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Pai-gow poker is a discipline that first appeared in the United States in the mid-80s of the last century. In this game, participants receive 7 cards each, from which they form 2 hands. When comparing the results, the strength of both combinations is evaluated. This type of poker adopted the basic rules from Pai-gow dominoes, but cards became the main attribute. Today, this entertainment, although not widely popular to Hold’em, is often offered by online casinos in the section of slots and games with live dealers.

Rules of the game


Unlike no-limit hold’em, the main goal of pai gow poker is to beat the dealer. There is no competition between the players – a direct analogy to blackjack. Up to 6 players can sit at a poker pai gow table at a time.
At the start of the hand, each player receives 7 hole cards. The players allocate the cards to the top and bottom hands. The top hand gets 5 cards, the bottom hand gets the remaining two. Bets are placed before the cards are dealt.
Players independently determine where to send which cards. After the distribution of hands, the opponents lay out their cards on a special section of the table. Shows his hand and the dealer. The combinations are compared according to the seniority rules adopted in regular poker. In the upper hand, you can collect combinations from ace high to royal flush. In the bottom two-card hand, the highest possible combination is, of course, a pair. The upper and lower hands are compared in turn.
If both of the player’s hands are stronger than the dealer’s, then he wins the entire pot. If the player and the dealer win 1 hand each, then the player is returned the bet. In case of defeat in both cases, the bank will go to the dealer. In rare situations, the dealer and the player show the same bottom or top hand. According to the rules of Pai Gow, the victory is awarded to the dealer.

Game strategy

The game does not provide any global strategy or deep ideas. Only the distribution of 7 cards between the top and bottom rows depends on the player. The most important condition is that the bottom combination of two cards must be weaker than the top one. Otherwise, the player is credited with an automatic defeat. There are complex poker pai gow card distribution tables, but it can be boiled down to a few simple principles:

  • If there are no matches, the highest card goes up, the next two – down.
  • If there is one pair, it is sent up, two high cards down, the rest goes to the pair.
  • With two pairs, it all depends on its denominations. Low ones do not divide, high ones can be divided.
  • With three pairs, the strongest is shifted down, the weakest is left at the top.
  • The set is left at the top, the top two remaining are sent down.
  • In the case of two sets, a pair is taken from the strongest and shifted down.
  • With straights and sets, we do not change anything.
  • A full house is divided into a set (up) and a pair (down).
  • Low quads up to 6 are not divisible, in other cases we are dividing.

Do not pin high hopes on the game – even with an ideal strategy, you will not be able to win. Maximize your losses to a minimum. Here Pai Gow poker is no different from other casino games like roulette and blackjack.

Dealing cards


Each game uses a classic 52-card deck and 1 joker. The role of the last one is determined by the rules of the gambling platform. The joker can act as a substitute for an ace, supplement the missing part of a straight, a flush or other combination.
At the beginning of the game, the participants in the distribution make bets. After the end of the starting auction, 7 stacks of cards, 7 pieces each, are laid out on the table. The rest are pushed aside. The stacks are placed at the disposal of the players in turn. In an online casino, this happens automatically; in a live game with friends, the primacy of the move is determined by a roll of dice.
If the game is played live, the dealer acts as a banker. Draw results at the table are interpreted in his favor.

Middle of the game

The user must divide the seven cards into two hands – the top hand and the bottom hand. The combination in the first hand must be weaker than in the second, otherwise the player will be deemed an automatic loss. The top hand consists of five cards and forms classic poker combinations.
The other two cards are sent to the top hand, and there can only be one combination – a pair. If not, the strength of the combination is judged by the seniority of the kicker. The last one is the regular card with the highest value in the hand.


When users have formed their combinations, they are compared. The main objective in Pai Gow poker becomes the collection of two stronger combinations than the banker’s. It is mandatory to beat both of the dealer’s hands, otherwise the player will be deemed defeated.

In some online casinos, a draw when comparing combinations does not result in a loss of chips and is not treated as a win for the banker. Bets in this case are carried over to the next hand or refunded.

Strategically, Pai Gow poker is much easier than Hold’em, as there is no bidding and most of the usual actions like Call, Raise and Check. The only tricky part is forming the right hands. Cards must be dealt in such a way as to get the best possible combinations in each set.

Payouts in pai gow poker

After the player and the dealer have split their cards, they compare the result according to the table with the poker combinations and find out whose combination is higher.

  1. To win, the player must beat both hands of the dealer. The winnings are paid 1 to 1 minus a 5% commission to the online casino.
  2. If the player can only beat one hand, no matter if it’s a higher or lower hand, it’s a draw.
  3. However, if the combinations in the player’s hand and the dealer’s hand are identical, the dealer wins.

Pai Gow Poker in online casino


Some online casinos have a service whereby the player can set the cards to be dealt automatically as the dealer would have it dealt. To set this feature, you need to click on House Way. But not all online pai gow poker casinos have this feature. Therefore, if it is missing, the player will only have to rely on his own strength.
He can also use a certain strategy to play Pai Gow Poker to increase his chances of winning.

How to play pai gow poker for money?

In order to win as much as possible from the casino at Pai Gow, an optimal strategy must be followed. Casinoz has published an article with a step-by-step description of what you need to do at all stages of gameplay. It will help you understand all the intricacies and improve your game.
For the purposes of this publication, let’s just say: You can’t play pai gow poker based on intuition alone. It’s a ruinous path.


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Kristaps is an expert in the field of online casinos. Since the age of 20, he has been interested in casino games; poker and blackjack are his favorites. Thanks to his studies and work experience, he has found himself a gambling critic and analyst. He likes to share his own authentic experience with the audience, so his articles are very informative. Kristaps' lifelong dream is to participate in a poker tournament in Las Vegas.



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