Playing Pai Gow – Part 1

In a recent article, I talked about how I love to play Pai Gow and I gave you a little intro into the game. Today, I’m starting a beginner’s series on how to play Pai Gow. It’s an easy game to learn and we’ll take our time-going over everything in detail.

Quick Recap

Pai Gow is played with your typical 52-card deck and one joker card. You’ll receive seven cards and you’ll divide them into two hands. Your job is to beat the bank’s hand and as a player, you’ll have the chance to be the bank-unless the casino doesn’t offer that option.

Getting Started

The invention and growth of online casinos has really helped the low-limit Pai Gow players. It used to be that you’d have a tough time finding a Pai Gow game lower than $10 and even $10 Pai Gow games were hard.

Today, you can just jump online and find $5 Pai Gow games all over the Internet.

After you make your wager-and other player’s do the same-the dealer shuffles up the deck and deals out seven cards per hand spot. It’s important to note that the entire deck is used for each hand-unlike Blackjack where you just keep playing through the deck until it’s gone.

After this is complete, the hands at the spots where there are no players are taken. Yes, the dealer deals to empty spots. This is part of the game play. So, unlike Blackjack where players coming and going can affect hands, it doesn’t matter in Pai Gow.

We’ll talk about the bank later, but now that the hands are dealt and the bank is decided, it’s time to examine your hand. You’re going to break up your seven cards into two hands. The first hand will consist of one five-card hand, which is your best hand. Then the remaining two cards will make up your “2nd Highest” hand.

Now, before you rush out and player, there’s one important item you need to know. Your five-card hand MUST be the highest-ranking hand or you forfeit your money. For instance, you couldn’t put two Aces are your two-card hand and then have a pair of 2s as your five-card hand.

The strategy comes in decided how far to go. For instance, do you go with two pair as your highest hand and nothing as your 2nd highest hand or do you break them up? We’ll go over Pai Gow strategy in other articles.

Time To Win

Once all the hands are set, meaning they’ve all been split into the highest and 2nd highest hands, it’s time for the dealer to play. The dealer (not always the bank) will turn over the hand and set it according to casino rules.

To win, both of your hands need to beat both of the Banker’s hands. If you win one and lose one, it’s a push. Should one of your hands be exactly like one of the Banker’s hands, it’s called a “copy” and the Banker wins the hand.

In part two, we’ll continue with more on the Banker.

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