Guide to being a banker in Pai Gow Poker game

Pai Gow Banker

Pai gow poker also called double-hand poker is an Americanized version of pai played with playing cards bearing poker hand values, instead of pai gow’s Chinese dominoes. The game is played with a standard 52-card deck, plus a single joker. It is played on a table set for six players, plus the dealer. Each player attempts to defeat the banker who may be the casino dealer, one of the other players at the table, or a player acting in tandem with the dealer as co-bankers.

In the game the most important role is to be the banker when your turn comes. In a real casino you can choose to skip this option, but if you can afford it, you probably should take advantage; the banker definitely has some advantages that the regular player doesn’t.

It’s worth pointing out that in online Pai Gow Poker, you’ll probably never be able to be the banker. This is because most Pai Gow Poker games are designed to be played by just one player (you) against the house, with the house always taking the role of the banker. While this does mean that you won’t be able to take advantage of the edge you get as the banker, it also means that you won’t have to worry about risking your bankroll by having to pay out your fellow players.

What it is to be a banker in Pai Gow Poker

Playing Pai Gow in a real land casino , you’ll find yourself given the opportunity to bank every few hands or so, depending on exactly how the game is structured. Some real casinos rotate the chance to bank around the table, while others have the casino bank every other hand in between the player opportunities to bank. In order to bank, you must have enough money on the table to pay off all potential winning bets; if you have less money than this, some casinos will also let you “co-bank,” sharing the responsibility with the casino.

You should never, ever pass up an opportunity to be the banker when the option is available. Even in a one-on-one game against the casino, there will only be the slightest of house edges for the casino on hands when you bank. Depending on the exact “house way” method used by both sides, the house edge on these hands is only about 0.2%; in a one-on-one game, this would drop the total house edge from 2.73% (the house edge when you are the player) to an average combined house edge of about 1.46%.

But the news gets even better when you’re playing against your fellow players and decide to bank. You can actually have a significant advantage as the banker, especially when there are many players at the table. At a full table, you’ll hold about a 0.2% edge over the house, assuming all players are using the correct house way strategy. When you take into account the fact that some of the other players will likely make mistakes – some of them significant – your advantage will likely be even bigger.

Much of this advantage comes from the fact that the 5% commission you pay on winnings is handled differently when you are the banker. As a normal player, if you play five hands and win three times while losing twice, you’ll pay that 5% commission on a total of three winning bets. As the banker, you only pay the commission on your net winnings at the end of the hand; so if you win three hands, but lose two, you’ll only come out ahead by one bet – and only pay commission on that one bet.

Therefore bankers, you or the house, have a slight edge at Pai Gow Poker. As “Copies” or opposing hands of equal poker rank  go to the Banker. That is, the rank of a Player’s hand must exceed that of the Banker to win; a Banker’s hand may copy or exceed that of the player to win. Accordingly, there are more situations in which Bankers than Players can win.

The actual edge enjoyed by the Banker depends on the skill with which participants set their respective two- and five-card hands. With competent parties, opposing hands can be expected about 2.5 percent of the time. However, bets are decided only when both the five- and two-card hands win or lose; if there’s one of each, the bet is a push. Therefore, half of the opposing hands win money for the Banker and half push – so the natural edge is half the copy advantage, or 1.25 percent. Against weak players, this natural edge would be augmented by an advantage resulting from opponents’ poor tactics.

Also as said above the house takes a commission or “rake” which is usually 5 percent  from the Banker’s net win on a round and effectively reduces the Banker’s edge by an amount dependent on the details of the game. Typical final edge is about 0.3 percent which is roughly the same as the house gets in a six-deck blackjack game from a bettor who follows perfect basic strategy.

Finally to be a banker means

  • Having the natural advantage and when you are the banker you must have a sufficient bankroll to bank all the bets made by your fellow players.
  • The casino dealer will open the game as the banker. In subsequent hands, players can request to be the banker. A small plastic marker (called a chung)is placed in front of the banker’s betting area to designate that this player is the banker.
  • As the casino banking rules vary greatly some casinos allow the same player to be the banker on every other hand or a maximum of 2 consecutive hands. Others will allow a player to bank only once out of every 8 or the extreme 14th hand.
  • Because the rules for banking differ it’s important that you look around and gt the best casino. Your goal is to bank as many hands as the casino will allow because that is the only way you can get the edge.
  • As said above it’s important you have enough bankroll to withstand a couple of losing hands.

When the casino dealer is the banker, the casino edge in pai gow poker is about 2.8%. By skillfully setting your hands you can reduce the casino’s edge to about 2.5%. By being the banker as much as possible and betting as small as possible when you are the player, it is possible to have a slight monetary edge playing pai gow poker (about 0.2%). A smart player, therefore, should bank as much as possible and learn how to correctly set the hands. That’s the secret to winning at pai gow poker.