Pai Gow Poker Hand Ranks

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Adding a Joker to the normal 52-card poker deck gives Pai Gow Poker an added dimension of complexity. Because special rules apply to the Joker, it cannot be substituted for any other card at will. It can only be used to complete straights or flushes, including a straight flush. Otherwise, it must be treated as an Ace. Other than Aces, the Joker cannot be used to form pairs, three of a kind, or four of a kind.

Having a limited wild card available also means the winning hand combinations must be ordered a bit differently from how they are in other types of Poker. In the following list, the ranks of Pai Gow Poker hands are given from lowest to highest, along with the role played by the Joker, if any. How the rankings apply to the Low Hand as well as the High Hand is also stated.

High Card Only – In the High Hand, this refers to any five unmatched cards, such as the unsuited A-Q-10-7-3. In the Low Hand, it refers to any two cards not of the same rank. When the Joker appears in the Low Hand, it is always treated as an Ace.

Pair – In the High Hand, this refers to two cards of the same rank plus three unrelated cards, such as Q-Q-J-8-4 or J-7-6-6-5. In the Low Hand, both of the cards have to be of the same rank. The Joker cannot be used to form any pair except Aces.

Two Pair – In the High Hand, this means two equal cards of a higher rank and two equal cards of a lower rank, such as Q-Q-7-7-5 or 9-9-7-3-3. Again, the Joker cannot be used to form any pair except Aces.

Three of a Kind – In the High Hand, this refers to three cards of the same rank, such as Q-Q-Q or 5-5-5. The Joker cannot be used to form any three-of-a-kind except Aces.

Straight – In the High Hand, this is a sequence of five unsuited cards in order, such as the Q-J-10-9-8. The highest possible straight is the unsuited A-K-Q-J-10; the next highest is the 5-4-3-2-A, and then comes the K-Q-J-10-9. Poker players will note how different this is from traditional poker rankings, where the 5-4-3-2-A, or “Wheel,” is counted as low. The Joker can be used as the fifth card to form any straight.

Flush – In the High Hand, this means any five suited cards not in sequence, such as the Q-J-9-5-2 of hearts or 10-7-4-3-2 of clubs. The Joker can be used as the missing fifth card to create a Flush in any suit. It automatically takes the rank of the Ace of that suit, unless a natural Ace is already part of the flush, in which case it counts as a King.

Full House – In the High Hand, this refers to three cards of the same rank (also known as “trips”) plus two equal cards of a different rank (“pair”), such as Q-Q-Q-8-8 or 7-7-4-4-4. The Joker cannot be used in any Full House other than one containing Aces.

Four of a Kind – In the High Hand, this means four cards of the same rank, one in each of the four suits, such as Q-Q-Q-Q-J or K-8-8-8-8. The Joker cannot be used to form any four-of-a-kind except four Aces.

Straight Flush – In the High Hand, this means five cards in sequence, all of the same suit, such as the J-10-9-8-7 of spades or the 8-7-6-5-4 of diamonds, with no gaps occurring in the sequence. The Joker can substitute for any missing card among the five.

Royal Flush – In the High Hand, this means a straight flush headed by the Ace, such as the A-K-Q-J-10 of hearts. The Joker can be used in place of any missing card among the five. Note that this hand beats all hands except Five Aces.

Five Aces – In the High Hand, this refers to all four Aces and the Joker. It is the unbeatable top hand of Pai Gow Poker, and because all of the Aces are in use, it automatically elevates Kings to the top rank in the Low Hand.

It should also be noted that in the Low Hand, straights and flushes are not counted. Also, the Joker can be placed in the Low Hand only if the High Hand contains at least an Ace or higher.

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