Pai Gow Poker Rules

Published: 12/05/2012

Although several variations of Pai Gow Poker have sprung up since the game was invented in the 1980s, they all have several basic aspects in common. Among these are a 53-card deck that contains a Joker and seven cards dealt to each hand. The cards must be arranged in two hands—a five-card High Hand (“Hand in Front”) and a two-card Low Hand (“Hand Behind”). The object is to beat both of the Banker’s hands in a showdown, with poker rankings used to decide the winners.

The House sets the minimum and maximum betting limits. Wagers made in betting circles positioned directly in front of each player. Where offered, side bets to play for a bonus on a “qualifying poker hand” are made in a separate betting circle next to the main one. Side bets are paid out according to a posted pay table.

In one variation of the game, participants do not receive cards. Instead, they wager on a single Player hand or a single Banker hand, just like in Baccarat. In this case, the House draws a 5% commission from all successful Banker bets. In other versions of the game, players may take turns playing the Banker hand. For this opportunity, they must pay the House a 5% commission on winnings.

Also, some casinos offer an “auction” to allow players to “buy” the right to be the Banker. Again, this is similar to some forms of Baccarat, whereby the Bank is held by whomever is willing to risk the most against the other players.

Otherwise, the House controls the Bank and each player is dealt seven cards. These must be set up in two hands, attempting to beat the Banker on both hands and win the wager at 1-to-1 odds, even money. If one of the player’s hands is identical to the Banker’s hand, a so-called “copy,” the Banker hand wins. If the player wins on one hand and loses on the other, the result is a “push,” with the wager returned, neither won nor lost.

Special rules apply to arranging the two hands. Most importantly, the 5-card High Hand must always outrank the 2-card Low Hand. Not following this rule is a “foul,” which invokes a penalty—the loss of any wager made.

Another rule applies to the use of the Joker, which serves as a wild card with limitations. The Joker can be used freely to fill a straight or a flush in the High Hand, but otherwise, it must be treated as an Ace. Other than Aces, the Joker cannot be used to create pairs, three of a kind or four of a kind.

Some Pai Gow Poker tables determine which player’s hand goes first by rolling dice. Others use a straightforward rotation. Quite a few casinos also deal out a “Dragon Hand” to an empty seat. Players are permitted to wager on this hand against the Banker as well as betting on their own hands.

The Banker’s hands must be set according to a very strict set of rules referred to as the “House Way.” Typically, these rules do not differ much from one casino to another. They must, however, be followed exactly, not only for the Banker’s hands but also for the Dragon Hand, if in play. If a player has any doubts regarding the House Way, the dealer should be consulted.

In fact, it is always a good idea to consult the specific House Rules of the casino before sitting down to play. Tables may limit the amount of antes, bets and side bets, which is important to know if betting progressions or other systems of wagering are to be employed.

Published on: 12/05/2012

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