Pai Gow Poker Money Management

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The game of Pai Gow Poker allows the player to make only a few decisions. Arranging the 5-card High Hand and the 2-card Low Hand follows an approach called the House Way, with little room for variation. Because play of the hand is almost automatic, like Baccarat, almost all of the major choices available to a player relate to money—knowing how much to bet and when.

Indeed, managing the bankroll and chips is the critical factor in winning at Pai Gow Poker. Fortunately, a number of strategies are available to help guide wagering decisions.

In Pai Gow Poker, as in all gambling activities, the player’s “bankroll” is simply whatever amount of money he/she has designated for wagering during a single session of play. A “session” can be an hour, an afternoon, a day, a weeklong holiday, or any other time period the player chooses. The amount of the bankroll can be large or small, but it should never be more than the player can afford to lose within the selected period.

The single important rule of good money management is to never, ever exceed the bankroll. Betting must stop if all is lost. There can be no going to the ATM for fresh funds and or using credit cards to extend play once the bankroll has been used up.

The opportunity to wager just a bit more can be very tempting, but the only reason to set a limit on spending in the first place is to avoid taking actions that could possible lead to a financial problem. When the bankroll is lost, the betting must stop. Before playing again, a new bankroll must be established for a new session.

Similarly, when a session ends, the players should count up the winnings or losses and leave the table. The temptation to play a few more hands should be studiously avoided. Having a time limit has the same effect as having a bankroll—it ensures that unanticipated financial dilemmas don’t arise.

How much should the Pai Gow Poker bankroll be? A conservative calculation would put it at anywhere from 50X to 100X whatever the table’s minimum wager might be. Far too many players make the mistake of playing at tables where the betting requirements are too high. With a starting bankroll of £500, a player can wager £5 or £10 comfortably on every hand. Playing at a £50 table requires a bankroll of no less than £2,500 and preferably £5,000 or higher.

In many respects, managing a bankroll is about managing expectations. Anyone who plays Pai Gow Poker with the objective of turning £500 into £2,000 at a £5 table is being unrealistic. In the same way, winning a certain amount per hour should not be expected. Instead, the key is to set an achievable goal that anticipates setbacks.

It is certainly possible to double one’s bankroll at the Pai Gow Poker table. However, a less ambitious target, such as ending the session with 50% more than one started with, is much more apt to result in a favourable conclusion.

One excellent practice is to pocket the original bankroll whenever the session objective has been reached. Play can continue by using the House’s money that has been won. By putting the bankroll away and not touching it again until another session begins, the session outcome can never be worse than breaking even.

Many beginners make the mistake of sitting down at the Pai Gow Poker table and exchanging their entire bankroll for chips. There is no need to buy in with the entire amount. Having everything readily available to wager can invite more aggressive play. It may entice one to stay too long at the table, too. A better starting point is to exchange no more than 40% of the bankroll for chips. The remainder can be kept in reserve, ready to purchase more chips if needed.

When wagering, the Pai Gow Poker bets should be equivalent to roughly 1% or 2% of the entire bankroll. Whenever betting on multiple hands, such as the Dragon Hand, the amounts wagered should anticipate the additional risk and be reduced to 0.5% to 1% of the total bankroll. Big bets may result in big wins, but in view of the House Edge, big losses are even more likely.

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