“Pai Gow” is a Chinese game played with a set of 32 Chinese dominoes. It is played openly in major casinos in China including Macau; the United States prominently in Las Vegas, Nevada; Australia and New Zealand. Pai gow poker also called double-hand poker is an American version of Pai Gow (developed by Sam Torosian in 1980) and is played with standard 52 card deck bearing poker hand values. Thus Pai Gow Poker is a kind of wedlock between cards and dominoes.
Pai gow, the oldest of the casino games easily pre-dates roulette and baccarat. The concept is the same as pai gow poker, where both player and banker make high and low hands, and then compare against each other. What makes pai gow to understand is the order of hands and tiles seems to memorize.
Tiles, Pairs and Hand Ranking in Pai Gow
The Gong Tile
There are special ways in which a hand can score more than nine points. The double-one tiles and double-six tiles are known as the Day and Teen tiles, respectively. If a Day or Teen tile is used with an eight, the pair is worth ten instead of the usual zero. This is called a Gong.
If a Day or Teen tile is used with a nine, the hand is worth eleven instead of one. This is called a Wong. But a Day or Teen tile used with a ten is only worth two, not twelve; this is because only eights and nines can be combined with Days or Teens for higher values.
Gee Joon Tile
The 1-2 and the 2-4 tiles are called Gee Joon tiles (or sometimes called wildcards). Either tile can count as 3 or 6, whichever scores more. So a 1-2 tile can be used with a 5-6 tile to make a hand worth seven points, rather than four.
Rules for Pai Gow Tile
- All tiles must be kept on the table. A player may not show his/her tiles to or discuss them with any other player at any time while the game is in play.
- The casino dealer shuffles the tiles thoroughly and stacks them in rows, with four tiles in row.
- The total count of dice points showing, after the dice cup is opened, determines which seated player receives his/her tiles and action first. The table positions are determined with the player-dealer designated as seat one and proceeds counter clockwise from the player-dealer. The player-dealer receives his/her tiles first when the dice points total, nine (9) or seventeen (17). When the player-dealer receives his/her tiles first, the player to his/her right receives action first.
- All bets must be placed before the dice cup is opened.
- The casino dealer deals four tiles to every seat, regardless of whether a bet has been made at each seat. The casino dealer retrieves tiles dealt to empty seats, placing them in an area in front of his/her dealer tray.
- Players set their tiles into two hands, creating the best hands possible. Both hands are placed in front of players’ bets. Players may, if they wish, leave all four tiles flat down/in one stack, in which case the casino sets them in the “House” way.
- The player-dealer button must cover the player-dealer’s tiles until all of the opposing players have set their hands. Once the opposing players have set their hands, the player-dealer may set his/her hand
- Once player-dealer’s hand is set, the casino dealer will turn over each player’s hand to compare against the player-dealer, beginning with the player who has the action button and proceeding counter clockwise. The casino dealer declares whether each hand is a winning, losing or “push” hand.
- If a player wins, the casino dealer leaves the tiles two by two in the shape of the letter “T,” in front of the player’s spot.
- If a player loses, the casino dealer brings the losing bet forward in front of the betting circle (stacking one tile on top of the other three tiles).
- If a player pushes, the casino dealer leaves the money alone, but brings the tiles toward the casino dealer’s tray.
- Each player is allowed to shake the dice 6 times per round.
- The first bank must bank at least 40% of the live action (including corporation action buy) to be able to make the decision on setting the bank hand. For example: Front bank $1,000, Second bank covers behind. If the action is more than $2,500, the second bank makes decision, if the action is less than $2,500, the front bank makes decision, and if is exactly $2,500 action, the front bank makes decision.
Pai gow is loosely translated as “make nine” or “card nine”. That means the best a hand can score is nine. To find the value of a hand, simply add the total number of pips on the two tiles, and drop tenth place. So for instance, a 1-3 tile (a tile with one pip on one end and three pips on the other, for a total of four pips) used with a 2-3 tile (with five total pips) will score nine, since four plus five is nine. A 2-3 tile with a 5-6 tile will score six, and not sixteen, as the “1” in “16” is dropped. And a 5-5 tile with a 4-6 tile will score zero, since ten plus ten is twenty, and twenty reduces to zero when the tens place is dropped.
The goal of the game is for the seated player to make two hands; out of the four tiles they receive that rank higher than the player-dealer. The seated player wins if both of his/her hands rank higher than the player-dealer hands. In situations where one hand is ranked higher and the other is lower, it is called a “push” and both the player-dealer’s and the opponent’s bets are returned. The player-dealer wins in all situations where the both of the opponent’s hands are identical to his/her own.
Pai Gow Poker
Pai Go Poker is relatively slow-paced game and appeals to players who prefer more leisurely games. Basically, up to seven players receive seven cards apiece out of a deck of 52 cards plus one joker which is used as an ace, or to complete a straight or any flush.
The Rules for Pai Gow Poker
- A single 53-card deck is used, consisting of the usual 52 cards, plus one joker.
- The joker is semi-wild. It may be used as an ace, or to complete a straight, flush, or straight flush, or royal flush. After the player makes a bet, the dealer will deal the player and himself seven cards each.
