Pai Gow Poker Strategies

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The very first step in developing a strategy for Pai Gow Poker is to recognise how much of the game is beyond the player’s control. Among the uncontrollable aspects are the House Rules, the House Way, the table stakes and what cards are dealt.

Any successful Pai Gow Poker strategy must exclude such factors and be based only actions that can affect the possibility of a winning outcome. Two chief among these are hand play and betting.

In much the same that poor card play typically leads to more losses than might be considered average, so does superior card play work to lower the House Edge and pave the way to an increase in wins. As a case in point, the Banker’s two hands must be arranged according to the House Way for a very good reason—it is thought to be the optimum method of setting the cards in each hand. By the same token, players who use the House Way as part of their basic hand play strategy tend to succeed more often than those who disregard it.

Interestingly enough, 90% of all Pai Gow Poker deals result in just six types of hands: no pair, one pair, two pair, three pair, three of a kind or a full house. A player who adheres to a precise approach for handling each combination, following the House Way, need not worry too much about the rare hands, such as straights, flushes and four of a kind, that make up the other 10%.

Once a player becomes proficient in setting hands in accordance with the House Way, the next step is to seek out versions of the game that let players hold the Bank, either through auctions or by simply taking turns. Although the House Way may dictate how the cards are arranged, the Banker nevertheless has a slight advantage on every deal.

In fact, holding the Bank gives yields a winning probability of 50.73%, which is slightly better than 50/50. Therefore, the Bank should always be accepted when available, and as the ratio of Banker hands held to Player hands held becomes greater, the player’s overall odds improve, which means a higher likelihood of profit overall.

Apart from hand play, wagering is also directly under the player’s control, which includes not only how much to bet but also when to increase or decrease wagers according to a system or game conditions. Indeed, because Pai Gow Poker is basically an “even money” game, progressive betting strategies made popular for Roulette can easily be applied.

For instance, the Labouchere or cancellation system provides a way of surviving a series of consecutive losses without making huge bets to recover wagers lost. It is a “negative progression” that requires bets to be increased when losses occur.

To play Labouchere at Pai Gow Poker, start with a series of numbers, such as 1+2+3, and then wager the sum of the first and last numbers, i.e., 1 + 3 = four units. If the hand wins, cross off those two numbers and bet what remains, i.e. two units. Following a loss, the amount lost is added at the end of the series, and then the first and last numbers are added to become the next total bet. This process continues until all of the numbers have been crossed off.

The Labouchere system works well because two numbers are “cancelled” for every one number added when wins and losses are roughly equal. What’s more, the “pushes” that occur about every other hand have no effect on the progression.

Other negative progression betting systems such as Martingale, d’Alembert and Fibonacci can also be used at the Pai Gow Poker table. Similarly, positive progressions such as Parlay, Paroli or the 1-3-2-6 system, can also payout nicely.

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