands end in a push. Unlike many games of chance like Roulette, Pai Gow has a low house edge is leisurely and is challenging enough to keep players coming back for more. The 1.81% house advantage is elastic based on the player’s skill at setting hands, though Face Up Pai Gow Poker is almost entirely luck based. The figures below illustrate the probabilities of each possible outcome that will occur in a hand of Pai Gow Poker.
How to Set Your Hands
Players arrange their cards into two hands in a unique poker variant. To play Pai Gow Poker at one of the many casinos on the Strip, players place their ante bets and the banker deals seven cards to himself and to every seat at the table, including the empty ones. Unlike in traditional no-limit Texas Hold’em, players don’t compete against each other in Pai Gow Poker. Instead, each plays heads-up against the banker. The banker reveals his cards and sets them into two separate poker hands. The players do the same, arranging their cards into a five-card hand, called a high hand, and a two-card, or low hand. This can’t be done without an understanding of traditional poker hand rankings. You can set your hands any way you wish as long as your five-card hand outranks your two-card hand and your two-card hand is placed in front of your five-card hand. If a player is dealt J-J-9-9-4-3-7 with no flush, his high hand would be J-J-4-3-7, and his low hand would be 9-9. With a little practice, setting hands becomes second nature. If you need help forming your hands, ask the banker to set it the “house-way.” The “house-way” varies from venue to venue.
Showdown vs. the Banker
A player must beat both the banker’s hands to win even money at Pai Gow Poker. When the player and the banker have one winning hand each, the banker pushes and the player’s bet is returned. When the banker is dealt ace high, the hand also results in a push. When the banker has the highest ranked cards in his high and low hands, the player loses his ante bet. Should one or both of a player’s hands rank exactly the same as the banker’s, the result is a tie and the banker wins.
Creating a Foul Hand
If a player sets the cards so that his two-card hand ranks higher than his five-card hand, it’s called a foul hand and he loses instantly. For instance, if a player’s two-card hand is a pair of kings, his five-card hand must be a pair of aces or better. Another way to mistakenly set a foul hand is to put the incorrect number of cards in your hands. For instance, a high hand with four cards and a low hand with three is a foul hand.
Pai Gow Poker Hand Rankings
Pai Gow Poker uses a standard 52-card playing deck, plus a single joker. The joker can represent an ace or any card that completes a straight or suit that completes a flush. The highest hand in traditional poker rankings has been dethroned. In Pai Gow Poker, the royal flush does not hold the top spot on the hand rankings chart. Its replacement, five of a kind, is comprised of four aces and a joker. While a royal flush went down in rank, an ace – five straight, called a wheel, did the opposite. A wheel went from the lowest straight in no-limit Texas Hold’em to the second highest in Pai Gow Poker, only behind 10 – ace.
HAND-DEALT HAND REQUIREMENTS
- Five aces Four aces and a joker.
- Royal flush Five suited cards ranked ace through ten.
- Straight flush Five cards of the same suit in consecutive order.
- Four of a kind Four cards of the same ranking.
- Full house Three cards of the same ranking and two more of the same ranking.
- Flush Five cards of the same suit that are not in consecutive order.
- Straight Five cards of different suits in consecutive order.
- Three of a kind Three cards of the same rank.
- Two pair Two cards of the same rank and two more cards of the same rank.
- One pair Two cards of the same ranking.
- High card A hand that contains less than a pair is ranked by its highest card.
Fortune Pai Gow Poker
It’s the same as Pai Gow Poker, except for an optional Fortune Bonus Bet that pays based on all seven cards. It doesn’t matter how a player sets his hand. The side bet pays when you’re dealt three of a kind or better. A player qualifies for Envy Bonus payouts when he makes a minimum $5 Fortune Bonus wager. A player wins the Envy Bonus when a tablemate is dealt four of a kind or higher. The house has nearly an 8% advantage when you make this side bet, slightly less when you factor in the Envy Bonus. The amount of winnings is based on the posted bonus payouts below.
Fortune Pai Gow Poker Pay Table
Natural 7-card Straight Flush 8,000 to 1
Royal Flush + Royal Match 2,000 to 1
Wild 7-card Straight Flush 1,000 to 1
5 Aces 400 to 1
Royal Flush 150 to 1
Straight Flush 50 to 1
Four of a Kind 25 to 1
Full House 5 to 1
Flush 4 to 1
Three of a Kind 3 to 1
Straight 2 to 1
Envy Pay Table
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- Natural seven-card straight flush $5,000
- Royal Flush + Royal Match $1,000
- Wild seven-card straight flush $500
- Five Aces $250
- Royal Flush $50
- Straight flush $20
- Four of a Kind $5
Face Up vs. Face Down Pai Gow Poker
Much like the bevy of Chinese restaurants in Las Vegas, there is an Asian influence to this popular game. Created in 1985, Pai Gow Poker is a spinoff of the Chinese gambling game, Pai Gow. Instead of cards, Pai Gow is played with dominoes. Pai Gow Poker was invented by Sam Torosian, the owner of the Bell Card Club in Los Angeles. Face up Pai Gow Poker, which is faster with a lower house edge than the face down version, was just introduced in 2018. It quickly eclipsed the four other types of Pai Gow Poker dealt in Las Vegas casinos. In Face Down Pai Gow Poker, a winning hand pays even money minus a 5% commission, but in the Face Up Pai Gow Poker variant, there’s no commission on winning hands. One benefit to the face-down version, players are permitted to take turns acting as banker. In that capacity, the player wins in the case of a tie. The house dealer still handles the cards and chips, but the table is now playing against the player who is banking the game.
How many players does a Pai Gow Poker table seat?
A Pai Gow Poker table has six player seats and one for the banker/dealer.
What is the house edge for Face Down Pai Gow Poker?
The house has a 2.84% advantage when you play Face Down Pai Gow Poker. A player can lower that edge by more than 1% by acting as banker.