- Standard poker ranking rules are followed with one strange exception — the A2345 straight (known as “the wheel”) is considered the second highest straight though some casinos have dropped this rule.
- The player will separate his seven cards into a five-card high hand, and two-card low hand. The high hand must be of higher poker value than the low hand.
- The five-card hand is ranked according to conventional poker rules. The only poker hand in the two-card hand is a pair or no pair, after which the individual cards determine the value.
- After the player has set his hand, the dealer will turn over his cards and divide his hand in the same manner, according to specified rules known as the “house way.”
- The two high hands will be compared, and the two low hands, the hand with the higher poker value winnings. If the event of a tie, like both two-card hands are ace/king, then the tie has go to the “banker.”
- If the player wins both comparisons, then the player will win even money on his bet, less a 5% commission. If the player wins one and loses one, then the bet shall push. If the player loses or ties both, then the player shall lose his wager.
- Unlike most casino games, the player may bet against the dealer, and other players in pai gow poker. This is known as “banking.”
- The turn to act as banker is supposed to rotate around the table, but at some casinos it zig-zags between the dealer and each player in turn.
- The player may always decline to bank (which usually happens), in which case the option will revert to the next player, or dealer.
- The only two-card hands are one pair and high cards.
- Five-card hands use standard poker hand rankings with one exception: in most Nevada casinos, the hand A-2-3-4-5 ranks above a king-high straight, but below the ace-high straight A-K-Q-J-10. At most casinos in California and Michigan this rule doesn’t apply; the A-2-3-4-5 is the lowest possible straight.
- The joker plays as a bug, that is, in the five-card hand it can be used to complete a straight or flush if possible; otherwise it is an ace. In the two-card hand it always plays as an ace, except in several southern Californian casinos where the joker is completely wild.
The hand rankings are as follows (from highest to lowest):
|Four aces + Joker||A, A, A, A, Joker|
|Royal Flush||A, K, Q, J, 10 (all same suit)|
|Straight Flush||K, Q, J, 10, 9 (all same suit) to A, 2, 3, 4, 5 (all same suit)|
|Four of a Kind||Any four of the same number or face cards|
|Full House||[Three of a Kind] + [any pair]|
|Flush||Any combination of cards but all same suit|
|Straight||A, K, Q, J, 10 to A, 2, 3, 4, 5|
|Three of a Kind||Any three of the same number or face cards|
|Two Pairs||[One Pair] + [One Pair]|
|One Pair||Any two of same number or face cards|
|High Card||None of the hands listed above. Your highest card, ranked from highest to lowest as follows: A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2|
The standard payout for any winning hand is simple – it is even money (1-to-1). In these situations, the House will take a fee of 5%. Of course, you also have the option of placing a Bonus Bet before the deal, at which point the criterion for determining the degree of a win on this Bonus Bet, if any, would be the entire seven-card hand you possess.
The following list indicates the hands that will win Bonus Bets, along with the exact odds of the payout on each of those hands:
7 Card Straight Flush — 8,000 to 1
Royal Flush plus a Pair of Deuces — 2,000 to 1
7 Card Straight Flush with a Joker — 1,000 to 1
Five Aces — 400 to 1
Royal Flush — 150 to 1
Straight Flush — 50 to 1
Four of a Kind — 25 to 1
Full House — 5 to 1
Flush — 4 to 1
Three of a Kind — 3 to 1
Straight — 2 to 1
Variants of Pai Gow Poker
There are a number of variations of pai gow poker that are popular in casino today. These variations were mainly formulated in 2004 – 2009.
Pai Gow Mania was the first variation to be created which allows for two side bets instead of the traditional one side bet per hand.
Fortune Pai Gow is another variation which allows players to make a side bet on a poker hand ranking of trips or better.
This is one of the most popular variations. Similar to fortune pai gow, is Emperors Challenge which also allows a side bet on a 7 card pai gow (no hand). The final variation of the game developed was Pai Gow progressive, which is the addition of a progressive jackpot to the pai gow table. This jackpot is the combined of $1 side bets placed by players during the play.
Pai Gow Poker with Insurance
Pai Gow Insurance is a new version of Pai Gow Poker offered at Station Casinos in Las Vegas. This game first debuted at Red Rock in the summer of 2008 and has since grown in popularity. Pai Gow Insurance is played exactly like Pai Gow Poker; however, there is an optional side-bet which pays out if a player is dealt a Pai Gow hand. A Pai Gow hand means a non ranking hand (high card only) meaning no pairs, no straights, no flushes.
The payouts for Pai Gow Insurance are:
9 High Pai Gow – 100 to 1
10 High Pai Gow – 25 to 1
J High Pai Gow – 15 to 1
Q High Pai Gow – 7 to 1
K High Pai Gow – 5 to 1
A High Pai Gow – 3 to 1
Many Pai Gow Insurance tables also offer the fortune side bet. This is a seperate side-bet with the following pay-table:
Pai Gow Insurance side-bets offered by Las Vegas Casinos are: Red Rock, Aliante Station, Palace Station, Boulder Station, Texas Station and Sunset Station. As of now there are no reputable or safe options for playing Pai Gow with an insurance side bet online at any other casino.