Pai Gow Poker takes place at a table that has been specially designed for maximum security and ease of play. From a distance, it could easily be mistaken for a Blackjack table. Its surface is covered with the same green or blue felt surface that’s customary for card games, and it seats up to six players facing the dealer.
In land-based casinos, the table layout is most often surrounded by a leather-covered or wooden rail that features recessed ashtrays and cup holders. Some rails also have chip trays, but even when they do, players seem to prefer stacking chips in front of them, directly on the felt near the rail.
It is strictly forbidden for anyone other than casino personnel to stand on the dealer’s side of the table. Observers are welcome to watch hands in play, but they must stand at either end of the table or else behind the players. Standing behind the dealer could be reason for expulsion from the pit area. This rule is enforced to reduce opportunities for cheating and to avoid disturbing a dealer at work.
A grooved rack containing the various denominations of chips used in play is located directly in front of the dealer where it can be easily seen by supervisors. The outermost grooves contain the chips of lower denomination, while the inner ones hold the higher value chips. This configuration is actually a security precaution. It dissuades cheats from trying to grab a handful of chips as they walk by, because the most valuable ones are hard to reach from across the table.
The table surface typically features two slots to the right of the dealer. The longer of the two is where cash is deposited after it is exchanged by the players for chips. The second, shorter slot is where tips are inserted. At tables where there is no tip slot, dealers may put any tips in the breast pockets of their uniform or stack them behind the discard tray, where cards used in play are collected.
Several other items may be seen on the dealer’s side of the table. They include the deck of 53 cards used in play, a pair of dice that can be used for deciding which Player hand goes first, and a “Chung” marker. The latter is for indicating the position of the Banker hand during versions of the game where participants take turns as the Bank. Also on the table will be a Table Limit sign, displaying the table’s minimum and maximum bets allowed, as well as a brief description of any special rules for betting.
In front of each seated player, circles or rectangles printed appear on the table layout. These indicate the betting areas, one for each participant. In most casinos, the tables can accommodate seat up to six players at a time, but some may seat only five. When there is an empty seat, House Rules may require that it be used for dealing the so-called “Dragon Hand.” However, this practice varies from one casino to another.
In front of each player are two spaces for arranging the cards into two hands. They may be designated “L” for “Low Hand” and “H” for “High Hand” or indicated as “Highest” for the 5-card hand (Hand in Front), which must always outrank the two-card Hand Behind, designated as “2nd Highest.” The ante is placed in a small circle in front of the player. When a similar, second circle appears, this is typically used for making side bets.
After the dealing starts, players may pick up their cards and arrange them into the two hands. Once arranged, the cards must be placed face down on their proper spots. Players are not allowed to touch wagered chips after the cards have been dealt.
In some versions of the game, an additional bet may be required. In such cases, it must be positioned next to the ante without touching the chips in the original wager. Be careful never to stack additional chips atop the original bet.