Pai Gow Poker

Unlike other types of poker, Pai Gow Poker can be a bit difficult to learn because of its unique rules and strategies. However, with a little practice and patience, players will quickly grasp the basics and begin to enjoy the excitement of this exciting game.

In Pai Gow Poker, players aim to create two separate poker hands – a high hand and a low hand – using a standard deck of 52 cards plus one joker. The high hand consists of five cards and must be stronger than the low hand, which consists of two cards. The goal is to beat both of the dealer’s hands to win the round.

Learning to play pai gow poker involves understanding the rules of hand ranking, as well as mastering strategies for effectively dividing cards between the high and low hand. With clear explanations and practice, players will be able to develop their skills and confidently navigate the complexities of Pai Gow Poker.

How to Play Pai Gow Poker

In Pai Gow poker, players use a standard deck of 52 cards and one joker, bringing the total number of cards to 53. The main objective of the game is to form two separate poker hands, a high hand and a low hand, which together will beat the dealer’s respective hands. A high hand consists of five cards, while a low hand consists of only two cards.

Pai Gow Poker

The gameplay unfolds as follows: players and the dealer each receive seven cards from the deck. After the cards are dealt, players must divide their seven cards into a high hand with five cards and a low hand with two cards. The senior hand must outperform the junior hand in traditional poker hand rankings.

The focus of Pai Gow poker is on effectively laying out these seven cards to achieve the strongest possible hand combination to ensure victory over the dealer. While the primary goal is to beat the dealer, players can also win by achieving a draw with one of the dealer’s hands while beating the other.

Throughout the game, players should carefully consider the composition of their hands and possible combinations. While there are standard hand ranks in poker, such as straights, flushes and pairs, there are also unique hand combinations specific to Pai Gow Poker that affect the dynamics of the game.

Pai Gow Poker Hands

In Pai Gow poker, understanding the different hand combinations is critical to success, as the strength of your hands directly affects your chances of winning against the dealer. Each hand has its own unique ranking and importance in the game, affecting the outcome of each round.

Below are the variations of hands in Pai Gow poker, listed from strongest to weakest:

  • Five Aces: This is the strongest hand in Pai Gow poker, consisting of four aces plus a joker. It is an unbeatable combination that is guaranteed to defeat any other hand.
  • Royal Flush: A royal flush consists of a ten, jack, queen, king and ace of the same suit. It is the highest ranked standard poker hand and carries significant weight in Pai Gow Poker.
  • Straight Flush: A Straight Flush consists of five consecutive cards of the same suit. For example, 5-6-7-8-9 hearts. This hand ranks just below the Royal Flush in terms of strength.
  • Four of a Kind: Four of a Kind consists of four cards of the same rank plus any other card. For example, four kings and a queen.


  • Full House: A Full House consists of three cards of one rank and two cards of another rank. For example, three Tens and two Jacks.
  • Flush: A flush consists of five cards of the same suit, out of order. For example, 2-5-8-10-Q diamonds.
  • Street: A Street consists of five consecutive cards of mixed suits. For example, 3-4-5-6-7 of any suit.
  • Three of a Kind: A three of a Kind consists of three cards of the same rank plus any two other cards. For example, three sevens with a queen and a ten.
  • Two Pairs: A Two Pair consists of two cards of one rank, two cards of another rank, and one additional card. For example, two eights, two fours, and a king.
  • One Pair: One Pair consists of two cards of the same rank plus three any other cards. For example, two queens with a 6, a 9, and an ace.
  • Senior Card: If none of the above combinations are possible, the value of the hand is determined by the highest card. For example, a hand with an Ace, a King, a Queen, a 9 and a 2.

In pai gow poker, the “house hand” refers to the dealer’s hand, which is used as a reference point when comparing players’ hands. House hands provide fairness and consistency in determining winners and losers. They serve as the benchmark against which players’ hands are judged, providing a clear and standardized gameplay. If there were no house hands, determining the outcome of each round would be much more difficult and would lead to disputes.

Payouts in Pai Gow Poker

Hand Payout Bonus
Five Aces 50:1 Yes
Royal Flush 25:1 Yes
Straight Flush 5:1 Yes
Four of a Kind 3:1 Yes
Full House 2:1 Yes
Flush 1:1 Yes
Straight 1:1 Yes
Three of a Kind 1:1 Yes
Two Pair 1:1 No
One Pair 1:1 No
High Card 1:1 No

Pai Gow Poker Strategy

In Pai Gow poker, where the outcome of each round largely depends on the cards received, players must develop subtle strategies in order to play the game effectively.

Proper Hand Splitting

This strategy is based on a fundamental aspect of Pai Gow poker – dividing your seven cards into two separate hands: a high hand with five cards and a low hand with two cards. The key goal is to create a high hand that will outperform the low hand and ensure victory over the dealer. Prioritize making a strong high hand, as it determines the outcome of the round. Consider the relative strength of your cards and strive to build as strong a high hand as possible while maintaining a viable low hand. By skillfully allocating your hands, you maximize your chances of winning and minimize your losses.

Pai Gow Poker

Conservative Play With Marginal Hands

In pai gow poker, where draws with the dealer often result in a flush, it is wise to play conservatively with marginal hands. Marginal hands are medium strength hands with uncertain prospects of beating the dealer’s hands. Rather than taking unnecessary risks with these hands, take a cautious approach to preserve your bankroll and minimize potential losses. When faced with marginal hands, prioritize the avoidance of significant losses over the pursuit of incredible wins. By exercising restraint and patience, you will be able to overcome difficult hands and keep your game stable.

Understanding the House Way

Familiarizing yourself with the “house way,” that is, the dealer’s predetermined method of hand placement, is an integral part of making strategic decisions in pai gow poker. The house way provides insight into how the dealer arranges his cards to optimize his chances of winning. By studying and comprehending house strategy, you gain valuable information that you can use when making your own layouts. Analyze dealer trends and adapt your approach accordingly, using your understanding of house strategy to make informed decisions and take advantage of opportunities to beat the dealer.

Effective Bankroll Management

Effective bankroll management is an important aspect of a successful game, and Pai Gow Poker is no exception. Setting clear betting limits and sticking to them is essential to the long-term success of the game. Avoid the temptation to chase losses by betting more than you can afford, as this can lead to financial difficulties and impulsive decisions. Instead, take a disciplined approach to bankroll management by allocating your funds wisely and exercising restraint in your betting. By managing your bankroll wisely, you will prevent yourself from excessive losses and ensure a stable and enjoyable gambling experience.


Pai Gow Poker offers a unique and exciting experience that sets it apart from other varieties of the game. Its distinctive combination of strategy, hand splitting and “house” gives the game a complexity and excitement that appeals to poker enthusiasts of all levels.

Although mastering the rules of Pai Gow Poker may seem difficult at first, the results of immersing yourself in this exciting game are well worth the effort. With patience and practice, players will quickly grasp the basics and develop the skills to master this unique type of poker.

For poker fans looking for a fresh and exciting challenge, Pai Gow Poker is a must-play. Its unconventional gameplay and strategic depth refreshes traditional poker, offering endless opportunities for skillful play and strategic maneuvering.

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Written by Alisa Kotsar
Over the past 7 years, Lean has diligently tracked the progress and transformations in the gambling industry. His distinctive writing style has contributed to the dissemination of important news and updates from the gambling world and clarified important trends in the industry.