Today’s lesson will deal with setting your hand. We’ve already got the game flow down. In another article, we’ll go over strategy a bit more. Setting your hand is the main function in Pai Gow. Don’t worry if you don’t know how Pai Gow hands rank, because that’s the next part of this series.
In Pai Gow, the Ace can be used at the front or end of the deck. For instance, it could be used as Ace, two, three or Queen, King, Ace. The Joker can be used as an Ace or to complete a straight, flush or straight flush.
Once you have your seven cards, I find it’s best for beginners to sort their cards from highest to lowest or lowest to highest. If you’re playing Pai Gow online, this might already be done for you. Remember, we’re going to be creating two hands from these seven cards-the highest hand, which is five cards and the 2nd highest hand, which are the remaining two cards.
When you make your hands, the highest hand must actually be the highest hand. For instance, let’s say your hand is: J J 3 4 5 Q Q.
You couldn’t make your 2nd highest hand be QQ, because the highest hand would be JJ 3 4 5 and it wouldn’t actually be the highest hand.
Let’s keep that example going. Part of the strategy in Pai Gow is figuring out how best to set your hands. In our example, we could do something like JJ QQ 3 and 4 5 or something like JJ 3 4 5 and QQ. So, we’d either have two pair and nothing or one pair in each hand. Remember, if you can win at least one of the hands, you keep your cash.
Once you have decided how to set your hand, you place each of the two hands on their appropriate space on the table. Online Pai Gow players will have this done for them.
I can’t reiterate this enough: don’t take setting your hand too lightly. It’s a strategic game. Ideally, you want your second highest hand to be as high as possible, so you can at least force a push.
If your second highest hand won’t have a pair, put the two highest ranking cards in there-out of what’s left. Let’s say your hand is: J J A Q 4 8 3.
For the above hand, we’d want to keep the pair of Jacks in the highest hand. That leaves us with the Ace, Queen, 4, 8 and 3. It would be best to take the Ace and Queen and put those two cards in the second highest hand.
Now that we have a basic understanding with setting hands, it’s time to go over hand rankings. We’ll do that in the next article.