Although Pai Gow Poker is still a relatively new game, it has already evolved a set of certain standards and behaviours which players should follow when seated at the table. These go beyond the procedures of how to play and the rules regarding hand-setting referred to as the “House Way.” They cover all of the basic protocols that comprise Pai Gow Poker Etiquette. Here are nine important guidelines to be aware of when playing the game.
Take a Seat –Never assume a seat is available just because it is unoccupied. Many Pai Gow Poker tables reserve an empty seat for the so-called “Dragon Hand.” The majority of tables do not allow mid-deck entry, either. The standard procedure is to wait until after the shuffle to take a seat, buy in and play. It is always a good idea to ask the dealer if the seat is available before sitting down.
Buy In – Chips can be bought from the cashier or brought to the Pai Gow Poker table from a different casino game, but the most common method of obtaining chips is to exchange cash for them at the table. The exchange should be conducted with the Dealer between hands or immediately after the shuffle. A placard on the table will indicate the table minimum. It is advisable to purchase enough chips for ten or more hands, so as not to disturb the game by constantly pausing for fresh exchanges. Currency should be placed directly on the table; never hand it to the Dealer. The bills will be counted so that security cameras can record the transaction before the Dealer counts out the chips, stacks them up and pushes them back to the player across the table. Players are responsible for checking that the correct total has been received.
Cut the Cards – Most often the Dealer will ask a senior player at the table to cut the cards after the shuffle, but sometimes the cut is offered to the newcomer. To make the cut, an unmarked plastic card is used. It should be placed somewhere in the middle of the deck, not near the first or last cards. Following the cut, the Dealer places the plastic card at the end of the deck so that the face of the last card cannot be seen.
Make a Bet – Bets should not be placed until called for by the Dealer. When wagering, stack the chips neatly, with the higher denominations on the bottom and lower ones on the top. Position the stack in the center of the betting circle so that it does not touch the perimeter. Once the dealing begins, never touch the chips again until the hand is over and all bets have been settled.
Hold the Bank – In many forms of Pai Gow Poker, players have the opportunity to hold and play the Banker hand. The Dealer places a marker called “Chung” in front of whomever is so designated. Although holding the Banker hand is to the player’s advantage, there is no obligation to do so and it is possible to decline the option when offered. In fact, declining is absolutely appropriate is a player is unfamiliar with the House Way. The opportunity then passes to the next player in turn. Should no player accepts the Banker hand, it is played by the Dealer by default.
Handle the Card – In Mini Pai Gow Poker, only the Dealer is allowed to touch the cards. However, in most versions of Pai Gow Poker, players pick up their seven cards and arrange them into the 5-card High Hand and the 2-card Low Hand. After the hands have been set, each of them should be placed face down atop the corresponding spots on the table. Never fold, bend, or crease the cards when handling them. And after the arranged cards have been placed on the table, they should not be handled again. It is up to the Dealer to turn them over at the proper time.
Collect Winnings – After a hand has been won by the player, the Dealer makes the payout by placing a stack of chips next to the player’s bet. Players must wait until all bets have been settled before collecting their winnings. Grabbing the chips as soon as they are paid out is considered to be poor manners. Be careful not to leave any chips in the betting circle after collecting them. At the beginning of the next hand, chips still on the table are treated as new bets.
Cash Out – Before leaving the table at the end of a session of play, all of the player’s smaller denomination chips should be exchanged for larger ones. This is accomplished by pushing the chips toward the Dealer and saying “colour up” or “colour out.” This exchange should be done between deals, causing as little disturbance to the game and other players as possible.
Remember to Tip – As much as 40% of a Dealer’s income is based on gratuities. To tip the Dealer, push a chip toward the center of the table, point the dealer, and say, “For the Dealer.” Do not attempt to hand the tip to the dealer directly. Every action at the Pai Gow Poker table has to be taken so that it can be recorded by the security cameras and or the pit supervisors.